COVID Update — March 14, 2021
This weekend marks one year that we’ve been welcoming you to our livestream rather than welcoming you to our auditorium, so we thought it would be an appropriate time to give you an update regarding where we stand with respect to the prospect of welcoming you all back into the auditorium.
We thank those of you who have reached out to staff and elders to share your thoughts and concerns – concerns for physical well-being and concerns for emotional and spiritual well-being. Families don’t always agree on how things ought to be done, yet one characteristic of a healthy family is when everyone has each other’s back, as it were, looking out for the interests of each other out of love, listening carefully to what each other has to say. What brings us together as a church family is the love of our Lord Jesus through his having given up his life on behalf of all of us on the cross, not whether we’re in 100% agreement on how to physically regather as a church after a year of pandemic. The common desire we’ve heard, regardless of how fast or slow we may think it should take to get there, is to be together again in person, to be able to give each other a hug, to laugh and cry together, to sing and pray together, to listen together with hearts open to the words of Scripture, to grow more and more into the likeness of Jesus – together, as a family.
Last spring, after the first series of shelter-in-place orders had been slightly relaxed, a small group of the staff met in room 104 to start sketching out a plan for bringing folks back to the PBCC campus. After filling up the white board outlining possible stages of regathering, there was one thing we all agreed on – that the process of bringing folks back together was going to be a lot more complicated process than closing the facility had been. As we’ve seen this past year in virtually every area of community life – from eating in restaurants, to going back to school, to getting a haircut, to waiting in line outside a store – returning to where things were a year ago is a work in painfully slow progress. And as we’ve also seen this past year, there are a variety of opinions as to how quickly or slowly that process should take, and how to move forward in regathering churches hasn’t been immune, so to speak, from having a wide variety of opinions.
Now as you may have seen or heard in the media in the last month, there have been various court rulings that have been followed by updates at both the state and county levels. Many of the more restrictive county directives have been withdrawn, and currently, under the state’s Red Tier, churches in Santa Clara County may resume indoor worship at 25% of capacity, though there are other restrictions that still apply. We resumed our parking lot service two weeks ago, and it has been a joy to see many of you coming back together in person, but we know that many are asking, when will PBCC resume worship services in the auditorium?
After considerable discussion among staff and elders, we’ve decided to continue to wait before resuming worship in our auditorium. In the survey we took last fall, many shared that they were hesitant about gathering together indoors, and in some cases, even outdoors, until vaccines were widely available. And while it has been encouraging to hear about more and more of the PBCC body having received at least one of their shots, we know that the progress in getting folks immunized has been slower than hoped, though there is the prospect of that pace increasing in the coming weeks. It has been interesting to hear the relief in people’s voices and to see their excitement at feeling able to safely be with people again. So, for now, we pray for patience as we appear to be reaching the end of a long season apart. I’m certain that being together will be something we won’t take for granted as we may have in the past. In the meantime, while we acknowledge that it’s not the same as being in the auditorium, we’d encourage those of you who feel safe doing so to join us in the parking lot at 10:30. And we will continue to offer this livestream at 8:30 on Sunday mornings for those who are not able to join us outside.
Looking ahead, when the time does come to gather again in the auditorium – soon, Lord willing, though we don’t have an exact date – we’ll be looking forward to holding two services indoors as we did before the pandemic. We recognize that there may be some who, for whatever reason, may need a longer period of time to reacclimate to being back in a larger group in the auditorium, and we’ve been installing cameras to be able to continue to offer a livestream, though that will take on more of the form of a broadcast of the 8:30 in-person service rather than a specially-produced service without a congregation present, as you’re currently viewing.
On this first anniversary, we want to thank the volunteers and PBCC staff who have worked tirelessly and faithfully each week to produce these livestreams. What came together so miraculously in only four days last March has been an incredible blessing for an entire year now. On any given Sunday, we may have folks from four continents coming together to view the livestream. We’ve been able to connect with our PBCC missionaries, to reconnect with folks who used to attend here but have moved away from the area, and we’ve also been able to connect with folks who are new to the area but haven’t yet had the chance to set foot in our auditorium. So God has been at work through our livestream in ways we might never have imagined one year ago.
And finally we thank you all for continuing to join us week after week on these livestreams. Back when I first attended Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto as a college student, I noticed the small print below the church name on the sign on Middlefield Road, so the sign read “Peninsula Bible Church meets here”. Those last two words – “meets here” – were a reminder of the reality that the church wasn’t about the building but about the people gathering. Even after a year of pandemic, by the Lord’s grace and faithfulness, we can say this morning, whether we’re gathered together online or in the parking lot, “Peninsula Bible Church Cupertino meets here.”