Love Your Neighbor: Getting Back Together

Church of the Good Shepherd Covenant and Expectations for Worship and Gathering as we Begin to Come Together in the Time of Pandemic

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

Flowing from our call to love one another as we love ourselves, our highest value and priority as we come back together is the safety and welfare of our parish community.

“If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…” 1 Corinthians 12:19-22

Realizing that the actions of each of us as individuals impacts and affects the larger community, we will take all precautions to insure our own individual actions do not adversely impact or imperil those amongst who are most vulnerable.

“So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together… wait for one another”. 1 Corinthians 11:33

In order to insure the safety of all, we covenant to take all necessary safety precautions prescribed by the leadership of Good Shepherd, including, but not limited to the wearing of face masks at public worship and church gatherings, gloves, practicing of social distancing and any other reasonable and necessary precautions as may be determined for the health and safety of our worshipping community.

If any are unable to comply with the prescribed safety precautions, it is agreed that those people will refrain from public worship at Good Shepherd until such time as they can comply in order to protect our more vulnerable members.

 “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” John 14:2

Realizing that the landscape and situation of this pandemic and its impact upon our community is fluid and constantly changing, our plans for gathering, and the guidelines for such, are subject to change. We will be guided by the wisdom of our public officials, health concerns and our love for each other.

Dear People of Good Shepherd,

After much thought and prayer, I have decided we will return to “live” worship in our sanctuary on Sunday, July 12. Initially, I had planned for us to come back to “live” worship when we had 14 days of declining numbers of positive tests in the greater Chattanooga area. Each day I follow the Hamilton County and Walker County numbers for positive Covid-19 testing. Judging by the recent trends, however, I am not sure when we will have 14 days of declining numbers.

Every state in the country has opened back up, and no state has met the CDC guideline of a 14- day downward trend. People are out and about, getting back to some semblance of what passes for normal. Given the reality of what people are now doing in the other parts of their lives, I am at a point where I feel comfortable bringing us back together to worship.

What I will expect from our community and what we must expect from each other, however, is that each of us will strictly adhere to the guidelines, standards and covenants of our common worship. None of our guidelines are meant to restrict our freedom but will hold up for us the truth that service to Christ is perfect freedom (Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Peace, p. 99). These covenants are not to be restrictive or burdensome, but rather are means by which we will show our love for, and devotion to, our community and all of our members. These covenants will keep before us how we are called to model love towards each other. We show our love by being reminded that we come to church NOT for ourselves, but rather in order that we can be Christ for each other.

With that being said, our plan is to have three (3) worship services on Sunday: 8:00, 10:00 (note the change of time!), and 5:00. ALL services will be in the main sanctuary! No services will be held in the chapel for the foreseeable future.

Though we will be worshipping together again—something we have ALL missed—it will be different. We will have a strict protocol that everyone will be required to adhere to in order for us to be together. I cannot emphasize enough how very important it will be that we ALL agree to follow covenants necessary for us to safely and lovingly worship together.
Detailed information will follow regarding what our worship will look like, but I wanted to give you an overview.

  • Before you come to the church please do a self-assessment. How do you feel? Headache? Fever? Tiredness? Shortness of Breath?  Dry cough? In short do you have any of the known symptoms of Covid-19? If so, do not come to church!
  • Are you over 65 with any underlying physical conditions which make you susceptible to Covid-19? If so, you should know you are at risk for infection.
  • Reservations will be required for each service.
  • Face Masks are REQUIRED to attend worship.
  • Face masks must be worn throughout the service. If you forget your mask, we will have masks available.Strict social distancing will be required.
  • The Peace will be passed in a no contact manner.
  • We will administer communion—bread only. The bread will be administered by a “no contact dispenser” and so will not be touched by anyone but the recipient.
  • Communion will be administered at the end of service, folks coming to the rail single file. After you receive you will exit the sacristy door and leave the sanctuary.

More written details of our planned procedure will follow, as will a YouTube/ Facebook video explaining and walking through the service. It is my expectation that our worship together will be as safe, if not more so, than any other “outing” you have taken in the past 3+ months. The main reason it will be safe is that we are making a commitment, one to another, to love and be Christ to each other.

Thank you for “Being the church.”

Thank you for being the Body of Christ.

Be safe, be well.

See you soon,

Grace and peace,
Robert +