THE NEXT NORMAL
Updated October 5, 2020
We have developed a framework called “The Next Normal” which we will use to shape our church’s response to the evolving situation around COVID-19. The framework consists of three parts: the convictions that guide us, the process which we’ll apply these convictions to as government and health officials update regulations, and the plan as it currently stands.
You can find the current version of our “Next Normal” framework below.
The church is a family of missionary disciples (Mat. 28:18-20)
- Living out these identities is a challenge at this time, but we’ll strive to find creative new ways to live out these identities during the pandemic
God calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves (Luke 10:25-28) and to care for the vulnerable (James 1:27)
- This means we protect the health and safety of others by graciously submitting ourselves to the recommendations of health experts and the guidelines set out by our government. As such, COTC will not be participating in petitions for exceptions that allow the church to operate in a manner that does not conform with these guidelines
Jesus prayed for his church to be a unified people, bound together in love as a testament to a watching world (John 17:20-23)
- We know that there are wide-ranging opinions regarding what ‘reopening’ the church should look like. As we navigate a path forward, we will do all that we can to love each other well.
We all know that this situation is an ever-evolving one. As our government releases updates and changes to restrictions, we will process the information using the following process:
- Consulting with the experts in our midst
- Listening to the wisdom of Scripture and the voice of the Spirit
- Determining if the new information or change in restrictions merits an update to the current COTC Plan, or whether we ought to continue on our current course
On September 19th, 2020 new social gathering limits went into effect in Ontario, followed by an announcement on October 2nd with new recommendations around social circles, among other things. The new updates are summarized as follows:
Government-mandated limits to social gatherings:
- Indoor events or gatherings: 10 people (previous limit of 50)
- Outdoor events or gatherings: 25 people (previous limit of 100)
Recommendations around social circles:
- From the Oct. 2 press release: “Pausing social circles and advising that all Ontarians allow close contact only with people living in their own household and maintain two metres physical distancing from everyone else. Individuals who live alone may consider having close contact with another household”
In light of these updates, our suggestions our outlined below. With what public health officials are telling us, gatherings should be limited as much as possible. However, we understand that some in our community are hungry for social interaction with other followers of Jesus. Here are some things you could consider. As has always been the case, all gatherings must follow public health guidelines, including:
- Practicing social distancing by keeping 2 metres away from others outside of their direct household or social circle (bubble). Whenever possible gatherings should take place outside; whenever a gathering must take place inside, or when physical distancing is not possible, wearing a face covering is required
- Staying at home and away from others if you are feeling ill
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water and using an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available
- Practising good hygiene (avoiding touching your face and covering your cough or sneeze)
- Increasing cleaning of frequently touched surfaces
- Reunion Online: we are continuing to explore options for spaces that we might use to gather in but don’t have a definitive plan at this time. You have been so gracious with us as we continue to explore what is going to be most helpful for our church family moving forward – we’d humbly ask that you continue in that spirit. The new social gathering limits make Reunion Online ‘watch parties’ challenging. We’d recommend these only happen with your immediate family with the possibility of a single person from the church committing to regularly join you. A possible exception would be an outdoor gathering to watch where everyone could be distanced or wearing masks.
- Missional community family time: in light of these new restrictions and recommendations, MC’s will need to approach communal gatherings with a great deal of wisdom. Some will likely choose to suspend in-person MC family time for the foreseeable future, and this is not unreasonable. One consideration we would encourage you to make is to provide the option for those in your MC who live alone to pair with another family to lessen the chances of unhealthy isolation. If an MC still wanted to gather in-person they must be within the gathering limits and we would strongly suggest that these gatherings be outside and physically-distanced.
- DNA’s: groups could theoretically meet in continue to meet in person, provided they are under ten people, although DNA’s are very easy to facilitate online. Particularly as we head into colder months, this is a good option to pursue. Any DNA’s still wanting to meet should do so outside whenever possible, physically-distanced, and with masks on if space is tight. If someone in your group is not comfortable meeting in-person, stay online.
- Benevolence: we have dramatically increased our benevolence fund and commissioned two deacons to oversee the distribution of benevolence funds.
If you would like to have the opportunity to gather with others in-person, but aren’t a part of a missional community, reach out to us at email@example.com and we will try and find an opportunity for you to get connected with others.
It is very difficult to predict how and when the public health guidelines will change again, but this plan reflects the convictions and process outlined above. If you want to offer feedback on this plan we would welcome it; email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect!