Dear Members and Friends of Ark and Dove,
Without undue haste or delay was the phrase repeating in my mind at the end of our Session meeting on Wednesday night. It is our practice to spend moments of prayerful silence at the end of a meeting reflecting on the movement of the Spirit among us. After a careful conversation about reopening our building in the coming months with our incredibly gifted leaders, I kept thinking about this phrase. It is one that pastors often give to those who ask when a baptism should occur. Without undue haste or delay, which means that it is not necessary to rush a baptism as if it is an emergency. The baptismal certificate is not a ticket into beloved communion. However, baptism should not be held off for no reason. It is a tangible sign of God's love, now and forever.
So why was this phrase about the timing of baptism bouncing around my head in reflection on reopening our building for worship? I think it might be a phrase we can apply to our strategy for reopening. We do not want to reopen for worship with undue haste. Sadly, several news sources have reported that congregations who have opened too quickly have spread the coronavirus in their gathering. We do not want to hastily open because this virus continues to spread, and we have much to learn about how to contain it. Leaders of this congregation are taking necessary time to develop a strategy (which will be made available to you) that is based in Presbyterian values, peer-reviewed research, denominational guidelines, state and county resources, the best and most current information available on COVID-19, and the particularities of our congregation. All of this is taking time. It cannot be done in haste. We cannot afford that.
We also have the other part of the phrase in mind. We want to open our building for worship without undue delay. On Zoom conferences, phone calls, and e-mail, I have heard how much in-person worship and fellowship is missed. When we have gone through a crisis in the past, we have gone to church and the embodied community has been a source of comfort and peace. During this crisis, we have not been able to do so. I know, for many of us, this is one of the hardest parts of this pandemic. For this reason, we do not want to delay gathering any more than we have to. When it is safe, when we have best practices in place, when we can (to the best of our knowledge and ability) ensure that the most vulnerable will not be put at further risk, and when we can faithfully gather, we will do so. It just might be a bit longer than we think.
We will gather in person again without undue haste or delay. Please continue to pray for the leaders of our country, county, denomination and congregation as they discern a safe way forward. It is a great privilege and honor to serve among all of you at Ark and Dove.