A Statement on Regathering from the Spencerville Church Board
July 9, 2020 – The Spencerville Church congregation has been unable to gather for in-person worship services for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To say we have missed worshipping together and seeing each other would be an understatement. We long for the day when we can come together again, not only for worship, but socially, in study, and for service.
The pastoral staff has closely followed the state of Maryland and Montgomery County (where the church is located) guidelines and updates as well as taking counsel from those actively engaged with the pandemic experience. As Maryland has entered each phase of re-opening, the logistics of how a transition from “ungathered” to “gathered” might occur has been explored, discussed, and assessed for risk.
Pastor Stuart convened a selected group of church members who brought either leadership, ministry, medical, or legal experience to the conversation. The group has “met” twice—both times were either via Zoom or e-mail communication. The first meeting was in mid-May when the governor of Maryland initiated the transition to open businesses, including churches. The second was in late June. The group listened not only to counsel from medical and legal experts but also to member opinions collected informally through various Sabbath School classes or other contacts.
Each time the conclusion was the same—to not proceed to in-person gatherings either for worship or social events until more information was known about either effective treatment or a working vaccine for COVID-19. This recommendation was taken to the full church board on June 29, 2020.
The board reviewed the medical and legal counsel. There was a thorough discussion of the pros and cons of coming together under the guidelines and restrictions of both the state and county. Scenarios were explored as to how we might gather, the number of people who could be accommodated, how many services might be needed, as well as the cleaning necessary to create a safe environment. The discussion extended beyond worship services to include Sabbath School and providing for children’s ministry needs.
While the Spencerville Church board looks forward to gathering once again as a congregation to enjoy and experience worship and fellowship, we are aware that COVID-19 is still among us and is just as dangerous today as it was when the pandemic began. We are also mindful of the surges in many states and large cities where businesses and churches have already re-opened. Presently, with the absence of a vaccine as well as having many members and children who are among the most vulnerable, the following was VOTED:
We, as the Spencerville Church Board, based on medical and legal counsel, choose to remain “ungathered” until such time as we can meet together in a safe and responsible manner. We affirm the work of the Spencerville Church pastoral staff in meeting the needs of the church community during these difficult times.
Recognizing that our inability to gather has extended much longer than anyone anticipated and that it is possible we will not be able to meet together as a congregation in the near future; the church board also spent time discussing how we might explore new ways of working as a church within our community. We agreed that a church is more than worship services. The calling of the church is to be “salt” within our community, to serve our neighbors, to bring Jesus to those who have yet to know Him, and to make an impact in our world. Recognizing this to be of extreme importance, the church board VOTED the following:
Understanding that the Spencerville Church is more than gathering for worship, the Church Board empowers the pastoral staff and head elder to explore further avenues to enable us to live out the mission of the church during this time.
We continue to pray for our members, neighbors, family, and friends during these uncertain times. We look forward to the day when we can return to our sanctuary for worship, our classrooms for study, and our fellowship hall for social events. But until that time, we will not cease to explore ways to be an encouraging light within our community. —The Spencerville Church Board
Re-opening Maryland. What Does it Mean for Spencerville Church?
May 28, 2020 – With the Maryland government continuing to loosen restrictions for religious organizations, what is the status of in-person worship at Spencerville Church? In this update, Pastor Chad Stuart will share our methods for looking at the restrictions on in-person worship, what it means for the short term, and considerations for worship in the future.
An Update from the Governor of Maryland: Can We Go Back to Church Yet?
May 13, 2020 – Today, Governor Larry Hogan announced a lifting of the stay-at-home order for the state of Maryland, but with provisions. The immediate provision that applies directly to us is that the governor allowed that certain counties, specifically Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, have the right to determine a timetable for lifting the order. Not long after Governor Hogan’s announcement, Montgomery County Executive, Mark Elrich, released a statement indicating that the stay-at-home restrictions in Montgomery County (where the church is located) would remain in place. This means that we, along with all other churches in Montgomery County, will remain closed at this time.
We recognize that the lifting of the order for the state has rapidly sped up the process for our eventual return to in-person worship services. We perceive that the rules which currently apply statewide will apply in Montgomery County at that time: 50 percent capacity or less, masking, social distancing, and protecting our most vulnerable.
When our church does resume in-person worship services, which could take place at a date sooner than previously presumed, remember that we will gather at Spencerville Adventist Academy. Meeting at the school will be necessary to accommodate the early phases of our platform and organ project. The refurbishment of our pews has also already started. Look for the Weekly Update email on Thursday to contain further information regarding the platform and organ project.
In many ways, reopening will be much more difficult than closing. One thing is sure, we will not take this step until we have adequately addressed the following points:
• We must be able to provide the safest environment possible for all those who attend Spencerville Church worship services, and in particular, the most vulnerable within our community;
• We must operate in compliance with all state and county regulations; and
• We must have a process to facilitate healthy spiritual growth for those in our community, both online and in-person. This includes corporate worship as well as Sabbath School gatherings for people of all ages who may not yet feel comfortable returning to the church building in person.
While the initial planning and conversations are already taking place, I’ve scheduled a meeting early next week with selected persons from our church and school community to assess the situation and establish procedures for taking the next step in our process as rapidly as possible. Our goal is to keep you informed throughout this process. We look forward to sharing this plan with you at the point of its completion.
Thank you for your patience and prayers as we look forward to the day when we can worship together again face to face! Blessings, —Chad