August 4, 2020
Dear Harvest Fellowship family,
This week we became aware of a recent change to the Governor’s executive order allowing reopening of businesses and facilities. The latest amendment mandates the use of face coverings in all public areas inside of businesses, organizations, establishments, and facilities in Maryland, including religious facilities.
As your elders, we believe that our response to the frequently changing directives of state and local government must be honoring to Christ and in accordance with the scriptures. In determining how to move forward conducting worship services we want the emphasis to be on just that: worship of the almighty God. We are called to assemble for worship, even under difficult circumstances. However we also recognize the commands and examples of scripture to obey the governing authorities that God has placed over us (Romans 13:1-2) and to be careful not to offend, even when we may have spiritual grounds not to comply with them (consider Matthew 17:25b-27).
The governor’s order states that religious facilities may be open to no more than 50% capacity as defined by the fire code, but also now requires adherence to social distance guidelines (six feet of separation between people that do not live in the same household) and the use of face coverings. In determining how to respond to this we considered three options:
1. Continue to gather for worship in our building with stricter enforcement of the distancing and face covering mandates
2. Move the assembled worship services outdoors
3. Conduct only virtual worship services via our live-stream with a combination of live and recorded elements.
For now we have prayerfully decided to continue meeting in our facility. To meet the social distance guidelines we will continue to limit the number in attendance and require on-line pre-registration. We will continue to live-stream the morning service for those who cannot or think it best not to attend. Those in attendance will be required to wear face coverings in all places inside the building before, after, and throughout the duration of the service. The governor’s order allows an exception to the face covering rule to accommodate those who rely upon seeing the face during communication to overcome hearing disabilities. Under that exception worship team members that are leading the singing and elders speaking from the podium will not wear face coverings while performing those functions. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we will remove our face coverings to consume the elements and replace them after partaking.
We acknowledge that this may make it more uncomfortable for the congregation to participate in aspects of worship where it is appropriate for them to speak or sing. Our service may seem less vibrant at times than we are accustomed to. It is important that we remember that God sees our hearts and knows the depth of our worship. He hears us even through the masks we wear. The discomfort of wearing a face covering is minor compared to what He suffered for us.
We ask the congregation to support this decision by continuing to assemble for worship either in person or via the live-stream. We ask that those in attendance at the facility adhere to the mandates of wearing face coverings inside the facility and, to the extent possible, maintaining a six-foot social distance from those who are not members of the same household. We also want to remind everyone that if you are not feeling well to stay home and seek appropriate medical care, as needed.
We will continue to monitor, assess, and prayerfully respond to the changing conditions, the resulting regulations, and the needs of our congregation. Your input on these matters is valuable and will be considered. The health and safety of our church family is very important to us. Greater still is our desire to see the name of the Lord Jesus Christ exalted and magnified.
For His Glory,
Barry, Cal, and Scott