This is how it’s going to be.

We’ve had two church leadership retreats in the last two weeks.

Both of them were at least partially interrupted by COVID-19.

Ministry in these times is not easy, but I appreciate the tone that we’ve set, as a team, taking precautions against the pandemic raging around us. We’ve been largely virtual (Zoom) since March. But in those rare events where we meet face-to-face, we’re faithful to stay outdoors, stay six feet apart, and use face coverings when we can’t maintain our distance (a solid SOM Sum of 65+).

At this time of the year, we usually need to spend quite a few hours together to get ready for a new school year. Even when life is “business as usual,” we have a lot of decisions to make and events to plan. So we usually like to add some elements of retreats (though we never actually go all that far) like regular changes of scenery and special meals. To keep things fresh and fun. So we planned some of those things for our church’s senior leadership team and for our entire Staff team — keeping everything outdoors, six feet apart, and so on. And we did get to enjoy each other’s company in some unique ways (as you can see in these pictures).

But even with our carefully-crafted plans, we had to switch over to Zoom a couple of times because of COVID concerns. The first week, it was because one of our senior leaders had been in contact with a student from our church who later tested positive for COVID-19. The second week, it was because the significant other of another person on our Staff team started to experience some lethargy and soreness of throat.

These situations forced us to sharpen up our protocol and put it into practice. We decided that in situations of exposure, H2O groups (like our Staff team) will shift to virtual interaction to accommodate and include the exposed individual for as long as that person feels up to it. We want to consciously maintain a tone of “Zoom is fine!” and “It’s a bummer that things have to change, but it’s not a big deal.” We know how to make electronic expression of community work.

We also emphasized the need for the rest of our community to practice extravagant care (with precautions) for a person who’s been exposed: regularly checking in, offering prayer support, making supply runs — to whatever extent it’s welcomed by the individual. Our team wants to consciously make it easier for our people to practice an abundance of caution even while they’re not experiencing any symptoms (i.e. when the emotional stress or psychological stress may be greater than the physical stress).

We learned a lot through the process of walking through these real-life situations. Even though it was stressful and annoying in the moment, I’m thankful to God now that He allowed these things to happen before the school year started.

This is how it’s going to be this year. But we can handle it. We’ve got reason to hope.

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