A New Season

Without wanting to rush this final stretch of summer, many of us have started to take the occasional glance at September, trying to imagine what life will look like, whether with respect to school, the workplace, or other commitments. Elevation’s Pastoral Team has been doing a bit more than glancing at the fall as we’ve been actively making plans to set our community up for success as we head into this pivotal season together!

Yes, we know, most of us are beyond tired of the change and uncertainty that has been looming over our world for the past seventeen months. But as author Richard Rohr reminds us, Our uncertainty is the doorway into mystery, the doorway into surrender, the path to God that Jesus called ‘faith.’ We like the sound of walking forward in faith, trusting that God is walking right there with us.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some changes that are on the horizon for Elevation…

The Times They Are a Changin’

Pastoral Team

Around this time last year, Melodie Sherk (now Reinders!) joined our team to provide leadership to our Emerging Generations and has done a fantastic job helping us navigate these pandemic waters while continuing to engage our children and youth in meaningful ways. What you may not know is that Melodie took a year off of her graduate studies to work with us on a full-time basis, and one of the changes we have coming is that she will be reducing her role to half-time in September so she can continue to pursue her education goals. Melodie will continue to provide leadership for Elevation’s youth, but we are beginning a search for someone to join our team to provide leadership for Children and Family Ministries. 

Shortly after Melodie joined us, we invited Connor Jay into the fold on a half-time basis to oversee Digital Community, which included overseeing key elements such as our livestream, website, social media, and communication strategy. Connor and his fiancee, Eryn, will be tying the knot in October and will be putting down roots in Hamilton, which means that he will no longer be in this role at Elevation as of the end of September. We will certainly miss Connor as part of our team, but are praying God’s best as he enters a new season of life this fall!

Our Staff Partnership Committee is working to help us find new additions in each of these capacities and will be getting a hiring process underway in the very near future. Please stay tuned for more information.

Sunday Mornings

A few weeks ago, members of our Steering Committee and Pastoral Team were invited to meet with representatives from Trillium Lutheran Church to discuss their plans for fall programming. In the past, we would have been part of the decision-making process whenever our ministry would be affected, however, in this case, we were informed that Trillium had already made some key decisions that they wanted to let us know about so we could alter our plans accordingly. 

Trillium’s plans include moving their morning service to 10:30 and they have allocated 9:00 as the time available for Elevation’s in-person service as of September. We realize that this time change will be welcome news for some and challenging news for others, but rest assured, we are committed to making the most of our new situation in the short run while also considering the impact of these changes on the longer term.

Regardless of the time we gather, the really big news is that we are moving forward to providing an opportunity for in-person worship for the first time since March 2020—starting on September 12!

The last time we surveyed the community about gathering in person for corporate worship, the primary outstanding factors impacting a decision were high vaccination rates and low case numbers in our region. If we’ve learned anything about this pandemic, it’s that things can always change, but based on what’s happening in our region right now, we feel confident and excited about providing an opportunity for those who are ready and able to once again gather at 22 Willow on Sunday mornings.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

As we’ve been thinking about our desire to move forward to in-person worship, one of the decisions we’ve made is that we will be making our plans in short bursts over the course of the next few months, approaching this as a season of discernment as we continue to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Today, we want to share our plans for September with you, then we will send an update in mid-September to talk about what October will look like, and so on. This will allow us to remain agile as the world around us continues to change in unexpected ways, providing us with an opportunity to both learn from our week-to-week experiences and listen to your feedback along the way.

Over the past few weeks, our Pastoral Team has been connecting with other church leaders around North America to see what the experience of offering in-person worship has been like for those who are a bit further down the road. We’ve been hearing a wide range of stories, but one thing that has stood out to us is the reality that everyone will resume gathering in person at their own pace—and that’s okay!

This unusual season has taught us that engagement in virtual services looks different than in-person services. Early on, we made the decision to make it a priority to create our services in a way that prioritized a more intimate and personal connection. Once the majority of us are back in person, we expect this personal connection will be filled in other ways and will become less important in the virtual services, but for now, we want to find a way to continue to create a space for meaningful virtual connection while also opening the doors for in-person worship.

With this in mind, September will feature two unique opportunities to gather: online and in-person. We will not be broadcasting the in-person service, but will be creating our online services in much the same way as we are now—with some creative tweaks! Those who continue to engage from home will have a similar experience to what has been offered over the past 17 months with a virtual service at 10:00.

At the same time, we will also provide an opportunity for people to gather in person on Sunday mornings at 9:00. We’d like to share a high-level overview of what we’re planning for September, with a more detailed version coming out after Labour Day so that everyone can make an informed decision. Here’s what you can expect:

  • All congregants (vaccinated or unvaccinated) will be asked to self-screen and will be reminded to clean their hands on entry/exit
  • Masks must be worn while indoors in keeping with the regional by-law
  • Every second and third pew will be roped/taped off and members of separate households will be instructed to leave six feet of space on the pews; we expect a maximum capacity of 85
  • Registration will be required and a record will be kept for two weeks
  • Members of the worship team will be properly distanced on the stage
  • There will be live musical worship but, in following current regional public health recommendations, congregational singing will not be encouraged
  • There will not be an opportunity to linger in the Sanctuary after the service, but conversations can take place outdoors with proper distancing in place

In addition, before the sermon begins, parents will have the option of having children remain with them for the sermon, or sending them to the Gym where there will be group programming for all children JK-Gr.5 in a safe environment (eg. distancing and masks will be required). The material for this time together will be similar to what has been included in the KidsQuest preservices online and will parallel the online KidsQuest experience each week. There will not be supervision for toddlers or infants at this time, but there will be space designated for parent supervision.

Depending on how guidelines for indoor gatherings change over time, we realize that we may reach capacity in the Sanctuary, which will require us to think about adding an additional service. We do not have any plans in place at this time, but are beginning to discuss what options might be available as we look to expand our capacity over time. We are still working out the details, but we do plan to continue offering opportunities to connect virtually in smaller groups for discussion (eg. Neighbours! groups) and more info on this will follow in September. Finally, if you would be willing to be part of a team that will help implement health and safety protocols on Sunday mornings, please reach out to a member of our Pastoral Team. 

Talk to Us

As we walk into this pivotal season together, Elevation’s Pastoral Team and Steering Committee remain committed to listening to your comments and concerns. The plans we’ve made are based on past feedback received as well as what we see happening in our region today. We realize that you may need more information before you commit to how you will be engaging in the fall, but it’s important for us to gauge the level of in-person participation we should expect in September, so please take a moment to participate in this short survey as we make our final preparations: 

Fall 2021 Survey

Finally, as we stand here together at the water’s edge, may we have the faith of those who “passed through the Red Sea as on dry land,” and may the One who made a way then, make a way for us now!

Elevation’s Pastoral Team,

Brandon, Connor, Helen, Melissa, and Melodie