• Chris Smith

And now for something completely different…

Happy Labour Day Weekend! Aside from a history of worker’s rights, the unofficial end to summer, and (supposedly) the last day you can wear white—this weekend also marks our FINAL Church Online Service!

Since March of 2020 we have been producing what we have called an “online-first” worship service where all our production and structure went into reaching the congregation in COVID-diaspora. Whether you were watching from your living room or your cottage, on the large screen of a watch party, or the small screen of your mobile phone—our worship planning was geared around digital engagement first. But after this weekend all of that is changing… again! On Sunday September 12th we are excited to welcome you back for live worship at The Bridge Church. Over the past month we’ve been busy putting things back together, upgrading what needs attention, cleaning off the cobwebs of disuse and getting the building ready for your arrival. Our volunteers have been organizing, our musicians have been practicing, and our excitement has been rising as we anticipate seeing so many of you again for the first time in far too long.

Like I promised in my last sermon, things are going to look a lot more like what you may remember from the before times, but in some ways the lessons and experience of pandemic will mean that somethings will be different as well. Here are some of the things that you will need to know to be ready to re-engage with the church.

First, let’s talk safety. The worst of Covid (we pray) may be behind us, but the need for vigilance remains and so when you come to worship in person at The Bridge Church there are some things that will be different.

1. We are asking everyone who attends to wear a mask. Not only because this is the current public health recommendation—but because we are a community that believes that loving our neighbour means sometimes sacrificing our own comforts and liberties to help protect someone else. The only exceptions to this mandate will be for people on the platform who are speaking or singing—and only when they are on the platform doing so.

2. We are asking everyone who feels sick or unwell to stay home. In the post-Covid world this is the least that any of us can do to protect others. If you are sick, stay home and get better. We will miss you, but you won’t have to worry about making anyone else sick.

3. We will be making space for you to physically distance. We are not telling you who you can sit with and who you must stay away from. We are trusting you to think carefully about the shape and size of your relational bubbles, but if you want to remain physically distanced from others, we are configuring our seating to make that possible for anyone. We are also keeping the balcony open this fall as an overflow area if you start to feel that the main floor is getting crowded.

4. We will make the service open to everyone. While we are big proponents of being vaccinated at The Bridge Church, and while we encourage all people to do so willingly for the sake of their neighbours and for our community—we will not be asking your vaccine status for any official church events, nor will we be discriminating based upon your vaccination status.

5. Our facility will be professionally cleaned and sanitized each week before worship. We have contracted a professional cleaning company to maintain our facility and to ensure that at the start of every service our building is in the best possible condition to make your worship experience worry-free.

So, as you can see, we are taking your safety very seriously as we prepare for a return to in-person worship. But what about the service itself? What can you expect when you attend?

Well, this fall will in some ways feel like a return to the good ol’ days, and in other ways feel like something entirely new. Without spoiling the entire experience, here are some of the things you can anticipate and look forward to when you show up.

· Live singing. Anyone else feel like they were limping their way to the end of the summer with the practice of singing at a screen? I know I was, but there is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a live band leading a congregation in grateful praise of our God. The music will be back in the halls of The Bridge Church.

· Live KidsMin. As much as we all loved our KidsMin moments over the past year and a half, there really is no substitute for personal interaction with growing minds. We will be running two classes of KidsMin during the service from ages 2 through Grade 5 this fall. Parents, when you arrive you are instructed to take your kids directly upstairs and check them in, and if you haven’t already done so, please take time to fill out our online KidsMin registration form to make sure all critical information is up to date. Your children will be brought back down to the auditorium before the end of the service in time to celebrate communion with the church family.

· Live Prayer. Maybe it was just me but praying into a camera for a service that would be watched at a later date always felt strange and somewhat fake. As a result, several of you noticed and commented that we didn’t pray as much in our online services as we used to—that all changes with the return to live church. Whether it’s prayer in the service, or ministry prayer after the service there will be a lot more to say.

· New-Format Teaching. One of the positive new things we have taken with us from our online experience is a new way of teaching in the service. The multi-part, multi-media sermon time will continue even in our live services. But what we will give you that is new is the opportunity to respond in real time. We experimented during our last run of watch parties with a Q&A time after the message and with the success of that experiment we are bringing Q&A to the in-person services as well. So, listen carefully, think about your questions and prepare to stump the pastor!

· Weekly Communion. I have been starved for the table of the Lord’s Supper, and the presence of the church family at that meal. Based on anecdotal conversations with many of you, you have felt the same way. Starting on September 12th we get to share that meal again. And of course, we will have procedures in place that keep everything clean and covid-safe so that everyone can participate together.

· People. The most important part about an in-person worship service is of course the persons that are in it. So come on the 12th to see the people that you’ve missed, the family that you’re a part of, and the Body of Christ together again! And to celebrate that fact we’re going to share a meal together on that first Sunday.

That’s right, we are throwing a celebration BBQ for everyone who shows up on September 12. You don’t have to pay anything. You don’t need to bring anything. You don’t need to do anything except be here and be present. Be sure to plan for sticking around after the service to keep the good times going.

So, whether you are returning to a church family that you haven’t seen in 18 months, or your finally joining a family that you’ve been journeying with online for a much shorter time than that, or even if you just heard about us and you’re curious to see what we’re all about—welcome back. We’ll see you on Sunday!

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