Zion's leadership has been praying and working hard on reopening our building and planning for safe in-person gatherings.
This work is something we need to do carefully, thoughtfully and slowly, in order to accommodate a wide range of tolerances and expectations. We also need to be nimble as we need to be able to move in many different directions depending on what the virus does across the next months, and possibly years.
The Council, Staff, Pastors and Emergency Response Team have shaped a working document titled, "Together/Apart, Together Again." This document will change often, as new information, input and decisions come to us.
Please join us in praying and studying these details, and in sharing any ideas, skills or feedback you can.
In the beginning of this pandemic, many of us expected the waves of closures and changes to be brief. Most of us also believed we would return to pre-pandemic ways unchanged. We are now recognizing that both of those things are unlikely. The virus and its impact is still expanding, and if it has not already, it will affect all aspects of daily life for months, if not years, to come. This document is a working frame for how we are dealing with the pandemic and related events at Zion. It is neither comprehensive nor static, but rather our best effort to be faithful in challenging and changing times.
Mirroring the civic structures, but not exactly matching them, this document uses “phases” to help us think about the movement between where we are right now, and where we hope to be. For at least the next year, we anticipate our lives to be shaped by the timeline set by COVID-19. The question before us has evolved from “How can we most quickly resume in-person worship and our regular activities?” to “What is God doing in our midst during this time? How will God use this time to transform us?”
During this time, Zion can be likened to a boat attempting to ford a river. We long to reach the other side which for us symbolizes the other side of the pandemic. We fix our eyes on the far shore with hopes of paddling straight across. However, the swiftness of the current inevitably pulls us further downstream. The virus carries us where we did not envision going. As we continue to steer for the other shore, we do so responding to the current and the waves of the virus. Yet there is another force at work that influences our navigation. A wind from God sweeps over the waters. The Spirit propels us forward empowering us in our efforts, guiding us on the route ahead. Where we land likely will not be our original destination.
In this liminal time, Zion’s working plan maps out the core values that have already, and will continue to guide us, as well as some values we need to amplify for this new terrain. The way forward will not follow a specific timetable, but will faithfully discern the signs of the times, and respond. Together, we pray for that discernment, for wisdom, and patience. We pray for those who throughout these phases will need to shelter-in-place and participate virtually in community. We pray for those longing for Zion to open soon. We pray for those hesitant to return, for those who mourn the loss of our life together in its richness. We pray for those who hold a dream in their hearts of what God’s future with us will entail.
“You have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown….” (ELW, p.317)
These are values that have defined Zion as a community historically, and continue to guide us in this liminal time.
We are FAITHFUL
In all things, through prayer and respectful conversation, we constantly seek what God is doing and inviting us to join. The lens that shades our discerning is our Lutheran theology, tradition and practice.
We are NEIGHBOR-LOVING
We work together to identify the needs within our community, our neighborhood, and around the world, and to accompany each other in the creative, shared, hard work of loving each other and striving for a just and healthy world for all.
We are CARETAKERS OF CREATION
We prioritize living in ways that are gentle and promote the highest possible care for the environment.
We are GOSPEL-COWORKERS
We celebrate the wide variety of gifts and skills among us, and we value broad engagement in our shared life and ministry.
We are ACCESSIBLE
To the best of our ability, we live our life in the open: communicating clearly and often; maintaining accurate and accessible records, practices and systems; inviting, offering and receiving feedback generously. Zion does not discriminate (see our commitment here).
These are values that have also been a part of Zion historically, but will be helpful to amplify in this liminal time.
We trust each other
Certainly we have always valued trust as part of our community, but in these extraordinary times it will be more critical than ever that we push this value to the front of our life Together/Apart/Together Again. This means assuming we are all doing our best in extremely difficult contexts for the good of the whole.
We experiment more
Rapid change is not the hallmark of any group, but the nature of this liminal time will require some serious creative problem solving at every level. We will need to increase our flexibility and tolerance for the messiness of experimentation. Mostly, our experiments will be small; some will be medium-sized and a couple might be more significant; all will be frequently tweaked. The goal isn’t to avoid failure, but is to learn as we go and lean into our core values.
We hope together
The way things are right now is not the way they will always be. Together, we will get through this liminal time and embrace what God is doing now, even as we hope for what God is inviting us to join next. Our hopeful expectation increases generosity and good humor between us.
The decision to close the building was made on March 13, 2020, amid a wave of rapid changes brought on by the awareness of COVID 19 and its presence in our community. In the weeks that followed, information and decisions were fast moving and constantly changing. Zion’s Sustaining Values guided us through this time, even though they were not specifically articulated--we were living them. Every level of leadership and engagement had to adapt quickly. Existing patterns and tools were clumsy and often overwhelmed. Many groups and practices were not adapted, but rather chose (or were pushed into) a time of sabbath. In this extended time of building closed, Zion’s pastors, staff, council and emergency response team began researching and developing a phased reopening plan. Sources consulted and defined metrics for the phases are available here.
This work has been ongoing for several weeks, and is currently transitioning to the next phase.
As the awareness of the breadth and depth of this pandemic settles on us, we have begun researching, planning and preparing for the challenges of reopening our physical property. This involves significant cleaning and reorganizing of space, as well as new expectations and training for volunteers. To accomplish this we will need leaders and volunteers with the skills and tolerances matched to the new tasks and roles. This will take considerable effort. While the awareness of the breadth and length of the pandemic helps us modify expectations, the exhaustion and anxiety across our congregation is also significant. The detailed plans for preparing to open the building are constantly being updated.
This work is in progress, and will take until the first weeks of July.
Building on extensive and ongoing research, as well as the advice of both church and civic leaders, Zion is crafting the necessary steps for reopening our building and returning to in-person gatherings. A brief congregational survey will be conducted to determine the range of tolerance and expectation relative to in-person gatherings. The results will be communicated and will help define the timeline for in-person gatherings. Invitations to help with new tasks and roles will be developed and shared.
We anticipate this to happen in late July/early August.
This remains our “far shore” goal across all things. We give thanks for the constant, life-giving creativity of God across these difficult circumstances and for our shared faith, which is enabling us to be both nimble and generous with the challenges and opportunities before us.