The gist:

After the Supreme Court ruling against the indoor worship ban and after conferring with our elders, we have decided that if it rains next Sunday, or on any future Sunday, we will worship indoors at our current times of 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. with up to 100 people in our sanctuary, with room for up to 60 more in our overflow rooms, where you can see and hear on TV monitors.  Masks are required inside.  We will provide self-serve communion cups and a worship service similar to outside.  Children 3 years through 5th grade will have their program in their classrooms; no nursery or 2 year old class can be safely provided at this time (they must stay with their parent or guardian).

We will continue to plan to worship outdoors every Sunday possible until more restrictions are lifted.

So keep your eye on the weather and stay tuned: we hope to see you for worship, outdoors or in, but it’s best to dress warm when it’s cool outside and to bring a chair if you can.

The background:

Something important developed last Friday night: the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s ban on indoor church services by a 6-3 ruling.  The Supreme Court said that the governor’s indoor worship ban, the most restrictive in the nation, violated the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion, and found that churches have been singled out for unfair treatment.

Unfair treatment?  This should be obvious to anyone who goes anywhere in public.  You can go shopping all day long at Walmart, Target, Lowes, Home Depot, Costco, the mall, or any grocery store with hundreds of strangers all touching things, picking things up, putting them back, even trying things on, but you can’t worship with fellow believers inside your church.  Casinos are open, Strip Clubs are open, Liquor Stores are open, Pot Shops are open, and Abortion Clinics are open, but Churches are closed to all but outdoor worship – even if it’s cold or raining outside.  How fair is that?

Churches like ours have spent many thousands of dollars trying to provide a way for people to come worship safely and comfortably outdoors each week for nearly a year, in addition to broadcasting services through as many ways as possible.  We just spent a whole week getting our shade system back up after it got blown down by high winds, and are working now on Livestreaming our services.  Some churches have continued meeting indoors in defiance of state and county orders, while others have been closed since last March, unable to make any kind of live worship work for their people in their situation.  Churches are struggling to survive.

So while this is good news, in principle, there are still challenges, in practice.  The Supreme Court let stand for now the state’s 25% of capacity rule, meaning our sanctuary, which seats 400, can only have 100 people inside.  We regularly run over 300 in outdoor worship, and were running more than 400 indoors when the pandemic hit last year, so we would have to have 4 or more services or else put a lot of people in overflow rooms.  In addition, the Court let stand the “no singing or chanting” rule indoors.

So we have a lot to think and pray about, and ask your prayers and support, as well.