This post is a look at the EFCA’s Crossway Fellowship in Manassas, Virginia and how they are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been meeting in person and following health guidelines. But as I study the communication from Crossway there is one concern that I detect. This post is not meant to be difficult but its the perspective from an outsider.
“I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.”
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV
Crossway’s Jonathan Yakel instructs individuals on how to attend church.
The EFCA has been issuing guidance about the COVID-19 pandemic and offering suggestions as to how to respond. This blog has looked at what individual districts are advising their churches. In the EFCA’s Eastern District several posts have been written about this topic. You can read them in, “What the EFCA’s Eastern District Communicated to its Churches About COVID-19.” , “Preserving EFCA Eastern District Resources on the COVID-19 Pandemic” and “When it Comes to Re-Opening EFCA Churches in the Eastern District During the COVID-19 Pandemic Some Thoughts For Dr. Cedrick Brown and Tony Balsamo From an Asthmatic Sheltered at Home.” When the pandemic hit the United States in March of 2020 this blog observed and looked at how different EFCA churches in the United States celebrated Easter during the pandemic. If you want to read that you can do so in, “A Sampling of How a Number of Evangelical Free Churches in the United States Celebrated Easter Online in the Middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Crossway Fellowship is an EFCA Church in Manassas, Virginia. This blog has shown up there a couple of times in the past in more normal circumstances. Plus I have interacted with some of the leadership and staff at Crossway. The leader of Crossway Fellowship is Kyle Brennan. This blog looked at him and did a write up of him and his history in the following post. “Crossway Fellowship in Manassas, Virginia Gets a New Senior Pastor, and a Look at the EFCA in the Washington, D.C. Area.” These past few months this blog has been busy writing about are many different EFCA churches have been responding to the pandemic across the United States. Yesterday I realized I needed to look at what some of the local EFCA churches are doing. So this blog thought it would start with Crossway Fellowship.
Crossway Fellowship’s Guidance for Church During the Pandemic
This is the guidelines that Crossway Fellowship has laid out for people who want to attend indoor church services. It appears as if Crossway’s first worship service took place on Sunday June 7, 2020. Below is what Crossway communicated about its first in person service and its plan of moving forward in accordance with Prince William County health guidelines. That was followed by further guidance a couple of days before the June 7 re-opening. And the last post deals with what the current guidelines are for in person service. You can examine all three church communications below.
DEAR CROSSWAY FAMILY,
We are reaching out today to let you know that we will be meeting together again soon. VERY SOON!
In fact, this Sunday (June 7th), CrossWay Fellowship will be open at 10:00 am for our regularly scheduled worship service.
We want you to know that the Elder Board has been, and will continue to be, monitoring the situation in Prince William County daily, regarding the coronavirus. Unless things take a dramatic turn for the worse, we expect to remain open each Sunday morning from here on out.
At this time, our Sunday Morning Worship Services will be our only in-person meeting. As things develop, we will let you know as soon as possible when each of our other ministries will be able to meet in person as well.
There is quite a bit of related information that we will be sending you as we head into opening up. We very much appreciate your patience (and PRAYERS) as we all work together to pull this off over the next few days!
Our goal, as always, is to honor Christ above all, and to serve our church well. Our plan is to protect our congregation by urging those who are vulnerable among us to continue to stay at home as we provide a live-stream alternative each Sunday morning.
Those who attend in person will be using social distancing “best practices” to provide a higher level of confidence that we are not transmitting the coronavirus. We strongly believe it is important to utilize this approach as we begin to meet in person again.
Starting tomorrow, we will be sending specific information about changes to our Sunday service that are designed to help keep each other safe.
One such change will be that our seating capacity will be limited. Because of this, it would help our planning team tremendously if you could let us know whether or not you will be attending. Please reply to this email letting us know if you will be coming this Sunday or not. If you are attending, please include the total number of people we can expect from your household.
We would also like to stress this key point: For your protection, we are urging all vulnerable members of our church family to continue to stay home at this time.
If you are sick, you should not yet attend in person.
If you have been in close proximity to someone who may be sick with the coronavirus, you should not yet attend in person.
If you are unsure whether or not you fall into the category of “vulnerable,” please follow the provided link to a list given by The Centers for Disease Control.
Keep an eye out for more information as we will be sending messages out regularly to let you know essential information. If you have questions, please contact us at email@example.com and we will be sure to respond!
We love you guys and we miss you all so much!
Can’t wait to see you!
DEAR CROSSWAY FAMILY,
Hopefully you received yesterday’s C-Mail letting you know that we will begin meeting in person again THIS SUNDAY (June 7th). We are so excited to see you!
In today’s C-mail we would like to communicate to you about specific changes in our Sunday Morning Worship Service that are designed to help keep everyone as safe as possible.
As you know, seating will be limited and it would again help our planning team tremendously if you could send a quick reply to this email letting us know if you will be attending, and how many from your household we can expect. Even if you are not planning to attend, it is helpful for us to know and we would LOVE to hear from you. A big thanks to everyone who has already reached out!
Our goal, again, is to honor Christ above all and to serve our church well. Our plan is to protect our congregation by urging those who are vulnerable among us to continue to stay at home as we provide a live-stream alternative each Sunday morning. We also realize that for some, this may be a long time. Do not be discouraged, you are SO important to us! Those who are able to attend in person will be using social distancing “best practices” to provide a higher level of confidence that we are not transmitting the coronavirus. We strongly believe it is important to utilize this approach as we begin to meet in person again.
To that end, as we begin to meet, we would like you to keep in mind these requirements:
Sunday morning participants must be seated at least six feet apart from those not of the same household. Physical distancing is expected at all times while in the building. This is for your protection and the protection and comfort of others.
Our Sunday Morning Worship Service is currently the only ministry that will be meeting in person. We will keep you posted as that changes.
Our Sunday morning Kids Ministry, Nursery, and our Adult Sunday School are not yet meeting. Please prepare your kids to be in the sanctuary with you for the entire worship service.
The hallways, and all other rooms within the building will be closed, with the exception (of course!) of the bathrooms.
At this time, our church building will remain closed throughout the week, with the exception of certain hours the staff and cleaning/set up teams will need to be in the building. This means no one will be able to enter the building during the week unless specifically authorized by the Elder Board or staff. This is necessary to manage the proper cleaning of the building, and to ensure it remains clean for our Sunday gathering.
What about face coverings?
We ask that, for those who are able to wear a face covering, that you do so at all times while in the building, except while seated in the sanctuary (although, it is still recommended then as well). Wearing a face covering is an easy way for us all to serve and love one another. If you do not have access to a face covering, we are happy to provide one for you.
Those who are officiating will not be wearing a face covering on the stage, as they will be be able to easily maintain a distance of greater than six feet at all times.
Finally, we would like to once again stress that we are urging all vulnerable members of our church family to continue to stay home at this time. If you are unsure whether or not you fall into the category of “vulnerable,” please follow the provided link to a list given by The Centers for Disease Control.
Please continue to keep an eye out for more information as we will be reaching out again as Sunday gets closer! If you have questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond as soon as we can!
We love you, Church, and we can’t wait to see you again!
Your CrossWay Elders
Sunday Worship Services
Sundays might look a bit different in this season, but their purpose remains the same—we gather every week to worship God together. Our building is now open on Sunday mornings for our worship services, which are also being live-streamed, so that even our most vulnerable members can join us. Find our live-stream here.
Our typical Worship Service includes worship through music, preaching, and prayer. The atmosphere is authentic, the dress is casual, and the focus is on the gospel.
HERE’S WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU ATTEND IN PERSON:
In order to honor Christ above all and to serve our church well, those who are able to attend in person will be using social distancing “best practices,” detailed below:
Upon arrival, attenders will be seated by our Usher team at least six feet from other households.
The hallways, and all other rooms within the building will be closed, with the exception (of course!) of the bathrooms.
Our Kids Ministry classes and Nursery are not yet meeting. Please prepare your kids to be in the sanctuary with you for the entire worship service.
At the end of the service, attenders will be dismissed by our Usher team, to maintain social distancing until everyone is outside the building.
WHAT ABOUT FACE COVERINGS?
We ask that, for those who are able to wear a face covering, that you do so at all times while in the building, except while seated in the sanctuary (at which point, you will be socially distanced from other households). Wearing a face covering is an easy way for us to serve and love one another well, and to ensure that more of our regular attenders are comfortable joining us. If you do not have access to a face covering, we are happy to provide one for you (simply ask our greeters on your way in the building).
Those who are officiating will not be wearing a face covering while on the stage, as they will be able to easily maintain a distance of greater than six feet at all times.
Finally, we would like to once again urge those who are vulnerable among us to continue to stay at home as we provide a live-stream alternative each Sunday morning. We realize that for some, this may be a long time. Do not be discouraged, you are SO important to us! We are regularly making improvements to our live-streamed service, in order to serve you best.
Closing Thoughts on Crossway’s Guidance
This blog wants to be careful in writing because it is very aware of the polarized and sensitive times that are being lived in. I’ve spent a lot of time this past year writing about the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of evangelicalism. I have looked at this issue from different angles and for me it comes from a guy who is deeply committed to science. As I read the communications from Crossway I get the vibe that this is a church that is trying to do the right thing. And in that sense this blog respects them. But the one aspect that catches my eye and gives me pause is one sentence that stands out. That sentence is as follows.
We ask that, for those who are able to wear a face covering, that you do so at all times while in the building,
The key word that stands out is able. And to be honest that is the part that I am honestly struggling with in their communications. So how should I discuss this topic? I think the best way to look at this issue is what an EFCA church did in Kansas. Christ Community Church is a series of EFCA churches in the Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas area. One of he pastors, Tim Spanburg in the community of Shawnee Mission, Kansas wrote a passionate post about face masks. He wrote it from the perspective of a father who had an immune compromised child. In the view of this blog he captured the issue well and addressed it from the perspective of a father. You can read about it in, “Tim Spanburg of Christ Community Church in Shawnee Mission, Kansas Pleads With Evangelicals to Wear Face Masks so His Son Can Go to Church.” The concern I have about the word “able” is that I fear that some can use it to disobey or not wear a mask. For example I am an asthmatic. And yet I wear masks diligently when I go out. I have avoided buildings for this reason. So as I look at what Crossway communicates this blog is impressed. And yet it is also concerned that they way the use the word “able” can be manipulated. That’s all and for the church please don’t think I am trying to be difficult. Its a perspective from an outsider. This blog wishes Crossway well and hopes they stay safe.