“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. -Isaiah 40:30-31
Whether we asked for it or not, and whether we’ve liked it or not, the Lord has led us to a time of waiting on Him. The past two and a half months has been refining, and while it has not been easy for most of us, I am grateful for it. Waiting on the Lord, not knowing what tomorrow will hold and needing to rely on Him to provide for each day, is the very best place for us to be. So, as the country begins to talk about opening up, let us remain in a place of non-anxious waiting upon the Lord. I want to briefly share how we as leaders throughout Redemption Church, and specifically here in Tucson, are thinking through what it looks like to begin gathering again in various ways.
The language of re-gathering is important because we’ve been adamant all along that the Church has not been closed. In so many different ways over the past two+ months, we have seen more ministry taking place, and new, on-going partnerships established, than at any other time in the life of our church. From more directly engaging with and supporting vulnerable and marginalized people and communities, to fervently and consistently praying together, the Lord has been refining and growing us in so many ways.
Before explaining more about the various phases of re-gathering we have put together, why and how we envision that in our specific context, I encourage you to look at this chart in order to have a framework to go by. The language of having various ‘phases of re-opening’ is congruent with the national, state-wide, and local leadership, who have explained the process as being more like a dimmer switch than an on-off light switch.
While there are many different opinions, even among experts of various kinds, we are choosing to follow the guidelines laid out by the White House, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the AZ Department of Health Services. To be clear, faith communities are not bound to follow these rules, categorized as essential services. However, we think it is wise, honoring, and loving to closely follow their recommendations.
You may notice that we have laid out dates for various forms of regathering that are further out than many other places; from business to other churches. Our dates, like those from higher levels of leadership, remain flexible and need to be held openhandedly. While we invite and encourage you to ask for more clarity as it’s needed, I will list out some explanations for how we have come to do things this way:
•Opportunities to implement creative and meaningful gatherings of different sizes and in different parts of the city.
•Remain flexible and able to move from one phase to another as data-points and recommendations fluctuate rapidly.
•Continue growing in smaller, more incarnational communities (less “professionally dependent” & closer proximity to one another).
•Continue embodying an “Every Member is a Minister” philosophy throughout our church.
•Continue establishing on-going missional (ministry) practices and partnerships in Tucson.
•Safford School: We don’t own our own building, and the reality of “getting back to normal” looks very different for us based on a number of factors: TUSD policies and capacity, ability to clean and maintain the facility, ability to honor recommended practices of hygiene and social-distancing, and complex volunteer dynamics.
Ultimately, church family, we are driven by love. We love, both God and one another, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Everything we are doing now, and have sought to do from the beginning, has been driven by love. We encourage and implore you to love well. If you have a different perspective than somebody else, or even than the majority of those around you, choose love. And know that you are loved. If you need to take more cautionary measures, we absolutely encourage you do so, and know you are respected and honored in that decision. If you wish we were moving at a faster pace of re-gathering, we ask for your grace and understanding. Please join us in praying for wisdom and faithfulness, as we continue seeking to live all of life, all for Jesus, all the time (even in uncertain times of global pandemic). May we be a people who are set-apart, full of love that demands an explanation; for Jesus’ glory and the good of Tucson.