A Brief Update from Pastor Bryan…
In light of the recent announcements by Governor Abbott and our President, I thought it wise to send you a note and let you know where we stand as church leadership. President Trump’s mandate permitting all churches to re-open is simply a re-iteration of Governor Abbott’s declaration for the State of Texas last month. In other words, we have the freedom to gather, however we are still required to maintain social distancing (6 feet between family units) and encouraged to wear masks. Governor Abbott increased the 25% maximum capacity to 50% maximum capacity, with the same guidelines stated above.
We believe in-person, corporate worship and fellowship are vital, and we are very eager to gather in our facility as soon as possible. However, since we have a large number of people in a smaller location, we face unique challenges. Our Sun City facility is closed until at least July, so we have no options for the Sun City Campus at the present time. Our Georgetown Campus would be limited to about 70 people per service (which could restrict as many as 3/4 of our people from attending). This is due to the fact that in order to maintain social distancing guidelines of 6 feet, our current sanctuary can only hold ~20% of capacity… even though we are allowed to have 50%. Additionally, our facilities for children and youth are so small as to prohibit any attempts to re-engage Sunday school with social distancing guidelines.
That being said, our leadership is gathering early next week to discuss alternative plans. We may have to think “outside the box” (literally)… but I’m confident we will offer some form of public gathering for worship and fellowship in the near future.
Thank you for your patience as we attempt to provide a solution that doesn’t restrict and/or exclude a majority of our people.
In His Grace,
PS – for further information, please see our May 1st Update Below
May 1st Update:
A Note from Pastor Bryan…
I know people are very curious about our next steps as a church, so I wanted to send you a note and update you on “what’s happening” at Hill Country Georgetown. As you might expect, our leaders have spent a considerable amount of time in prayer and deliberation concerning when and how we should begin meeting in our facility once again. Additionally, many of the pastors (myself included) in Georgetown, Williamson County and across the state of Texas have been involved in numerous conference calls with our governing authorities - including Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. I have also been in an ongoing dialogue with other churches and pastors about the pros and cons of when and how to move back into a physical location for worship.
While we recognize that some churches have chosen to open their doors over the next week or two, as we prayerfully and thoughtfully weighed our options, the leadership of Hill Country Georgetown are united in our belief that it would be counter-productive to attempt to gather back in our facility at this time. While we believe the various rules and regulations our governing authorities have put into place will certainly protect the health of the people who would gather, our decision was not based on those concerns. Rather, it was the fact that the various social distancing restrictions spelled out by Governor Abbott in “phase one” of the Open Texas document would (in our opinion) render the worship service experience ineffective and unfulfilling.
Now the good news is this – there is considerable hope that this will be a very short-term problem. May 18 will bring another announcement (what is being termed as “phase two”) that will potentially lift many of these restrictions and make authentic worship and fellowship more feasible. And if
those regulations are still too restrictive, I’m told that phase three will only be a few weeks later.
While there are many reasons we came to this conclusion, allow me to highlight a few that were very significant to our leadership:
- Hill Country Georgetown has always been a church where “everybody is welcome.” Our DNA is about reaching out and welcoming all those who have no church home. We never want to turn people away at the door for any reason - age, health or no tickets/reservations.
- With mandated social distancing of 6 feet between families, we could only accommodate ~20-25% of our people in each service. This would mean we would have to turn away ~75-80% of our people. Additionally, the logistics of who comes to which service and how they get tickets or reservations could create major problems.
- At present, Hill Country Georgetown is a larger church maxing out a smaller facility. This presents problems other churches may not have. Some smaller churches have a large area (such as a school cafeteria) and can simply spread out all of their people. Some larger churches have seating for thousands and can more readily make adjustments. We don’t have that luxury. At the present time, to accommodate all of our people would require moving from three to twelve or more services. This would be extremely impractical. And we would still have the logistical problems of who comes to which service.
- Under the current regulations we can’t practice authentic corporate worship. Since they are recommending masks, singing will not be possible. They are also dissuading participants from singing without masks as more saliva particles become airborne during singing than speaking.
- We simply can’t offer children’s ministry or youth ministry due to space and social distancing limitations.
- Our Sun City Campus facility is not open in the month of May, and while we could move our 8:30 AM worship service to our Georgetown Campus, in phase one they are also recommending that those who are 65 and older and/or whose health is compromised should stay at home.
- Any number of health issues (and there are many listed in the governing document), including a simple cough, would require us to dismiss people from the church.
- We can’t truly fellowship together due to the social distancing rules in phase one. No hugs, handshakes or fist bumps would be allowed. Additionally, there would be no standard greeting, offering, communion, and other aspects of worship and fellowship we have come to expect.
On the other hand, by maintaining what we are presently providing for our Sunday morning experience, we have the following advantages:
- We have an online presence where “everybody is welcome.” We have experienced an unprecedented amount of outreach through invites to our online venue. For example, we estimate (based on the number of people who viewed the service online) that our worship service reached 2-3 times as many people on Easter than our typical Easter attendance.
- At the present time, we don’t have to turn people away for any reason - age, health or no tickets/reservations. All of our people (young and old) can participate in all online ministries.
- While we can’t be in the same location at the same time, people can worship and sing freely to the Lord in their homes, without masks. They can also partake of communion, as per usual.
- We are currently offering fantastic children’s and youth ministry teaching, curricula, games and competitions into the children’s homes. These activities would be restricted if we returned to our facility.
Rest assured that I desire as much as anyone to physically gather together once again in our facilities. I miss the dynamic of preaching “live,” corporate singing, the heartfelt greetings and hugs, and the close fellowship and interaction with my brothers and sisters in Christ. So as soon as we are granted the freedom to engage in worship and fellowship in a true, biblical sense, we will make it happen. In the meantime, please pray for wisdom for our governing authorities, and that the spread of this virus will prove to be less than originally anticipated. If things continue to move in a positive direction, we will be able to gather without restrictions in our church building in the near future.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate our way through this complex situation. In meantime, I continue to pray God’s prayer for the Ephesians over our church family…
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
In His Grace,