As we all continue to navigate the unknown world of COVID-19, we know that everyone is wondering when it will be possible for us to gather on a regular basis for in-person worship experiences. After much waiting, we want to share our vision for resuming regular in-person gatherings below.
How We Got Here
From the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been in close communication with our host facility, the Blanchard Park YMCA. As many of you have been, their organization, leadership, and staffing have been impacted financially during this crisis. In addition, the risk management team for all of the Central Florida YMCAs banned cloth chairs from all facilities (all of our 250 chairs are padded). Lastly, the Central Florida YMCA has selectively been reopening facilities and our facility has still not returned to full pre-COVID functionality and won’t for some time.
Beyond these facilities issues, the bigger question mark for our leaders has been how to best care for and serve the most people in our community. We’ve taken into account other neighboring church reopenings (and subsequent closings), filtered through CDC recommendations, and continued to put resources and skill toward our online worship experience.
With all of these factors in play, we attempted two Outdoor Gatherings in order to gauge interest in regathering, and in spite of the rain postponements, it was clear that interest was high for us to find a viable solution.
Step 1: One-Time Night of Worship on Oct. 10
This coming Saturday, we’ve scheduled a one-time Night of Worship. This is an exciting opportunity for us to come together and test the waters of regathering with added safety considerations, lack of childcare, and attention to new details that we previously didn’t have to navigate. Our leaders will be using this event as a testing ground for everything required for us to safely resume recurring events.
Step 2: Resume Basic Sunday Gatherings on Oct. 25
Assuming all goes as planned for the Night of Worship, it is our tentative plan to restart weekly Sunday gatherings at the YMCA on October 25th. For this to happen, we will need volunteers to be scheduled, updated on new safety protocols, and leading the charge with fresh energy. In addition to in-person serving teams, we will continue to maintain a quality church online experience without interruption. This also requires additional volunteers and production planning. If you have previously served or have never served on a team but want to be part of offering a safe and excellent experience for others, complete a Serving Test Drive form and let us know you’re ready to serve on a team.
We also plan to continue our online worship experience uninterrupted for anyone to participate from home.
Step 3: Continue Strategizing for Adding Kids Programming
At this time, there is no clear timeline for offering One Hope Kids programming. The YMCA is still limiting space availability and we are still not sure how to provide a consistently safe experience for children within the YMCA facility. Holly and our leaders will continue brainstorming and strategizing how this can be offered again as well as continuing to explore ways to improve the at-home kids experience.
Step 4: Future Permanent Home
As we had announced in November of 2019, we believe that having 24/7 access to a facility is critical to moving forward with our mission. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted a need for permanent space that can be controlled and regulated for both safety and openness to the community as well as provide a central location for bringing together in-person gatherings and online broadcasts.
In the last few months, our Elder Team has been actively working with a commercial realtor and exploring multiple options for a permanent space especially as the market shifts. While we will continue this process, we want to share what we’ve learned and what you can do to be part of moving this ahead.
Currently, we have savings that will allow us to explore building purchase and lease within a fairly limited range but our monthly income would make building operations and maintenance difficult.
We are calling on everyone to first begin praying for God to open doors. In addition, pray that God would reveal to you how you might contribute to seeing this vision become a reality. We know that many of us have had our finances negatively impacted by COVID-19 and that giving has been a constant sacrifice. Thank you for your willingness to continue striving forward in faith this way. We also know that options that may not have existed for us in terms of real estate are open and will be opening. We want to be in a place where we can move ahead and seize these opportunities with wisdom and boldness.
If you are able, after praying, we’d like to ask you to begin or continue contributing above and beyond to our Future Endeavors fund that exists for the purpose of securing future meeting space, church planting funding, and more.
We want to say a continued huge thank you to each of you for enduring this long season of uncertainty with us. We believe firmly that God is still on His throne, He is still working all things for good, and He will make rivers appear in dry places left by this pandemic and time of unrest. We are honored to be called as your Elders and will continue to seek God on our knees for the present and future of One Hope Church.
-The Elders of One Hope Church