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Dear Southwood Church Family,

Well, after an exciting Relaunch Sunday and all the incredible work our congregation, staff, and Council put in to get ready, we're pivoting once again in response to last night's new health orders from the provincial government. Thank to you all of you have been praying for me and for our leadership team over the last 24 hours as we've discussed, discerned, and put together a fresh set of temporary policies that will help us move forward as a community of faith this Fall. I called an emergency Church Council meeting this afternoon at 3:30 PM and we gathered to make decisions about new temporary policies moving forward.

Today, I have been pondering the image above—an Eastern Christian icon of Christ called "Jesus Christ Pantocrator" which is a sacred ancient depiction of our Lord. It's been on my mind, in part, because I painted a version of it during "painting time with dad" last week with my kids (they were busy working on various Disney characters!). "Pantocrator" means something close to "Almighty" and the icon shows Jesus holding the New Testament (the Gospel, the Word of Life) in one hand, while the other hand is positioned in a traditional blessing gesture. I needed this icon today, as a reminder of Jesus' over-arching power, care, compassion, and love for the world. Even as we spin around and wonder about what the heck is going on—Christ remains constant, offering us Good News and showering us with blessing. May we hold fast to this truth about who he is.

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We are not suspending in-person worship at this time. The Council and staff team are confident enough in the structure and plans we have in place to keep moving forward with Hybrid Worship on Sunday mornings (in-person + live stream). The things that will be different from our original plans are the seating arrangements and capacity limit:

  1. Up to 42 people will be able to attend indoor worship each week, not including the presiding minister(s), the music team, or the A/V team. Pre-registration will be required in order to facilitate this cap.
  2. All seating is now distanced seating, and each designated spot in the Sanctuary can only accommodate 2 people max. This means that you when you register for a spot, you'll register for yourself only OR yourself + 1 other member of your household OR yourself + 1 of your designated close contacts (if you live alone).
  3. Because of the measurements and layout of the pews, in order to prevent us from having to manually assign individual seating every week, 2 people is the max for each designated spot, even if 3 or more of you are from the same household (my apologies for this!). If more than 2 people were to sit in a single designated spot, it would be impossible to maintain 2m of distance to the next closest designated spot.
  4. Southwood Kids will continue to remain outdoors as long as possible (weather-permitting), but when the transition to indoor Children's Ministry happens, pre-registration will be required in order for us to maintain room-capacity limits and physical distancing.

In addition, the Council has approved the following temporary policies:

  • As long as the provincial work-from-home order is in effect, the church office will be closed to the public during the week. The Council has given the staff team, under my supervision and at my discretion, the ability to work on-site when it is operationally necessary. And so, you will still be able to make an appointment to come into the office if you have a need to do so. 
  • Ministry groups, programs, and external renters will still be able to meet in-person, but masking is required at all times, no eating/drinking in groups is allowed, and physical distancing (and therefore room-capacity limits) must be maintained. Please contact your group leader in the coming week to find out about specific plans for your group. We'll provide an update in next week's newsletter as to what SWUC groups are moving forward with in-person, hybrid, etc.
  • We will only be implementing the new "Restrictions Exemption Program" (i.e., vaccine passports) for specific ministries or events that require it in order to remain viable. At this time, there are two: the Musical Theatre program and the Music Ministry. Participants in these two groups will receive instructions and details about this by Sunday, September 19th.

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I know that this is a lot of information, but please know that I'm so thankful for the flexibility and willingness of everyone here at Southwood in rolling with the punches as we've navigated the storm of these last 19 months. Please feel free to reach out to me for pastoral care, prayer, or just a chat, if you need it. I'd love to hear from you.

Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Sam

"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." (Jude 24–25)