Latest Updates Regarding COVID-19
As we continue to navigate the pandemic together, the emerging conversation in much of our society involves the implementation of a “vaccine passport.” Many of you have reached out to us to ask where our leadership lands on this practice, so we wanted to update you on the discernment of our Board of Elders.
Because our posture throughout the pandemic has been to do everything we can to promote safety and support our society through the pandemic as safely and quickly as possible, we recognize the value of an added measure of “safety certification.” To our leadership, embracing the measures of safety available to us represents the privilege-relinquishing Way of Jesus that always orients itself to the other. These kinds of steps are practical ways we can live beyond ourselves.
At the same time, we know some in our community have been anxious, hesitant, or are medically unable to get vaccinated. As a church that seeks to live out a “Love Beyond Belief” attitude, where everyone is not expected to believe exactly the same things on non-salvation issues, we’d like to create respectful space for disagreement on these issues that are otherwise hotly polarizing in our world.
Add to that, we’re aspiring to foster a “come as you are” culture that loves and welcomes people unconditionally in attending weekend services, participating in a Life Group, and receiving ministry through one of our Anchor Causes. And, in desiring to take proactive steps to promote safety through the pandemic, we’d like our church to continue to exude that message and culture.
So, as a result of these values:
If you have any questions or comments, or require further clarity, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Ministry Team leader, your Location Pastor or any member of the Board of Elders.
We appreciate that this brief and specific summary won’t have fully addressed the individual feelings and the nuanced personal perspectives on what has become an extremely volatile and divisive issue in our world. However, our hope as a leadership is that you can hear our heart to promote a greater degree of safety, while continuing to foster Love Beyond Belief, in a come-as-you-are culture. And we trust that you’ll engage in this process with us in the spirit of Ephesians 4:3, “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
We love you. We’re deeply grateful for your patience, support, and cooperation through all the ups and downs of this pandemic. We’re thrilled by how God is continuing to rebuild momentum across our community. And we’re delighted by the way we’re increasingly able to enjoy one another through our church’s in-person programs and activities as we continue to navigate this pandemic together.
In case you’ve missed the updates, the provincial government has bumped up the launch of Stage 1. At the same time, it has shifted the restrictions and protocols for each Stage, allowing indoor worship gatherings to begin during this first stage instead of its originally-estimated Stage 2.
As we communicated in the previous update, Southridge is eager to capitalize on the opportunity to re-gather together on Sundays in larger groups. At the same time, coming out of a season of stay-at-home order where our buildings have been inaccessible, we need some lead time in order for our facilities to be prepared to accommodate our return to in-person gatherings.
So, bottom line: Southridge’s Sunday services will continue to operate online only through Stage 1, but we will expect to bump up our in-person reopening to the start of Stage 2—which means we expect to begin gathering in-person again on Sunday, July 4.
It’s likely that, at this Stage, we’ll also be able to reopen at more than 15% occupancy, according to the modified provincial guidelines that can be found here.
We’re excited to be able to reopen earlier than originally anticipated, and hope you are too. The July weekend will also launch our annual “It Takes A Village” summer series. And to be able to kick this year’s series off with the launch of in-person gatherings will feel amazing!
If you have any further questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out and give us a shout. Thanks again for rolling with the uncertainties of the season. We’re excited to see all of you again in-person in the coming months!
After fifteen months of navigating this pandemic together, we’re excited to finally be discussing the process of reopening our gatherings and events!
THE SHORT VERSION
If you’re not one for e-mails and would like us to get to the point, here it is: following Ontario’s reopening plan, where applicable, our group activities of 10 or fewer people will begin to meet outdoors at the launch of Stage 1 (currently scheduled to begin June 14), and large-group in-person Sunday gatherings will begin as “watch parties” (experiencing the online service together), including nursery and preschool childcare, at the launch of Stage 2, subject to the 15% capacity limits.
In short: Sunday gatherings can begin the process of reopening as soon as Sunday, July 11. The summary outline of our reopening plan can be found here. And if the provincial government modifies their timeline, ours will modify accordingly.
THE LONGER VERSION
To start the reopening process, we collected your feedback through a community survey. As in previous surveys where we’ve solicited your voice, we received divergent perspectives. Approximately 40% of you wanted to see the church reopen immediately—and around 34% of you said you’d be there right away. But over 40% of you wanted us to continue to take a cautious approach, with another 20% of you desiring for us to not reopen at all until the majority of us were fully vaccinated (i.e.: two doses). So, as a leadership, we heard that some are eager to reopen while others are desiring a cautious approach. In response to that, our leadership will seek to reopen as we’re able but to also do so cautiously—not that we’re believing we can please all of the people, all of the time, but that we see a win-win to a staged approach to reopening.
It’s also important to appreciate why our leadership’s approach has shifted, even though our collective values haven’t. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been clear that our goal—consistent with how we understand the Way of Jesus—was to serve our community by doing everything we could to protect people (especially the most vulnerable) and promote getting through the pandemic as fast as possible. We sacrificed what we could have done (in regathering at other times) in order to serve our surrounding community. So, throughout the pandemic, our Sunday services have remained exclusively online. As our government and health experts are confirming, though, the vaccination rates are becoming the game-changer to get us through the pandemic permanently. Vaccines are now providing the protection (especially to the most vulnerable) that we sought to contribute to before vaccines were available. Now that vaccination rates are meeting significant thresholds, we’re comfortable beginning the reopening process along the sequence of the provincial framework. While our values haven’t changed, because of vaccines, we feel our approach can.
Some may wonder why we won’t seek to gather as a large group during Stage 1—though the provincial framework allows outdoor religious gatherings. Aside from some of our church properties presenting safety issues, our ministries feel like we need to leverage this first stage for the necessary preparations for reopening in Stage 2. Especially in recent months of stay-at-home order, we haven’t been allowed in our buildings for sufficient cleaning or preparation for ministry. So, during this first 3-week reopening stage, we want to leverage this time to focus on the necessary preparations for our facilities and ministries in order to begin reopening safely and effectively at Stage 2.
As well, throughout these first three reopening stages, we will primarily be regathering around our online service. Our Inspiration department is working to launch in the fall with more fully in-person service elements (worship bands, hosts, etc.), and we’ll be looking to transition some of those elements during Stage 3 in August. For the most part, though, we want to allow our Inspiration department the time to prep for a fuller fall launch while also allowing them a much-needed summer break in July. So, especially as we first reopen in Stage 2, our in-person gatherings will be “watch parties” of the online service together. (In case you’re wondering, we do intend to continue a version of the online service into the fall after we’ve more fully reopened our in-person gatherings.)
You’ll notice a similar progression with Kid’s Ministry. Stage 2 will deliver nursery and preschool supports, and basic M&S programming will launch in Stage 3. This is intended to more slowly and steadily gain familiarity and confidence with our facility use and traffic flow on Sundays, as well as allow the necessary time to refresh the “Plan to Protect” certification for our hundreds of Family Ministry volunteers.
Our greatest excitement around reopening—which begins to launch right at the onset of Stage 1—is the capacity to meet as in-person groups outdoors. For our Life Groups (including the small groups of our Student Ministries) and a number of programs and friendships in our Action Ministry across our Anchor Causes, we’re hoping that we’ll all maximize these opportunities to be the church to one another and others, knowing, around here, we understand the “church” to be less of an event you attend and more of a life of love we live together.
If you have any questions or require further clarification regarding our approach to reopening, please don’t hesitate to contact your ministry leader or myself directly. As things evolve and update, expect further clarification and communication from our leadership. We are beyond excited to finally start enjoying the gift of each other again—face-to-face—and are eager to see all you over the summer as we build towards a fuller ministry launch for the fall together!
With tightened restrictions in the thick of the third wave, we pray that God is sustaining you each day as we persevere together. Let’s continue supporting one another, striving to live as a “no need among us” community like the early church of Acts 4. If you have a practical need or could offer support to the needs of others, visit our Need Help-Give Help response page.
As we’ve officially shifted from Grey Zone Lockdown to the Red Control Zone in the Niagara Region, some of us may be wondering what shifts this means as a Southridge community.
What’s most interesting AND most challenging about the Red Zone is that the spirit of the parameters that says “limit social interaction as much as possible” for the sake of the most vulnerable and not to overwhelm our health care system doesn’t change all that much, while technical permissions for religious services do change significantly.
For us though, both as a leadership and based on the ongoing input of our community, we’ve consistently sought to fulfill the spirit of the parameters—meaning our activities in the Red Zone won’t change all that much either.
For some deeper reflection and conversation on how we’re processing this, check out this week’s Southridge member podcast episode.
In short: out of cautiousness around emerging variants, potential third waves, and an ongoing commitment to protect the most vulnerable, most of our activities will remain online for the time being. However, with new outdoor permissions and improving weather we’ll seek to take advantage of potential outdoor in-person gathering opportunities for our student ministries and Life Groups.
As we discussed and began experimenting with last fall, in-person indoor activities—like Life Group gatherings, short-term group experiences, and even our planned experiment of a pastorally-supported, in-person experience of our online service—will be activated should we improve to the Orange Restrict Zone. And, like you, we can’t wait till it’s deemed safe for us to be there!
Looking further ahead, we’re excited by the prospect of increased vaccinations and are eager to enjoy being together in-person as a community in more ways in the coming months. We believe we’re starting to see the horizon of the other side of pandemic life and want to stay faithful to what Jesus wants to do in us and through us until we get there.
In the meantime, we appreciate your continued commitment to making the kind of sacrifices to serve others that embodies the heart of Jesus whom we follow!
A couple weeks ago, we asked you to share your opinions regarding COVID-19 and re-opening, in a church-wide survey. So many of you responded and we are thankful for your input!
You can read more about the learnings and resulting decisions stemming from those surveys in this communique from Jeff.
To comply with new regulations from Public Health, our friends from the Caribbean on certain farms will need to section-off their sleeping areas, which will in turn limit air flow and make the dorms extremely hot. In an effort to help increase the comfort for these workers, we are seeking donations of fans. Ideally these would be desk-sized (or similar), in order to make them practical for these small sleeping areas.
If you can help out with this need, please contact Nate Dirks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First, we want to express a huge “THANK YOU” for the support we’ve already received through your kind donations to our shelter community. We are truly inspired by the outpouring of love and generosity.
Second, we’re excited to share that we’re scaling up our outreach services. As of April 1st, we’ve received approval and funding from the Niagara Region to begin an Assertive Outreach Team. This team, made up of seasoned shelter staff, will go directly into the community to provide care and services to those who currently find themselves sleeping on the streets. Beyond trying to secure housing or shelter for those this team will serve, we’re hoping to provide much needed practical supplies as well.
This is where you come in!
We have been blown away by the support you’ve given our shelter community during this time, but are also asking for help with these practical supply and outreach needs. Here are two lists with the updated and current needs for both programs
Thanks in advance for considering what you can contribute!
While our programs are geared towards ending cycles of poverty by providing community and cooking training, the risks of getting numerous people together in one place, even in a ‘takeaway’ format are too great at the moment. Since local food banks are adequately supplied, in conjunction with our partners the wisest course of action has been to temporarily suspend the current forms of both Harvest and Collective Kitchen programs at Southridge until Public Health loosens social distancing restrictions.
As a community we’re operating in a modified format to both socially support our Harvest and Collective Kitchen guests, as well as continue to provide necessary meal supports, while responsibly honouring the best Public Health-instructed practices.
So, how can you be a part of this?:
So many of you have reached out to inquire about specific ways you can support the Shelter at this time – and we are so thankful for that.
Due to some increased demands in this season, here is a list of some of our most urgently felt practical needs. If you see anything here you could help with, please feel free to stop by the Shelter at 201 Glenridge Ave (we have a donation bin set up outside to ensure proper distancing protocols).
If you’re able to give financially, please visit here. Your continued generosity will ensure that we can continue supporting those who are feeling the effects of our current pandemic crisis in very significant ways.
As we strive to keep you updated, and in a spirit of being a proactive community that is seeking to love others by prioritizing the health and safety of all, especially the vulnerable and all our front-line workers, we are strongly encouraging as much self-isolation and social distancing as possible, avoiding all non-essential or emergency-related contact with people outside of your household.
To that end, we are asking that all Southridge-related groups refrain from meeting together in physical spaces and instead continue to work toward digital forms of connection like group texts and video-based chats. Thanks for working together for the well-being of all.
As we find ourselves in a season that’s rapidly changing, we want to take every opportunity to be the church and leverage the life and power of Jesus in this unusual time. Here’s a brief summary of our ministry’s approach and challenges in the coming weeks:
As always, we’d love to hear from you about how we can better be the church in a season where people need Jesus more than ever. Feel free to share ideas with us here (email@example.com). And look back here for ongoing updates on ministry needs and initiatives in this unprecedented season. We love you and love being the church together with you!