By now you’ve likely seen the resolution passed by the Grand Forks City Council calling for masks to be worn whenever a distance of six feet or more cannot be maintained between non-household members.
While churches are explicitly exempt from this resolution, city leaders are strongly recommending the use of masks at all public gatherings – including church services.
We encourage you to consider their recommendation and be familiar with local and state health guidelines so that you can make informed decisions for you and your family.
That being said, after carefully discussing and praying about the matter we will not be requiring anyone to wear a mask in order to join us for congregational worship at Grace. We came to this conclusion for the following reasons:
First, we do not feel compelled to have stricter requirements than the city of Grand Forks or the North Dakota Department of Health. They are recommending masks in church settings but not requiring them.
Second, and far more importantly, we do not believe that we have biblical warrant or authority to place restrictions on participation in corporate worship that are not prescribed in God’s Word.
Although we stop short of requiring masks, we will continue to have masks available and we encourage those who are otherwise unable to join us in the sanctuary to consider making use of the mask-only seating available in the Fellowship Hall.
While we realize viewing the service on the screen is not ideal, this does provide an opportunity to regularly gather together with other believers for worship, fellowship, and partaking in communion – which we will be doing this coming Sunday.
As a reminder, we have also taken a number of steps to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 during our services and other activities at Grace, such as:
- Roping off every other pew and providing an overflow area to allow for social distancing between households
- Providing a livestream option for viewing the worship service from home
- Decreasing class sizes for children’s ministry activities and limiting interaction between classes
- Not passing the offering plate and using pre-packaged communion elements
- Increasing our cleaning protocols and adding hand sanitizing stations throughout the building
Even with the above measures in place, the reality is there is a risk in gathering together, particularly for those who are more susceptible due to age or health concerns. That risk cannot be eliminated entirely, and so each individual and family will need to decide what is the wisest choice for them.
If you choose not to wear a mask, please be especially conscientious of others and observe social distancing – particularly in the halls before and after the service.
Please know that if you are not yet able to join us in person it is our strong desire to continue ministering to you. Not only through the livestream of our worship service and Enrichment Hour, but individually as well. As elders we will continue to check in with members of the congregation regularly, but please don’t hesitate to reach out to any one of us if you have a need or would like prayer.
In closing, we recognize that there are a wide range of opinions on how best to safely gather for worship, rightly honor governing authorities, and show selfless love to our community during this challenging season of COVID-19.
We lovingly echo the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4 and “urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
– Pastor Clay, on behalf of the elders at Grace Baptist Church