One congregation, two spaces

Aug. 26, 2021

We’ve spoken often of how the pandemic changed the ways we “do church.” We had hopes for the future to livestream our service before March of 2020, but having to go completely online March 15 pushed us to make those dreams a reality much sooner.

We’re now on the cusp of our first “hybrid” worship service on Sept. 19 at 10:30 a.m.!

But in very real ways, we’ve already been doing hybrid worship. Every Sunday that we’ve had both a parking lot, in-person service and a prerecorded service premiering on YouTube at the same time, that’s been hybrid worship. Sept. 19 will be different simply because it will be simultaneous.

Hybrid worship is defined as one congregation in two spaces—the virtual and the physical, the online and the in-person—where worshipers in the two spaces are seen and treated as equal participants as much as possible.

This means we’re going to be drawing readers, speakers, even musical offerings and, hopefully, in-house-produced brief videos from people in the online space as well as the sanctuary space. So worship in the sanctuary will be both the same, and different, from what we did before the pandemic.

A surprising number of people new to FHC in the past year and a half have said they first checked our church out online, watching our worship services, surfing our website—or have liked our public Facebook page or followed us on Instagram or Twitter, to see what we’re doing, get a flavor of our church, and make plans to visit a parking lot service or outdoor event.

Transition time

The worship schedule for September and October will be “transitional”—that’s the best way to describe it. We’ll be straddling the boundary between “old-hybrid” (parking lot and pre-recorded) and “new-hybrid” (sanctuary and livestreamed). With the surge in COVID cases due to the Delta variant, we’re waiting as long as we can to go indoors, so we’ll have parking lot and YouTube services on Sept. 12 and 26 (10:30 start time will resume on the 12th) and Oct. 3 and 17, weather permitting. Our first sanctuary and livestreamed service is Sept. 19 at 10:30.

For that service, everybody will be asked to mask, and household groups and individuals will need to sit in blue-taped areas of the pews to maintain 6’ distance. It will also be a while longer before we can sing as a congregation, but we’ll utilize ensembles of up to 10 people from the platform for vocal music.

The biggest difference in this transitional time will be a limit of 30 worshipers in the sanctuary at a time, so we’re asking you to sign up.

Our return to in-person worship will be slow and gradual, as people feel safe to return—but I certainly hope you will want to return soon, and that you’ll sign up for a Sunday service as soon as you feel safe to do so. The fall promises much to celebrate: as I write this, I’m preparing to meet with our new Youth Ministry and Outreach Coordinator, Katie Johnson, whom we hired this week. And we are moving closer to hiring a new Music Director, as well!