I’m a full-blown extravert! I miss connecting with people. I miss you! I love to sing worship songs with the band in a full room! I know that’s true for many of you also. Yes, I’m excited to regather! My two main goals as I lead our staff and volunteers in regathering are to create as safe as possible experience with the quality and excellence we are used to at Pantano. 

We will regather in physical services on Sunday, October 4th at 9am, and 11am. That’s six weeks away. For some of you, that’s still too soon. That’s okay, and we respect your decision. We will always provide a quality online experience for you. For some of you, that is too far away. I get it and feel it too. We have a pile of things to address and work on to be able to regather with my two key criteria: safety and excellence. 

There are a ton of factors that led to deciding on this date. None of this is born out of the fear of the virus, the government, or whatever. This date was set because we are a bit short on staff and have some staff schedule issues we need to consider. We are contacting our volunteers to ensure we’ll have enough volunteers willing to serve. We are also in the middle of some major program changes that require staff attention and energy which would be diluted once we restart our physical services. We have to train our volunteers and then put our new procedures for kids and students on video to help families prepare for regathering. And so much more. Please trust your leadership and me that we have tried to make the wisest decision to open as soon as we can.

Here are some more details about regathering:

  • We will regather with adults, students, and kids on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 9am and 11am. 
  • We will still have all three services online (9am, 11am, 1pm). We’ll add the 1pm in-person service when we see we’ll need to add more room. 
  • The office will reopen on Monday, August 17th (8am-5pm)
  • Groups can meet at the East Campus. Contact Jamie Everson for more information at jeverson@pantano.church.
  • The middle school and high school student’s main service and small groups will continue to meet on Wednesday nights. A student Bible study will be provided for Sunday morning at 9am and 11am.
  • All adult classes this fall are online. Sign up now!
  • Our Wednesday night kids program restart will follow sometime after our Oct. 4th regathering. Stay tuned for more information on that.
  • Revive (our bilingual church) is working on plans to regather. Stay tuned!
  • Until we can regather at the Southeast Campus, we encourage you to either participate at the East Campus or online.

Our safety measures will include:

  • We’ll sanitize the campus between each event or room use. 
  • We’ll follow the state’s guidelines for using rooms at 50% or less. 
  • We ask everyone to wear a mask (with notable exceptions for small children, etc.) and practice proper physical distancing. 

Please check our website that we’ll continuously be updating over the next few weeks. As we get closer to our actual regathering, we’ll provide details regarding the procedures that will be in place for our kids regathering. Go to https://pantano.church/updates/ or the Covid-19 Response at the top of our home webpage.

Pantano, I’m so grateful for you. You have continued to be the church, the true church, that has not been dependent on a building. You have continued to love people to Jesus! Thank you!

You might be wondering when we will regather for physical services. Our staff is addressing that very question right now. I’ll share the details with you next week. There are lots of issues connected with such a decision. I want you to know the kinds of things we are considering to resume well. 

I know that several other churches have opened. I’ve talked to over 50 pastors in the Tucson and Phoenix areas as well as pastors around the country. Many churches have yet to resume and several well-known churches (Northpoint Community Church) in the country have announced they won’t regather until 2021. One thing we’ve learned is that churches regathering, on average, are seeing about 25% of their normal pre-COVID19 attendance. I fully understand that most folks are not ready to regather yet. 

Here are some of the issues and questions we are considering: 

  • How do we balance the genuine need to gather with the need to be safe? Many of us truly miss meeting physically with each other. I do! And many are apprehensive about large gatherings indoors.
  • In this new reality, will live worship be the great experience we had before? The new reality is that the room is three-quarters empty due to practicing physical distancing, fewer people willing to gather publically, and while wearing masks. 
  • How do we keep kids and students safe? There are extra challenges to keep them physically distanced, rooms sanitized, managing check-in, etc.
  • Will we have enough volunteers willing to serve to be able to minister to our adults, kids and students? We can’t do what we do without our amazing volunteers. We also need time to train and retrain our staff and volunteers.
  • Do I have the right staff now to be able to regather? This summer we lost our Children’s Pastor and we are searching now. That role is vital for a successful regathering. 
  • Is this the right time to refocus our staff time and energy on regathering? What you likely don’t know is that I’ve used this COVID-19 season to lead our staff through some major rethinking about how we engage more of our church. We have to find a way to help all of us reach lost people, be discipled and disciple others and expand our service to our neighborhoods and community. I’ve been especially burdened by how difficult in this COVID-19 season it has been to reach people not connected to God or a church. Even before COVID-19, it was hard to get folks engaged, but engagement is vital. We need to make some major changes in our strategy, programming (even when we physically regather), as well as the staffing and resources needed to make it happen. Do I want to divert our energy and focus on this back to having physical services right now? Yes, we need to meet. The question is when is best.

The list of questions is longer than this, but I won’t bore you with the details! I deeply appreciate your prayers for me, our staff, and our elders. Thank you to those who’ve sent cards of encouragement. These are hard times to live. These are hard times to lead! But we are still the church and I’m confident we will come through this season better prepared to be a better church tomorrow. I’ll update you next week with more of when we’ll regather and how.

I know some of you can’t wait to worship physically this Sunday, June 7th, as we resume our services on the East Campus. I also know some of you have concerns about your health and the risk of gathering as a group. If you are at higher risk, we encourage and affirm your choice to continue to attend our online service from home or wherever you might be. If you are feeling sick or have been sick recently, please participate in our ONLINE service from home. Remember that we are following a phased plan of resuming services – check here for details

We are asking a few things of you in order to protect you and others and mitigate any outbreak that would require us to close our campus again. Here’s what to expect this Sunday:

Arrival

We’ve developed a touchless system as you enter into services; when you arrive, the doors will be propped open. Pick up your prepackaged communion as you enter and a Bible if you need one. Coffee, water bottles, and lemonade or punch will be available at the outdoor basketball court. Hand sanitizer stations are placed throughout our campus.

Wearing Masks

I am well aware of the many different perspectives on COVID-19 and how to care for ourselves and others. In this season, our focus is on caring for others, even if it means some inconveniences and setting aside personal preferences out of care for one another. We want our worship experience to be a judgment-free zone (see Romans 14). 

We’ve asked our staff and Sunday volunteers to wear masks at least through June (then we’ll assess the current situation). You are not required to wear them, however, we do recommend them and please feel free to wear one if you are comfortable doing so. We will be providing masks if you forgot one or decide you want one. 

Physical Distance

PLEASE practice safe physical distancing. Refrain from handshakes, hugs, or any close physical contact. Wave, smile, or talk to each other at a safe distance! You personally might be comfortable shaking hands and hugging, but many people are not, so please help us make everyone, especially our visitors, feel comfortable and safe. Also, please consider attending our 1 PM service where there’s more room to physically distance; it’s hot outside and cool in our auditorium that time of day!

Giving

We encourage everyone to give using one of our online options (phone app or website). If you wish to give by check, please visit one of the giving boxes located in the lobby, auditorium, or courts or you can mail it to our office at 1755 S. Houghton Road. 

Dismissal

Please be vigilant to practice physical distancing as you exit and avoid crowding at the exit doors. After exiting the building, please practice social distancing in the lobby, courtyard (where there are drinks and lots of tables), or parking lot if you visit with folks.

We look forward to connecting with you in a way that both protects the health of our congregation and allows for the freedom to participate in public worship.  See you this Sunday – live or online at 9 am, 11 am or 1 pm!

Glen Elliott

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Everyone is wondering or asking “When will the church be open again?” My favorite answer is that Pantano Christian Church never closed! We’ve been the church throughout this whole pandemic. 

We’ve offered outstanding online worship and teaching services to all ages. We’ve called almost every family in our church. We’ve made and delivered over 3,000 cards and 800 care packages to health care workers in our city. We’ve delivered 9 trailers full of food and supplies to the Gospel Rescue Mission and the Department of Child Safety. We’ve served over 3,000 kid’s meals from our parking lot. We’ve made and delivered over 2,000 masks. We’ve served meals and provided free child care for TMC and St. Joseph’s hospitals. We’ve had over 165 folks serve various non-profits. We have been open and we’ve been the church all along. Thank you, Pantano. Your generosity has made all this possible.

But, the question you are wondering is when will we resume physical meetings on our campuses? We have a phased plan that attempts to balance both protecting the health of our congregation and allowing for the freedom to participate in public worship. The stay-at-home order and physical isolation have created a hunger for many of us to connect with those of like faith. We will attempt to do our best to mitigate the spread of the virus while reasonably allowing for worship, teaching, and discipleship. We are trying to follow what the Bible teaches about love… “it always protects” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Here is our phased plan to resume using our physical campuses: 

Phase 1: Office Open and Groups can meet – Now

Right now, our offices are open. Small groups can physically meet in homes or at the East Campus if they feel comfortable. We also encourage small groups to meet for Sunday services together like a “watch party” or as a home worship group. We’ll continue to provide quality online services. 

Phase 2: Worship will resume at our East Campus – June 7

Adult worship will resume in our East Campus auditorium on Sunday, June 7 at 9 am, 11 am, and 1 pm. To allow for physical distancing, both courts will be fully extended so people can spread out. We’ll block every other row and provide a “touchless” experience (you’ll grab your prepackaged communion on the way in, no hand-outs, doors propped open, no cafe, etc.). Engaging online is still encouraged! If you are sick or have medical issues, please continue to stay at home until you are well or feel safe to return. Children are welcome to join their parents for the adult service, however, we will not be providing busy boxes at this time.

Phase 3 & 4: Students Services Resumes – June 21 & Kids Sunday Classes – July 5

High school and middle school students will meet in the Student Union starting June 21 at 9 am and 11 am. Kids Sunday services will begin July 5.

Phase 5: The Cafe Will Open – TBD

Phase 6: Resume Services at our Southeast Campus – TBD

We are awaiting word from the Vail School District about when our Southeast Campus will be able to meet at Empire High School. Until then, anyone from the Southeast Campus is encouraged to attend the East Campus or worship online, and groups can consider doing “church at home” together. 

Let’s Work Together to Stay Healthy

We are asking everyone to follow the familiar drill and CDC guidelines, including but not limited to:

  • Stay home if you are sick or caring for someone who’s sick, or have a higher risk of medical complications.
  • Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer provided around our campus.
  • Practice 6-foot physical distancing.  
  • Respect the health concerns of others. For this season, we are asking that people avoid handshakes and hugs at this time. Face masks are not required, but we fully support those who want or need to wear masks. Let’s accept and not judge each other on these matters.

For our part, we’ll do our very best to sanitize areas likely to be touched before and after every service or event and we will also be sanitizing our HVAC system. For more details and updates, be sure to check our Pantano Updates on our website at https://pantano.church/updates/

We want to love people to Jesus, so our staff and volunteers will wear masks, we’ll observe the 6-foot rule, wipe down surfaces, and go the extra mile to make sure people experience the love of God. That’s the Pantano way. 

Glen ElliottSubscribe: https://pantano.church/blogsubscription

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