Sunday Mornings at Branches – 11/20/20

Dear Branches,
Hope you’re doing well. We are praying for you and your family. 

First, I want to say how much of a joy it is to pastor an amazing church like Branches. Being in our new headquarters worshiping together and growing together has been very encouraging and blessed my soul. 

At the same time this has been an extremely difficult year. I never anticipated having to make decisions that could impact people’s health and well being like they do now. You have probably heard about the governor’s new mandates for safe reopening this week. I pray for all of you who are impacted by closures of dining, hospitality, schools, gyms, child care, services and offices. The increase in coronavirus cases is forcing all of us to make tough decisions for our health and our neighbors’. 

The new restrictions for churches have also changed a little bit, but this little bit is the hardest one for me to swallow. The main difference is that congregational singing is not allowed. The Bible tells us to sing to the Lord! This is an essential part of the Christian walk. This is one of the main reasons we gather on Sundays. 

I have sought counsel from many of you in Branches as well as several local pastors and the district supervisor for Washington Foursquare churches. Some people with great Biblical reason think we should suspend in person gatherings altogether. While at the same time some people with great Biblical reason think we should continue to sing with all of our hearts and gather without restrictions. I have a huge amount of respect for both of those opinions and the hundreds in between. One thing is clear though, there is not one definitive, Biblically clear approach. So we pray, collaborate, let the Holy Spirit guide our conscience, and make the best decision we can in our context. And then we give a lot of grace to everyone who thinks differently about it and hope for that same grace in return.

In the end, Branches’ position will focus on one question: How do we best love God by loving our neighbors?

So with much prayer, counsel and thought, here is what we will be doing at Branches for the time being:
•    We will continue gathering in person but with one service at 10:00 AM on Sunday. Be sure to reserve your seat!
•    We will continue to limit our capacity to 25%. That’s 60 people.
•    We will continue to clean, sanitize and ventilate out facility.
•    We will continue to wear masks and distance when we are together. 
•    Our gatherings will be family style. We will not have a separate space for Roots youth, elementary or nursery. 
•    We will limit the size of our band to one vocalist and one instrument. 
•    We will not encourage congregational singing but rather a time of reflection. 

On the matter of singing … I encourage you to sing your heart out! For now we can do that in our homes and in our cars. Shout it from the mountain top! Maybe don’t try it at the grocery store. We WILL be back to singing together soon.

Keep in mind that this is very dynamic. We have been constantly adapting this year and I expect to keep making changes as we go. I will notify you of any changes we make.

Lastly, I know there are many of you who are uncomfortable gathering in person right now. I will do my best to get videos out. They take a substantial amount of time to produce that almost made me lose my mind earlier this year. Some of that is the perfectionist in me I’m working to overcome. It is very difficult to do a video and in person gathering with the resources we currently have. But we are working on that. Thanks for the grace extended for those who can’t make it in person at this time. Please reach out and connect with me as to how we can help you grow together.

For real lastly, thanks for your prayers for my family as Dawn is recovering from a surgery. She’s doing great but has a long way to go. Keep praying!!

This has taken all week to come to these decisions. Partly because I was at the hospital with no cell reception and limited internet. But mostly because these are hard decisions. This is not at all where I wanted or anticipated being but here we are. Let’s really listen to what God is speaking through this trying time.

Reservations for this Sunday will open today (Friday) at 5PM. Click HERE to save your seat.

Thanks for taking the time to get on the same page. Let’s keep growing together and joining Jesus on His mission in Woodinville, in WA and to the end of the earth!

In Jesus’ Love,

Tim Oas
Lead Pastor

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