In a few short weeks, on October 4 to be exact, our church will move into a new adventure. It is one that has been prayed over, thought over, and considered again.

We are moving into the sanctuary.

That seems like a simple statement, but yet a powerful one in consideration of all that we have experienced in this difficult and trying year. None of us ever imagined that we could be almost seven months between in-person worship services in the sanctuary when the pandemic began. None of us ever imagined, as well, that we would spend almost three months worshiping in our cars in the parking lot. None of us ever imagined any of what we hav experienced together.

On October 4, we will move into this new phase of life together. We do so, as well, in acknowledgment that we do not return to what was in March. We will be going forward into a new beginning. In many ways, a new life of Pea Ridge United Methodist Church will begin on October 4.

What will that new life look like? To be honest, I don’t believe any of us know for certain right now. We are walking into a new adventure together, to go across an unchartered path, yearning to go where God is leading us. We will do some things that are familiar, but we will also create new ways of sharing life together. 

In many ways, we will move into a new way of our shared life together in that we will be a multi-campus setting. We will have an in-person campus that will be located at our physical church. We will also have an online campus that will build upon what we have created over these last few months. We will be one church, but in two unique settings. 

Right now, this is just an idea, a vision if you will, of how we live together moving forward. I recognize, and we as a church acknowledge, that not everyone will feel comfortable coming back to in-person worship and activity. We also recognize and acknowledge that we have reached new people with our online worship services and other activities. They are as much a part of our church as those who attend in-person, and we must do all that we can to build strategies that will encourage a focus upon worship, discipleship, and service among those who participate primarily online.

There are some ways we know, already, of how this will be lived out. We know that when we resume in-person worship that we will continue our online presence with streaming worship. There are activities we are working through to strengthen that online presence, so as to encourage more engagement and interactions among the online campus. We will continue our work with children in this area, as well, with videos and other activities targeted for children. In time, we will be adding aspects to our online campus community. Ideally this would include Bible Studies, podcasts, and other activities that will seek to engage and grow the online campus.

Thinking as a two-campus church will require us to rethink how we do much of our shared life together. It will require us, as well, to no longer assume that the way things have always been done will be the way moving forward. Being a two-campus church will require flexibility, renewed energy and thinking, and, too, an intentional plan of outreach and connection to both those who gather in the sanctuary and online.

I am excited about the possibilities of what this could look like for our church. I am excited, as well, about the opportunities this will present us in thinking about how to make disciples of Jesus Christ in our community and around the world.

Truly, we will be moving forward in a new way. It will be exciting and challenging, yet it will be holy and powerful work that will lead to deeper discipleship and missional engagement all around.

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