Roadmap to Reopen

Dear Church Family,

Over the last several weeks, your elders have worked to craft a plan that will chart a path for us to return to in-person ministry and worship at HNW. I’m writing today to share both the plan and some of the reasoning behind our decisions.

Earlier this week we sent out a survey to hear from you, and you responded. We heard from hundreds of families. One thing that really encouraged me: Right at 90% of our respondents indicated they have joined us online for worship every week or almost every week. I love that you are actively participating, even when we cannot gather in person.

Our church is—even by Houston standards—large. Thousands of Houstonians call HNW their church home. Our church is diverse in a number of ways. So I wasn’t surprised when the survey didn’t reveal a clear consensus on how to proceed. In fact, we were fairly evenly split in any number of categories. Honestly, the diversity of opinions just made me love our church that much more. Even when we have so many different personalities and approaches, we continue to gather in unity under the banner of the grace of Jesus. Thank God for the beauty of the church—unity in diversity.

Because we have people from so many different walks of life with so many different opinions, we are opting for a plan that focuses on the most prevalent example the New Testament uses when describing the church—a family. The Bible says we are brothers and sisters and that we are to treat each other as such. That has been my guiding thought through this process: We are a family. Our church family, just like your earthly family, has members who are younger and older, stronger and weaker. So I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how a family would navigate this season.

First, I know that a family would take care to look after its most vulnerable members. My grandfather is 101 years old. When I visit him, I am not frustrated or upset that I sometimes have to speak a bit louder or move a bit slower. He is family. In the same way, our plan is probably a bit more cautious than some of you would prefer. As you read through the plan, you will see that we are going to follow CDC recommendations and gradually ease back into face-to-face ministry. This is not because we are afraid. This is because we want to move at a pace that allows us to bring everyone along. While I will politely recommend that our most senior members consider staying home, I also am a realist. I know that many of them love HNW more than any other earthly institution, and they will want to be with us when we gather. Additionally, we have many in our congregation who are immune-compromised, have heart disease, are diabetic, have special needs, and have any number of underlying health conditions. Each of them are created in the image of God. As the chief under-shepherd of HNW, I take their safety seriously. And you, as their brothers and sisters, ought to do so, as well.

Yes, I know the CDC recommendations have fluctuated a bit over the last six weeks. This is, after all, a novel coronavirus. It is new. Nevertheless, I believe that following the CDC recommendations will give us the best path of caring for those among us who need extra protection. You may not agree with the recommendations, or you may think they are unnecessary, but I am asking that you follow them as we gather in the future. We will know more as our time to gather nears, but if the recommendations include social distancing, we will do so. If they include masks, we will wear masks. This is how we love one another; this is how we wash feet. I ask that you do so cheerfully because this will show us to be unified in Christ.

Secondly, I know a family would move at a pace that would accommodate its slowest family member. While I want to see each of you again, I also know that there are no prizes for being first in this particular instance. We are going to pay attention to our local, state, and national officials as the re-opening of the economy proceeds. From there, we will wait until we believe we have enough data until we make a determination regarding face-to-face meetings. This will allow us to make sure that we can move at a pace where the entire church family can join.

You can read the plan here. As of this moment, we are in Step Two of our plan. We will let you know when we are ready to move to another Step.

Families love one another, so I appreciate your love for me and all of the staff throughout this process. Thank you for praying for us and for our church. Families help one another, so I also appreciate the way you have continued in generosity through this season. We have been able to feed hungry families, provide financial resources for families in need, and serve front-line workers throughout this entire season.

We will get through this together—with the provision of our Heaven Father, the love of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Spirit. Let’s continue in unity, in prayer, in action, and in love.

Because of Jesus,
Steve Bezner