2020 Updates on Building Opening & Gathering


Dear Members and Friends of SOTV,

Since the decision to close our facility in March, we have been guided primarily by CDC and Minnesota Department of Health (MNDOH) guidelines to flatten the curve and manage the spread of COVID-19. While current group guidelines cap at 10 people with physical distancing, Governor Walz created a new option for faith-based organizations effective May 27, 2020, that would allow up to 250 people to gather for worship. In the past few days, I have had conversations with local colleagues at other large churches, Bishop Lull, pastors, staff leaders, and our Church Council. The consensus is not to choose the optional church guidelines, but instead follow the standard group guidelines; this leads us to continue offering only online worship at this time. There are two main reasons behind this decision:

  • Health and safety. Despite the many precautions outlined in the new 12-page faith-based “Industry Guidance to Safely Reopening” document, these gatherings would still be high-risk due to “the nature of the COVID-19 virus to easily spread in large group gatherings no matter how much planned social distancing is implemented.” In these circumstances, it is not about what we want, but about what others need. While we all value our freedom to make many choices every day, sometimes the deepest freedom is demonstrated by foregoing what we want (or maybe even what we feel is our right) for the sake and health of others.  We strive to love our neighbor, so will continue to follow group guidelines that avoid high-risk environments.
  • Quality of experience. I know online worship doesn’t replace in-person worship, but we’ve worked hard to create a meaningful service that seems to be reaching more people than we would normally expect. And, with all of the required precautions for large-group gatherings now, we know an in-person worship experience would be nothing like the worship we fondly remember: greeting new faces and old friends, interactive worship, vibrant singing, and conversations over coffee.

While we aren’t planning to return to in-person worship at this time, please know we are beginning to plan and implement ministries that do meet the recommended CDC and MDH guidelines, including:

  • Neighborhood groups
  • Funerals, weddings, and baptisms of fewer than 10 people beginning July 1
  • Conversation with existing groups, with potential for some to return to the facility late summer
  • Discussions with participants of fall programs to determine their interest in onsite options
  • Continued connections through Zoom, Facebook Live, social media, emails, calls, and deliveries

As you can see, the church never closed. God is with us wherever we are. The mission of our congregation is alive and well, offering our core ministries of worship, learn, connect, and care in new creative and safe ways. Working together, I am confident that we will not just get through this time, but grow in depth and breadth as we follow where God is leading us.

In Christ,

Rick Summy
Senior Pastor