When Will Duluth Vineyard Reopen Our Building?
With some businesses in Minnesota starting to reopen, many people have asked, “When will the Duluth Vineyard reopen our building?” That’s a great question and I’m happy to tell you how we’re thinking about it.
Our starting point for thinking about reopening is based around the simple fact: Jesus is Lord. We believe that Jesus is our boss and that the Vineyard is his church (It’s even his building). Sure, we’re going to listen to public officials and healthcare experts. We are extremely thankful for all they’ve done to keep us safe during this pandemic. We respect their authority, but our gracious and loving God is the ultimate authority in our lives. This isn’t a political or legal statement, this is just the practical reality when Jesus is Lord. Jesus comes first. Above all else, we obey him.
Jesus said in John 15:12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” And Jesus, he loved us by giving up his rights, sacrificing everything, and dying on a cross for us.
We Are Commanded to Love Like Jesus
Remember why we closed our building in the first place. We closed to love and protect the most vulnerable in our Midwest community. We don’t only want to show love to the young and healthy or those with strong immune systems. We are called to love everyone — the elderly, the immunocompromised, and people with underlying health conditions that would put them at risk if they caught COVID-19. Going online with our weekend services has allowed us to extend that love to everyone, including people we don’t know and even those who don’t attend any of our services. We are intentionally inconveniencing ourselves and making this sacrifice for others because that is the way of Jesus.
For us, this isn’t a matter of politics, legal rights, or popular opinion. We obey Jesus. And, Jesus commanded us to love like him. And besides, our church’s constitutional right to worship God is in no way compromised by our own decision to comply with health department guidance regarding meeting size, social distancing, the wearing of masks, or anything else. Rather, our “rights” as followers of Jesus are limited by Jesus’ commands. Again, that’s what it means when Jesus is Lord.
So, how long is Jesus calling us to love people in this way? Honestly, we ask him this every day and search the scriptures together. I invite you to join us in this prayer and Bible reading. We are confident that God will guide us in the way of love. Also, it is important to keep things in perspective.
The church is not a building. The church has never been about the building. We are the people of God whether we gather in buildings or are forced to meet each other online and in much smaller groups outside. In fact, it was centuries before the early church met in buildings especially designed for worship services. Even so, the church, which is the Body and Bride of Christ, worshiped God, evangelized, discipled new believers, baptized, taught the scriptures, healed the sick, and cared for the poor for many years without the use of church buildings. This is still true today in countries where followers of Jesus are persecuted. The church is actively present in many countries without using church buildings.
The church’s mission will continue whether or not we meet together in a building. Even with our building closed, we’ve never stopped loving and serving each other, serving our community, and extending ourselves to the world. I’m continually hearing from individuals in our church who feel loved and cared for during this pandemic. Folks have expressed great appreciation for the church’s online worship services, for our small groups, for receiving phone calls from our volunteers and staff, and for ongoing ministry to children and youth.
Additionally, hundreds of families in need are being served through our Fruit of the Vine food shelf. We (the church) have taken it upon ourselves to care for our neighbors, to help fellow small group members who have lost their jobs, to shop for the elderly and vulnerable, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our church’s ministry must and will continue whether we meet in a church building or not.
Let me be completely clear: I long for the day when we can meet together again! This physical isolation has been incredibly hard, especially for those who live alone or are on the front lines or out of work. We long to see one another face to face. We want to hear each other sing. We want to take communion together. We want to watch loved ones get baptized. We want to physically gather with our friends again. But our eagerness to be together must be seasoned with patience and self-discipline.
As the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us fearful, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” We’re not going to keep our building closed one minute more than we need to out of fear. We expect the Holy Spirit to give us the power, love, and self-discipline we need to actually flourish during this difficult time.
For now, the Duluth Vineyard will continue to offer our weekend services, daily devotions, and kids programs online. Our small groups gather online as often as possible. If you are not connected with us in these ways, I encourage you to go to check out our Small Groups Page to learn more.
While we continue to offer ways to connect, we are diligently researching the best possible ways to safely regather together. We have teams of staff and key leaders who are hard at work gathering best practices for reopening and soliciting input from the medical community. As soon as we can both love others and open our building again, we will be ready.
As you can imagine moving forward into this new season will require modifications to our normal patterns of gathering. When we return, please prepare yourself for changes in our worship experience. It may be necessary for all of us to wear masks when we gather, to practice social distancing, to change the way we greet each other (no more holy kisses!) or sit together, and so on. In John 15:13, Jesus talked about the requirement of brotherly love—laying down our lives for each other. We all need to choose to give up some preferences for the sake of others. When we gather together again, it will be a glorious family celebration, just without the high-fives and hugs. Please continue to pray that the Lord would give us his wisdom as we move forward, that he would direct us as we serve the most vulnerable among us, and that he would continue to build us into the community that He's called us to be!
Thank You and Stay in Touch
Thank you for being a church community that loves God and loves people.
May Jesus and his love be close to you during this challenging time.
We deeply love and miss seeing you,
Michael & Brenda Gatlin
Updated 3/20/20 at 11:00 AM
Updated 3/13/20 at 2:36 PM
Going Online to Love Our Community
Beginning this weekend, Saturday, March 14 and Sunday, March 15, the Duluth Vineyard will be meeting exclusively online for worship services. To love and protect the most vulnerable in our Midwest community, we will not be hosting our services at our physical locations through at least Sunday, April 5. We welcome you to join us online at duluthvineyard.org. Our Sunday, March 15 Unchained service is also canceled.
As of now, we’ll continue our mid-week events and small groups as scheduled and our Fruit of the Vine Foodshelf will remain open to serve those in need. We will continue to post updated information on social media and our website.
Why We Are Glad To Go Online?
As followers of Jesus, we are to Love God and Love People. Going online allows us to love people, including people we don’t know and who don’t come to the Vineyard. We will intentionally inconvenience ourselves and make this sacrifice for others because that is the Way of Jesus.
Our hope is to help “flatten the curve,” in an effort to save the lives of those most vulnerable amongst us and supporting our local medical professionals and systems. While difficult, it is best to take the necessary steps now to avoid the possibility of far more catastrophic consequences later.
Keep Our Eyes on Jesus
This is a stressful time and it’s natural to feel that stress. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” But he also said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” In this difficult time, the God that has overcome the world can give us the peace and comfort we need. Go to Jesus. Please take some time at home (praying, reading your Bible, meditating, etc.) to experience the love of God. It is so good.
Updated 3/12/20 at 1:46 PM
The Senior Leadership Team of the Duluth Vineyard is monitoring COVID-19. We have increased the cleaning of our facilities as a precautionary measure and are monitoring this rapidly evolving situation closely. We're closely following local and state guidelines and will post updates daily on this webpage as the situation changes.
At this time, we're continuing to meet as planned for all worship services and events, and our building is open as regularly scheduled.
For any event or scheduling changes, please check back here or at our website.