Coming to our Indoor Sunday Worship Service

A letter from our Congregational Pastor, James Watson, on September 14, 2021

Dear North Hills Family,

The season of COVID-19 has been difficult for North Hills. We have walked together in prayer eager to continue to follow God’s call to spread the gospel to the world. For what is now 18 months, this season has tested our ability and capacity to adapt in order to keep up with government guidelines as well as do what we feel is best to protect our North Hills family.

Times like these always test our ability to remain united as the family of God. Throughout this long season of life, the North Hills Leadership Team has prayerfully made decisions in line with our mission, values, marks, and vision, and has been careful not to be reactionary nor solely seek to please a particular group of people. During this time, we believe that our decisions have continued to keep in mind the needs of all of North Hills, maintain the priority of the gospel, and foster unity among our church, K-12 school, and preschool families.

There are a variety of opinions regarding COVID-19 guidelines and we know that there is not always full agreement, yet we are grateful that in the spirit of grace and unity, our North Hills family has remained together in love for God and one another. It is apparent that COVID-19 may not be going away just yet. With this in mind, the North Hills Leadership Team has thoughtfully and prayerfully determined to amend the congregation’s current policy regarding wearing face coverings to more closely align with what is required by the K-12 school and preschool.

Effective immediately, all children 2.9 years old through 12th grade will be required to wear face coverings while indoors at all North Hills functions and activities, whether it is the church, K-12 school, or preschool. Additionally, adult employees and volunteers working directly with this age group will be required to wear face coverings when indoors.

For children, youth, and adults attending the Sunday Worship Service or other church-related ministries and activities not directly involving the Children’s Ministry or Fusion Youth Ministry, whether to wear a mask or not will remain a personal choice. Our reasoning behind this decision is to continue to build unity throughout the North Hills family; extending from the church to the K-12 school and the preschool.

The North Hills bylaws state the following: “North Hills was formed as a church with a God given vision to reach families for Christ” (Article III, Section 3.01). A major way we have successfully accomplished this over the years is through North Hills Christian School and North Hills Christian Preschool. When parents/guardians enroll their children at one or both of our schools, the students and their families are exposed to the gospel, encounter staff members who are followers of Jesus, and experience God’s love in many ways.

In several instances over the years, students and their families have started coming to North Hills Church because of how they have been impacted at the schools. This is by design. We want people from the schools to find a church home at North Hills … and we want people from the church to be blessed by our schools. This is why we intentionally work at setting, attaining, and maintaining a high standard of excellence across the organization. To put it differently, we do not want someone to have a great experience at one of our schools and have a sub-par experience at the church (and vice versa).

For this reason, all the ministries of North Hills are to be aligned with the mission, values, marks, and vision of North Hills. While each ministry is unique and fulfills distinct purposes, all the ministries are North Hills ministries. In light of this, we have worked intentionally to develop and administer policies and procedures that are as uniform as possible across the organization.

Over the last month, we have experienced atypical circumstances. With the new school year starting, the K-12 school has state-mandated guidelines they are to abide by (students, staff, parents/guardians, and visitors on campus are required to wear face coverings while indoors), the preschool has state-mandated guidelines they are to abide by (students, staff, parents/guardians, and visitors on campus are required to wear face coverings while indoors and outdoors), and according to the guidance we have received from the California Southern Baptist Convention, churches in the state are free to gather for worship and fellowship, including singing and chanting, and wearing masks is a personal choice, not a mandate (https://csbc.com/news/churches-free-of-covid-restrictions-due-to-court-decisions).

As the K-12 school, preschool, and church have operated according to the different guidelines detailed above (which are just a small portion of many guidelines), it has led to some very strong thoughts and feelings about what North Hills should and should not do; particularly concerning the Children’s Ministry and Fusion Youth Ministry.

If a 3rd grade or 12th grade student attends North Hills Christian School, he or she is required to wear a face covering while indoors during the school day. If on Wednesday night, the same student attends Awana or Fusion, he or she is not required to wear a face covering while indoors because it is a church activity. While some have no problem with this distinction, others find it unsafe and confusing since students are being told two different things on our campus.

The North Hills Leadership Team met twice last week to discuss and pray about this matter. Over a combined 6½ hours (this and other matters were discussed), it was determined that the most important question to answer is this: what decision will help North Hills best share the gospel?

While several facets of the matter are very important, it was determined that this is the most important. As stated earlier, “North Hills was formed as a church with a God given vision to reach families for Christ.” In light of this, the Leadership Team has reached a decision it believes will help us best reach the students at North Hills Christian School and North Hills Christian Preschool and the students in our community with the saving message of Jesus Christ.

Since parents/guardians have come to expect that all children are to wear face coverings while indoors on our campus during the school week, we will extend the same requirement, effective September 14, 2021, and until further notice, for children 2.9 years old through 12th grade at church as well. This includes Wednesday night ministries, Sunday morning ministries (Sunday School and Children’s Church), and all other children/youth-related ministries and activities.

Please know that the North Hills Leadership Team did not arrive at this decision lightly. The entire team (which consists of seven leaders appointed by the congregation) considered a variety of alternatives and compromises. We understand that for some, this will be a welcomed decision closely aligned with what they are already doing. At the same time, we recognize that others will not agree. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we ask for everyone’s cooperation and that the church body heeds the words of the Apostle when he writes: “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Thank you for your love and faithfulness to God and North Hills. Please continue to be patient and understanding as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at jwatson@nhcsvallejo.org or (707) 644-5286.


North Hills Indoor Service Guidelines

Attendance:

Do not attend if you feel sick or have experienced any COVID-like symptoms in the last 24 hours. If you develop COVID-19 within 48 hours after attending a gathering you should notify North Hills by sending an email to church@nhcsvallejo.org as soon as possible. You may be contacted for additional information.

Location:

Fresh air circulation will be increased by opening doors, as much as possible.

Hand Hygiene:

Everyone should frequently wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.

Restrooms will be available but will be limited to 2 people at a time.

Shared items should be minimized.

Food and Drink:

No coffee will be provided on Sunday mornings. However, you may bring your own.