When Will Our Shabbat Gatherings Start Again?

Dear Restoration family and friends,

I write to give direction with regard to our Shabbat Gatherings, in light of President Trump’s remarks last week declaring that houses of worship need to reopen. He said, “I am identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues, and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services.” While I agree with President Trump that our synagogue is essential in this crazy time, his announcement leaves many with the question: Will Restoration resume our Shabbat Gatherings in person soon?

The answer is, most unfortunately...no.

Why? Well, not much has changed for us, other than the reality that the people of God are now caught in the eye of a political storm. And that’s just unfortunate. First, we decided to stop our regular meetings out of care and concern for those in our community who are most vulnerable and to help flatten the curve. We do not feel or believe that any of our rights have been infringed upon by our Governor or the State of Washington. I understand the fears and I am sensitive to the protection of our freedom to assemble and worship God the way we see fit. Second, we want to honor and work with our local government officials to help stop this virus the best we can.

As Governor Inslee has indicated, King County remains in Phase 1 (of 4) as a part of Washington State.

For clarification, the 4 phases of our state plan are:

  • Phase 1: Some outdoor recreation is allowed but the state's ban on large gatherings will remain, and only certain businesses, including construction, landscaping, automobile sales, and curb-side pick-up for retail sales are permitted.
  • Phase 2: Outdoor recreation of five or less are permitted, along with in-store purchases at retailers (with some restrictions); real estate transactions, hair salons, and barbers are allowed to resume their operations. Restaurants can re-open, provided they can accommodate half of their capacity with tables that seat no more than five people.
  • Phase 3: The size of outdoor groups grows up to 50 people and non-essential travel is permitted; the capacity of restaurants grows to 70 percent but tables cannot seat more than 10 people; movie theaters can re-open.
  • Phase 4: Public interactions resume with physical distancing; gatherings of more than 50 people are allowed; clubs, concerts, and large sporting events are permitted.

We are hopeful that our governor will declare King County as moving into Phase 2 in the near future. It doesn’t change much for us as a local synagogue in terms of regathering, but it does get us closer to the step that does help us: Phase 3. In Phase 3, we will be allowed to gather in groups of up to 50 people. This does not mean that we will begin our Shabbat Gatherings in Phase 3, but it does provide us options for other kinds of gatherings on Saturday and during the week. We, as a leadership team, are focused on planning what that will look like when the time comes. Our regular weekly Shabbat Gatherings will not resume, in person, until Phase 4.

To be clear: I want to meet. I’m also committed to the authority of Scripture - which has directed our decision-making for this entire time in terms of not gathering to honor our civic leaders.

1 Peter 2:13-17 - “For the Lord’s sake, submit yourselves to every human authority—whether to a king as supreme, or to governors sent by him for the punishment of those who do evil and the praise of those who do good. For this is God’s will, that you silence the ignorance of foolish men by doing good. Live as free people, but not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil. Rather, live as God’s slaves. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

Thus, we will stay the course, and remain honoring of God and the established authorities.

Please know how my heart aches to see you. And I’m hearing the ache in your hearts. In this uncertain time, plans have and will continue to change, but there is nothing I want more than to meet together again. I truly miss seeing and hugging all of you!

What can we do now that will help this situation? Pray. Please pray. In our frustration and concerns, let our hearts remain humble and others-focused. Let’s pray for our civic leaders that they would bring us increased clarity, in keeping with the words of 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “Therefore, first of all I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made on behalf of all people—for kings and all who are in authority—so we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and respectfulness.”

From the beginning of this pandemic and first closing our gathering on March 7th, we have remained steadfast in the idea that we should not be afraid but use wisdom in how we move forward and respond to this crisis. Remember that we are the Family of God - and the building is simply a facility that allows us to gather. While we aren’t able to gather as normal, we remain His people, filled with God’s Holy Spirit, on mission to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Yeshua.

I am so proud of our community and the way you have cared for one another in this crisis. We will be a stronger community because of the ways we care for each other. We have come so far and we are leaning into the Lord, believing He will grow our community by drawing people who are far from God through engagement with our videos in our app, on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Much like the disciples at Shavuot in Acts 2 where the disciples were “praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord was adding to their number those being saved.” Even in this pandemic God is growing us as individuals, as families, and is growing our synagogue in number and influence!

Never in my life have I not been in synagogue for Purim, Passover, and Shavuot. Strange as it may be and feel, our main concern has been and continues to be the safety and well-being of those who call Restoration their home. When we are able to meet again in person we will have a plan in place to meet the needs and safety of those most vulnerable to this virus.

To Recap:

In Phase 3: We hope to create some events, connect groups, and places of connection for you beyond your immediate family with your Restoration family.

In Phase 4: We will work together to create a safe place for our weekly Shabbat Gatherings to begin again. We are looking at many options for the best way to do this and will update you as the time draws near.

Our synagogue is not closed, we are just not meeting in person! Now, more than ever, we are of one mind to add to our numbers daily those being saved. We are believing God will do more in us as we seek His face together. If you haven’t been following along, you can watch our Online Shabbat Gatherings on the Restoration App, ShalomSeattle.com, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

I love you, the leadership of Restoration loves you, and the best is STILL yet to come!

In Yeshua,

Rabbi Matt