The Heart Behind Our Decision
Recently, the deacons and I met to discuss the possibility of reopening our church. After much prayer and reflection, we decided to reopen our doors. We feel confident that this is God’s will for our church at this particular time. The consensus of our meeting was that we need to gather as a whole church as soon and as safely as possible. We have set a target date for Sunday, July 26, at the regular hour, 11 AM.
At the same time, we are aware of the threat of COVID-19 and want to take the necessary precautions to protect the health of our members and guests. We believe the way forward is to focus on practices most widely acknowledged as beneficial to community health. Therefore, we are moving forward with our reopening in consultation with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for communities of faith. You can find a summary of those guidelines by clicking HERE.
Presently, the most widely acknowledged practices include conducting frequent health checks of those gathering with others, washing hands and sanitizing spaces frequently, maintaining appropriate physical distance, and making appropriate use of facemasks. These are just some of the practices we plan to implement at our church.
We believe focusing on the right practices will allow us to navigate wisely the reality of the threat of COVID-19. It is not our intention to put any member of our church in the way of harm and therefore we seek to be firm in implementing these procedures and other additional protocols.
Our Schedule of Activities
Even as we plan to reopen our doors on July 26 for in-person worship, we will continue our Sunday Facebook live stream, Wednesday Bible Study on our conference line, our Zoom women’s gatherings, and other online opportunities for discipleship. Other than Sunday worship, all Sunday school classes, prayer meetings, choir practices, and other ministry-related activities that normally take place at the church will be postponed until further notice. We will also encourage the membership to continue using the giving option through PayPal on our website.
Overview of Plan
Given the nature of the threat of COVID-19, we have put together a plan to increase the safety of our church community.
- A Portion of Our Congregation Will Need to Stay at Home
We are asking that anyone who has exhibited any sign of illness, with or without fever, within the previous 14 days to not attend services. Click here for common symptoms of COVID-19. This is in keeping with the standards for workplaces and gatherings laid out by the CDC, and we think it is especially important in a large group gathering. As we said, online services will remain so everyone can still participate.
- A Portion of Our Congregation May Choose to Stay at Home
Some of our members may choose to stay home out of concern for their health or, conversely, out of concern about the restrictions being asked of them. We respect your decision and will nonetheless continue to serve you through our online community.
- Aged 65 and above. We know many of you are healthy and strong, and that 65 is just a number. But we also know the risk associated with this threshold according to many public health advisories. The danger to this age demographic is higher than any other, and we want you to preserve your health as best as you're able. You may choose to stay home for the time being. But if you feel that it is safe to gather, you are welcome.
- At-Risk health conditions. If you are immunocompromised in any way that makes you either more susceptible to illness in general or particularly vulnerable to respiratory problems (e.g., asthma), there is a greater threat to your health associated with larger gatherings. We want you to be safe at home. But if you feel that it is safe to gather, you are welcome.
- Uncomfortable with restrictions. Anyone who is uncomfortable with the guidelines below or thinks it is unlikely they will be able to comply with them may choose to stay home. The restrictions below will be uncomfortable for everyone, but for some, it may be uncomfortable to the point of distraction from the purpose of gathering. We respect this decision if you think it serves you and your family best.
How the Service and Space Will Be Set Up
The order of our worship service will not be the same as it was before the current pandemic. We plan to meet together for no longer than 1 hour and 30 minutes, with many services ending before that allotted time. The most evident changes to our usual order will be as follows:
- No Sunday school, nursery, children’s ministry, or other special services will be offered.
- Only the exterior door on the south side of the building will be used for entrance.
- Only the exterior doors on the east and west sides of the building will be used for egress (an exception will be made for those with disabilities, e.g., those in wheelchairs, with walkers, etc.).
- Passageways throughout the building will be restricted.
- In the sanctuary, pews will be marked off for a staggered seating arrangement, in line with the standards of social distancing.
- Bulletins will be digital, to be viewed on personal devices.
- We will keep room temperature cooler than usual because facemasks tend to make people feel too warm.
- After the benediction, we will dismiss by section.
What to Expect When You Get Here
- Please enter the building through the south entrance only.
- As you approach the building, there may be a line since we will be taking and recording everyone’s temperature. Please stand on the marks placed 6 feet apart as you wait.
- Be expected to wear a mask. Mask wearing will be mandatory AT ALL TIMES while you are on the property of our church (not required for children under 2 years of age). If you do not bring a mask, one will be provided for you. Please click HERE for the correct way to wear your mask!
- Be expected to have your temperature taken at the door. If your temperature is 100 degrees or above, we will ask you to return to your home.
- Expect ushers to help assist with seating as pews will be marked for maximum seating arrangement (families and those in the same household may sit together).
- Please refrain from hugs, handshakes, kisses, and other forms of physical contact. Even from behind a mask, a smile goes a long way!
- As much as possible, please maintain 6 feet distance from people who are not your family.
- Water fountains will not be available. Bottled water will be provided in the foyer.
- Please bring your Bibles; all pew Bibles and hymnals have been removed to prevent the spread of germs.
- We will dismiss by sections at the end of the service. Please refrain from fellowship until you have exited the building.
Additional Recommendations for Worshipers
- Although masks will be provided for those who don’t bring one, we strongly recommend that you bring your own.
- We also recommend that you bring your own hand sanitizer, although we plan to provide plenty of sanitizer too.
- Parents, please keep a close watch on your children. We do not recommend allowing children to wander around the sanctuary or other areas of the building.
- If you have a thermometer at home, we recommend taking everyone’s temperature and recording it, just in case there are inaccuracies with our on-site thermometer.
- Finally, we simply ask that you be patient with the staff at our church, as we’ve never had to do anything like this before—we are bound to make mistakes, forget protocols, and the like. Please pray for us!