In-Person Worship Service Re-Opening
Quite unexpectedly last week the governor’s office released a new directive for religious institutions that transcends the normal 4-Phase process and allows for churches to begin to have in-person worship services – WITH SPECIFIC RESTRICTIONS AND REQUIREMENTS (more on this below).
It is likely that it will be a while before we get to Phase 4 when all restrictions are lifted, so our Session has decided that we will follow the guidelines and begin Sunday morning worship again, starting June 7, with our normal 9 &11am worship services.
Here are some of the key elements that we and each worshipper will need to follow:
-Face masks are to be worn at all times when in the building. We do ask people to bring their own masks.
-The 6-foot social distance standard is to be followed at all times.
-The sanctuary will be limited to 50 attendees; the Fellowship Hall 36.
-All in attendance will be asked to self-evaluate themselves for any Covid-19 symptoms and not attend worship if any are present.
-Any person with a household member diagnosed with Covid-19 or who has been exposed to someone with Covid-19 may not attend until a quarantine period has passed.
-Only one person or family group may use a bathroom at one time.
-Hand washing/sterilizing is to be done frequently.
-No fellowship times are allowed.
So, this is what we have prepared:
-The sanctuary pews have been divided into 36 4-foot sections that a “family unit” (that is, people who have been living together during the quarantine) may sit in. If you are a single, you would take up a section by yourself. Every other pew is closed, as is the middle section of open pews. And the total number of worshippers in the pews cannot be more than 50, even if there is open space. You will see red cords dividing the pews and signs in each closed pew.
-The Fellowship Hall has tables for individual family units and chairs set up. Again, its total capacity is 36. The livestream feed from the sanctuary will be projected on the screen.
-No offering will be taken during the service, but offering plates will be in the narthex and we encourage you to place your offering in the plate on your way in or out.
-For the immediate term, there will be no children’s Sunday School and the nursery will be open only for parents to attend to their own children. A Children’s sermon will be given at the 9am service, but children will be asked to stay in their seats. We will continue to post a Children’s Sermon online.
-Bathrooms have “occupied/open” signs on the outside.
-Sanitizing gel will be available throughout the facility.
-We will not use paper bulletins for the first few Sundays.
We realize this will come with several downsides:
-We have no idea how many people may be ready to come back to worship, but if more people come than we have room for the folks who come after we are at capacity will be asked to leave (and that will be hard).
-We know some people don’t like masks. They are a requirement. Pastor Al will probably not used a mask when in the pulpit, but he will be behind a Plexiglas shield.
-Singing with masks on will be odd and may sound strange.
-We know that people will have a strong desire to meet with each other and fellowship after the service. We cannot allow this and will direct people to immediately exit the nearest door and NOT congregate in the parking lot.
-We know that coming to worship and then having to watch it on live steam is not what anyone plans for, but it allows us some overflow space.
-We fully understand that some people will not be ready to venture out into a crowd just yet, or won’t want to deal with the restrictions and limitations. That’s totally OK!!! We will revert back to our live stream format on-line, where the 9am service will be streamed live and then available to watch after. The sermon will be edited out of the live stream and posted separately Sunday afternoon.
· This will be a work in progress and we are certain we will not get it perfect the first few times. This Sunday (June 7) will be more of a “soft-opening”. Please be patient with us as we try to figure this out.
And…the hardest thing I have to say is that this is not the time to invite your friends who attend another church that is not open yet to join us for worship. That request goes against every nerve and inclination I have, but with such stringent limits we want to be sure we have room for our normal attenders first. Hopefully, this won’t last too long and we can again be the welcoming congregation that we have worked hard to cultivate. This is an awkward season for us in many ways.
So I hope to actually see some of you Sunday and I hope this is a functional and valuable way to worship our Lord and meet as the Body of Christ. Again: be careful, be patient, be flexible. All this will pass, but we endure for now.
2 Corinthians 4:17–18 (ESV) — 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.