June 14, 2020 Worship In-Person Guidelines
Greetings Friends, in the name of Christ!
In much the same way that the disciples anticipated the return of Christ after the Ascension, since mid-March we have eagerly anticipated our return to worship in our sanctuary. After this long time away from each other, the Leadership team has assessed the risk for our congregation and we have a potential date!
On June 14, we will once again gather in the Sanctuary for 10 am worship. For some of you this may seem too soon. Rest assured that we will continue to broadcast services on the radio as well as on Facebook and YouTube. We encourage you to carefully consider which option might be the best for you and we affirm those decisions. The radio broadcast will continue to coincide with our worship time, but the web based videos may appear later in the day. We are almost ready to stream our services live to the web, but there is a possibility that it may take a little longer to get that completely up and running.
The process of reopening needs to be a slow one. We will begin with just worship and add other activities (coffee hour, Bible study etc.) back in as the timeline seems to fit. Also, while we are excited to be able to worship in the same physical space, things will look a bit different than we are used to. Here's what you can expect for our first Sunday back.
The Building - The "open" parts of our building will be limited to the sanctuary, narthex, hallway and bathrooms. All of these areas will be disinfected ahead of time and again each week to help us start with a "clean base". There will be hand sanitizer stations throughout the building. The handicapped bathrooms will still be available as needed.
Entering - We are expecting everyone to wear a face mask. If you do not have one, they will be available as you enter the church building. If you receive a mask, you are welcome to take it home or there will be a place to drop them and we will wash and sanitize them for future use. We recognize that not everyone is able to wear a mask and, if that is your reality, we invite you to continue worshiping from home for now. Please leave beverage and food containers in your vehicle or home.
Greeting - This one is going to be hard for us, but for the time being we need to be social distancing within our building. Everyone is asked to maintain a 6-foot distance from one another and refrain from contact (hugging, handshakes, etc.). This also means that there will be no passing of the peace during worship nor will I be greeting people following worship. Please find your seat in the sanctuary as soon as possible upon arrival.
The Sanctuary - Some of the pews will be marked off with tape to help us observe 6-foot social distancing and we ask that you do your best to maintain a 6-foot distance between families within your pew. More than likely, you will have an opportunity to try a seat that is not your "normal" space. Also, there will be no Bibles, hymnals, offering envelopes, etc. located in the pews.
Bulletins - In order to minimize contact, we will not have paper bulletins available during worship. People who were receiving mailed bulletins will continue to do so, and we will send out an email copy of the bulletin and post it on our church website prior to Sunday's service. We will utilize the screens during worship to keep us on track.
Offering - We will not collect our weekly offering by passing the plates. Instead we will have a receptacle in the narthex for your tithes and offerings. You can also give using the "donate now" button on our church website.
Music - Studies have shown that one of the most dangerous activities for spreading the virus is singing. Singing does change the spread distance from six to 20 feet, and it seems that masks are almost useless if we are singing. With that in mind, we will not be singing. We will continue to have music (we are "Singing Methodists" after all), but we invite you to hum along or sing the words in your head. In light of this, we will be giving our song leaders some time off from their duties. Also, while having the choir or even a soloist sing is inadvisable at this time, we will utilize some "blasts from the past" for our special music.
Pastor - I will wear a mask before and after service. However, since wearing a mask and a microphone do not work well together, I will lead service from behind the altar to ensure that I am safely distanced from the congregation.
Communion - We will not celebrate Holy Communion on our first week back. We are, however, planning on celebrating together the first Sunday of July. We have acquire sealed individual cups with wafers. If you are unable to join us in the sanctuary, we will also have communion elements available in the parking lot (please stay in your car, someone will bring them to you) and you can join us via the radio.
All of this is new for us, and for the most part we will be figuring it out as we go along. We will assess what works and what does not work, and you may see things change from week to week. We have selected June 14th as our return date, but there is a possibility that if our governor extends the stay home date we will adjust as well. Once we do start again, we will be taking things a week at a time. As we progress, we will send out a weekly email "Frequently Asked Questions" post to keep everyone updated on any changes and answer any questions. For now, the church building will continue to be closed during the week. Please respect our attempt to keep the building as clean as possible and continue to do office business via phone or email.
For our own comfort we often long for things to remain the same, but God is always doing a new thing and it is always better. Worship is going to be different. In some ways it may even seem disappointing, but I know that God has incredible plans for working in and through us. We look forward to worshipping with you in whatever capacity we are allowed. May you find yourself filled with all of the fullness of God.
Pastor Kristen & the leadership Team