September 16, 2020 Dear Church Family,
Last month, the session agreed to tentatively plan for in-person worship beginning on Sunday, October 4. That plan is still moving forward. The worship service will also continue to be streamed on Facebook. As we all know, the Coronavirus has dramatically changed how we do everything, and worship is no exception. Included in this document (below) are the guidelines unanimously endorsed by the session.
In-person Sunday School is still on hold. The session will be monitoring the situation and will determine when it is best to return to in-person Christian education.
We all need to be flexible. There will be “hiccups” and missteps along the way. This situation is unlike anything any of us has experienced. Please be patient as we all figure this out together.
October 4 is World Communion Sunday. All persons joining us for in person worship are encouraged to bring their own bread, and those who will be worshiping with us virtually will need to have bread and juice ready for that service.
I am looking forward to seeing people in worship. It has been a long time, and it will be nice to see the church family again!
Please carefully read the following guidelines created by The Worship and Music committee and endorsed by the session:
Register – Everyone planning on attending worship is asked to notify the church office that they are planning to come (304-725-5316, firstname.lastname@example.org). We are asking people to register because having to observe social distancing reduces the number of available seats. Not including the balcony, we have approximately 22 available pews that will accommodate up to seventy people. Please notify the office no later than noon Thursday if you plan to attend on Sunday.
Do a self-check. Before leaving for worship on Sunday we invite everyone to take their temperature at home, if possible. Anyone running a fever, please stay home. Also, we are asking everyone to review the questions below. Individuals answering yes to any of the questions should stay home.
- Have you or anyone in your household tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 21 days?
- Have you or anyone in your household had any of the following symptoms in the last 21 days: sore throat, cough, chills, body aches for unknown reasons, shortness of breath for unknown reasons, loss of smell, loss of taste, fever at or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit?
- Have you or anyone in your household traveled to an areas considered a “hot spot” in the past 21 days?
- Have you or anyone in your household traveled on a cruise ship in the last 21 days?
- Have you or anyone in your household cared for an individual who is in quarantine or is a presumptive positive or has tested positive for COVID-19?
- Do you have any reason to believe you or anyone in your household has been exposed to or acquired COVID-19?
- To the best of your knowledge have you been in close proximity to any individual who tested positive for COVID-19?
Masks. Please bring a mask from home. We will provide masks for anyone who forgets theirs. Masks are required for the duration of the service and the entire time we are in the building. Anyone who cannot or will not wear a mask is invited to enjoy the service via Facebook Live.
Entering/Exiting. We will only use the sanctuary doors. If someone needs to use the elevator, a deacon will be stationed at the parking lot doors to assist. In order to observe social distance, please arrive with plenty of time to enter in an orderly fashion. If we all arrive at 10:25, it will be more chaotic. Doors will be open no later than 10am. When the service ends, we will dismiss by pew, to keep appropriate distance.
Offering. Upon enter, there will be offering plates available in the narthex for offering. Of course, online giving or mailing in offerings is still welcome.
Bulletins. Bulletins will continue to be emailed each week and posted on social media. Those who are able, should print a copy of the bulletin or bring a digital device on which to follow the order of worship. This will cut down on the handling of the bulletins (a possible source of transmission). We will place a few bulletins in each of the pews that are being used.
Seating. We will not all be able to sit where we like. The property committee has measured carefully, and the pews we cannot sit in will be cordoned off. This is critical: ONLY ONE HOUSEHOLD PER PEW. We can only sit with the people with whom we live, even if we share the same last name. This will be tough to observe since we consider one another family. If we want to be sure to limit the spread of the virus, we need to strictly adhere to this. For that reason, we strongly encourage people to stay in their pew, and to avoid the temptation to roam around the sanctuary. People worshiping in the same pew, need to live at the same address. That might mean some pews have four or five people, and some pews will only have one.
Singing. Because singing can easily spread the virus, even with masks, there will not be congregational singing, at least initially. If the guidance on this changes, we will be sure to revisit this part of the decision. For now, we will attempt to have special music at every service.
Children. Children are always welcome at worship. However, we will not have a nursery/children’s church ministry until it becomes safer. The nursery will be open for nursing mothers (who may also use the library, if they wish), and if a child has emergency. Children may not be dropped off at the nursery at this time. Our nursery worker will be present to assist parents as needed.
The Lord’s Supper. On the Sundays we observe the Lord’s Supper, congregants are encouraged to bring bread from home (this is actually a very old tradition from the early Church). Cups of juice will be prepared ahead of time and placed in each pew (with limited contact, of course).
Dismissal. As mentioned earlier, we will be dismissed by pew. When each pew is dismissed, congregants are expected to exit the sanctuary and return to their vehicles. Sadly, we cannot stand around and linger or visit like we are used to.
Testing. If you or anyone in your household tests positive for COVID-19 within two weeks of attending a worship service in person, please notify the church office.
This is a fluid situation, and we ask that the congregation be patient. As we are able, we will relax certain aspects of these guidelines, and work our way toward a more familiar experience. Until such a time, we all must work together. These guidelines were crafted with the safety of the congregation as the guiding, most important issue, and we are hopeful the congregation will observe them in a spirit of Christian unity.
And remember, we are still going to be virtual. We will be going live on Facebook at 10:30am when the service starts. If you are more comfortable participating from home, please feel free to worship in that way.