There’s no question that our community has deeply missed each other for the past six months. It’s been a hard journey switching to Facebook and Zoom, and we are all longing to get back to a point where it’s safe and wise to worship in the same building together. After a lot of discussion, our COVID Preparedness Team and our church council have a proposal for the next few months of our worship life together.
We’ll soon be taking registrations for in-building worship, with the first in-building Sunday on October 4th. The in-building option would be available every other Sunday, with the service live-streamed on our usual Facebook and Zoom channels for those who would like to join from home. We would continue pre-recorded at-home worship on the opposite Sundays.
Here’s a short video modeling what in-building worship would look like right now!
– All worship attendees would need to register in advance and sign a waiver releasing the church from liability in case of infection. Masks would be required at all times when inside the building, except for when receiving communion. In-building worship would take place in the sanctuary, with chairs removed to provide for six feet or more of distance between each household.
– Worship would include:
- spoken prayers, readings, and preaching
- pre-recorded choir pieces
- musical participation by rhythm patterns and sign language, but not by singing out loud, humming, or whistling
- distanced communion as we exit the sanctuary.
– Unfortunately, we would not be able to stay for any fellowship in the building or around food. If attendees want to stay and chat, they must be outside and more than 6 feet from the door so that other attendees may exit without contact.
Q: Why are you saying “in-building” instead of “in-person”?
A: Great question! Although it’s certainly not ideal, the opportunities that we have for gathering online (in Facebook comments on the worship videos and in Zoom coffee hours) are still a way of being “in-person” to each other. We don’t want to negate the importance of any possible social contact during a time when we miss each other so much. That’s why we don’t say that in-building worship is the only “in-person” option – we’ve found ways to be in person since March 15!
Q: Why every other week?
A: The amount of energy that goes into preparing for in-building worship is going to be high. Gathering in-building every other week gives Pastor Emmy, Jon, and our many volunteers enough time to prepare and to adjust as we might need to as new issues arise. And, sadly, it gives us extra time if we are alerted to the presence of a COVID-positive person in a previous gathering.
Q: Do we have a maximum number of households that can attend in-building worship?
A: The state requirements of 50% capacity would mean we cannot exceed 125 individuals in the sanctuary. Our worship attendance before March 15 averaged about 75 people, so we do not expect to hit that maximum number.
Q: What if things get worse? Or better?
A: We’ll be keeping an eye on city, county, and statewide case counts, as well as continuing to follow state restrictions on gatherings. This is another reason for an every-other-week plan – it gives us time to pivot as needed if something changes!
Q: I’m not ready to return to in-building worship.
A: We recognize that not everyone wants to or can return to in-building worship right now or in the next months before a vaccine is readily available. We are absolutely committed to keeping at-home worship by Zoom (screen or call in!) and Facebook available every week for those who choose it.
Q: I read a study that said it’s safe to hum / shake hands / take communion if the wine is strong enough / etc …
A: That’s great, and we really hope it proves to be true! All the guidelines we’re outlining are guidelines suggested or required by the state and city. If we are alerted that we had a COVID-positive person at in-building worship, we want to be able to say we took every possible precaution to prevent spread. Again, if things change, we’ll make changes, but the video and the guidelines above are what we’re sticking to for now.
Q: How long will we be doing this?
A: Honestly, we don’t know! So many factors – case increases or decreases, new peer-reviewed research results, a vaccine timeline – will effect what is safe and wise for us to do. We’ll keep reviewing everything we can and we’ll keep you informed.
Q: Where can I register for in-building worship on October 4th?
A: You can fill out the registration here!