I am writing today to pass along some exciting news. This past week, the Elder Board approved a plan for reopening our church building for regular worship services live in-person beginning Sunday, June 7. This decision has come after seeking the advice and guidance of other spiritual leaders, listening to medical and scientific experts, processing all relevant communications from government and health authorities, and seeking your input along the way. Above all, we have bathed this decision in prayer.
During these past two months, we have endeavored to stay connected through our virtual services, letters, phone calls, emails, social media, and online devotionals. While we are thankful for these methods of communication, the lack of regular gatherings has made us all the more aware of our need for contact, fellowship, and personal interaction. It is clearer than ever before that God made us to be social and designed the church to be a vital part of our Christian walk. I hope we never again take for granted the precious blessing of meeting with one another.
We plan to hold our regular morning worship services in the Activity Center (gym) at 9:30 am and 11:00 am on Sunday, June 7. Seating will be limited, however, and requires those who desire to attend to pre-register. More details can be found below in the discussion of our worship services. We will still offer our online service for those who would prefer to watch from home. As the situation continues to change, we will open up additional services or venues within the church.
We want to stress our recommendation that people who are at higher risk continue to remain at home and join us for worship online. Just because we are gathering in person does not mean it is the best time for you to return. Gathering in large groups inherently increases the risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus and each person should assess their own risk and the risk of those around them when deciding the best time to return.
At this point, we have no plans to offer Children’s ministry, nursery, or Student ministry on Sundays. Please feel free to bring your children to worship. A little extra noise and fidgeting will not hurt us and will be a great benefit for them. We want you to worship with our family as a family.
Our offices will be open beginning June 1, Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. You can reach us by phone during those hours at (440) 944-1026. At least for the foreseeable future, there will be no other group meetings in the church other than Thursday night Celebrate Recovery step studies.
As with anything in such an uncertain environment, we recognize that our plans are subject to change and will need to be constantly reevaluated and adjusted as circumstances warrant.
What we are doing to stay as safe as possible.
God expects us to be wise. Carelessness is not evidence of faith. We need to do everything we can to protect those who join us for worship and their loved ones. To this end, we will be taking the following steps to minimize any potential spread of the coronavirus:
- We will sanitize all main surfaces before you arrive at church. We will wipe down anywhere people are likely to touch. We will use antibacterial cleaning supplies.
- We will open the doors to allow fresh air to circulate.
- We will place chairs where needed to allow for at least 6 feet of space between family groups.
- We will provide sanitizing wipes as well as disinfecting hand cleaner throughout the church.
- We will provide cleaning supplies in the bathrooms.
- Drinking fountains will be disabled, so please bring your own water or beverage.
- The café will be closed, and all other areas and rooms in the building will be inaccessible.
- We will change many aspects of the service. Those details are below.
How the service will work.
To minimize contact with one another, we are going to make some significant changes to our worship service. As the risk diminishes over the coming months, we expect a relaxation of some of these precautions. Here is what to expect on Sunday, June 7:
- In order to have a safe and comfortable worship time, we are limited in capacity to approximately 150 people per service. Therefore, in order to attend a live in-person Sunday morning worship service, you must pre-register by going to our church website. There you will find directions on how to reserve a seat for you and your family members.
- All family members will need to be seated together in one location.
- Pre-registered attendees will enter the church at Entrance A and will be directed to the Activity Center (gym.) Entrance A will be the only open door to enter. The doors will be propped open to eliminate the need to touch any door handles.
- In a further effort to eliminate touchpoints, there will not be a program or other printed material to be distributed.
- Once you arrive at the Activity Center doors you will be directed to your seat.
- On your way out of the Activity Center, you will find an offering plate by each door. You can present your tithes and offerings to the Lord on your way out. Of course, you can continue to use the online and text-to-give options for your regular giving.
- The service will be shortened to approximately 45 minutes with congregation singing reduced to a maximum of 1 or 2 songs.
- Following the service, we will dismiss by rows. You will be asked to remain in your seat until you are dismissed to keep the lobby from getting congested. Once you are dismissed please head directly outside using Entrance B.
Some may find these changes frustrating and restrictive. However, we feel that in the short term, these measures are necessary compromises to be able to open earlier.
Expectations of attendees.
We are also asking those who attend take certain precautions. With your help this will be a successful service where everyone can focus their minds on our Lord and all concerns can be minimized. We respectfully ask that everyone present follow these precautions out of love for one another, regardless of their personal opinions.
- Please stay home if you have a cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or unexplained muscle soreness.
- Please stay home if you have had contact with someone who is sick.
- Please stay at home if you have recently traveled out of state or out of the country.
- Please wash your hands before coming.
- Please maintain at least 6 feet of distance between one another. I know that some are comfortable with much less, but others may not be.
- Limited restroom facilities will be available. If you use the restroom, please wipe down all surfaces you touch with disinfectant.
- Please wear a mask on the way into the building and exiting the building. You may remove your mask during the service if you desire (children under age 2 should not wear a mask.)
- If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 within 10 days of attending a service, please let us know so we can take appropriate action.
- Feel free to wear gloves or other protective equipment if you choose.
- Please do not remain in the aisles or stand around in the lobby.
Let us be humble, putting the needs and feelings of others before our own. This is a chance for us to show love to one another even if we do not feel the need to protect ourselves to this extent.
What about those who want to stay at home?
While we will begin having live in-person services next Sunday, June 7th, that does not mean we will have a full church. Each one of us will need to make the decision of when to return on our own. I hope that this decision will be made through much prayer and seeking of God’s desire.
We are not all in the same situation. We do not all have the same needs. Some have health concerns that make them far more vulnerable. Others have loved ones who are susceptible to sickness. We have some in our congregation who are in daily contact with strangers who may feel it is wise to stay home for the protection of the rest of us.
For those who choose to stay home, we will continue to offer our Sunday morning worship service online. We plan on recording the online worship service prior to Sunday morning so that the online service will include all the typical elements that the current live in-person service will not be able to have immediately. That means the online worship service will include a full set of worship music led by Seth Wenger and other members of our Worship Team. Everything else should also be the same as it has been in prior weeks. For those not yet ready to return to in-person worship, we recommend that you consider beginning a “home church” group (a small group of people gathered together for worship using our online broadcast.) Let us know if you would like more information or help in starting one of these groups.
If a confirmed case of COVID-19 infection is discovered among our attendees, we will notify the congregation immediately (while protecting the identity of the individual) and take appropriate steps to sanitize the building.
We realize that for some these measures may seem minimal, for others they may seem excessive. We are asking all of our people to remember that we are working to protect the church, its people, and its reputation in the community. Should COVID-19 cases emerge in our congregation it not only puts people at risk but may lead to further closures or restrictions. Please help us by respecting the procedures we have put in place.
We have all been impacted greatly by this pandemic. The effects we will see are far-reaching and will change our lives in many ways – possibly for years to come. While there is much we can do, there is certainly nothing we can do that is greater than to pray.
- Pray for those who are sick or have loved ones who are sick.
- Pray for the lonely, the discouraged, the hurting.
- Pray for those who have suffered financially.
- Pray above all that in this time of need, people turn to God and He is glorified.
Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon,