Opening June 14

Thu, May 28, 2020

Dear Church Family:

In Psalm 122.1, King David proclaimed: I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.

Twelve weeks ago, we suspended in-person worship because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like Daniel, we went into an exile of sorts from our spiritual home. We had to learn how to remain connected while staying apart and how to worship together online from our various homes.

As our state began the process to reopen, our leaders, pastors, and staff began discerning, praying, and listening to you and medical professionals about when and how we should resume in-person worship and ministry activities.

Last week, the Board of Stewards met to consider reopening the church for worship and ministry. We came to the unanimous consensus that beginning Sunday, June 14th, we will resume in-person worship!

At the same time, we recognize that not everyone is ready or should return to in-person worship either because of age, underlining health conditions, or a household family member who is particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

I want to assure you that we will continue our online worship as we have been doing. We have invested over ten-thousand dollars upgrading our video systems. I’m sure you have noticed the increased quality of our broadcasts the past few weeks. The new systems will allow us to live-stream our worship from the sanctuary. However, until we learn how to live-stream our in-person services with the quality we desire, we will continue to produce the online broadcast as we have for the past three months.

Even as we return to in-person worship, we also acknowledge that we are living in a new normal. Things will not simply return to the way they were before the pandemic. We are implementing necessary changes to ensure the health of everyone who comes on our campus. Some of these decisions were difficult, and others were not what we preferred, but all were made to follow the best recommendations from our medical health professionals.

Therefore, we are implementing the following changes and procedures as we resume in-person worship:

Beginning June 14, we will have only two worship services for the foreseeable future. The Celebrate service will move from 9:45 am to 9:30 am. The 11:05 traditional service will begin at 11:00 am. Our online broadcasts will change to align with our in-person worship times.

The services will last about 45 minutes to allow time to clean the sanctuary. We will have custodial crews present to sanitize the pews, door handles, and other common touchpoints between services. We have secured an ample supply of hospital grade disinfectant for this purpose.

No-touch hand sanitizers will be at all our doors and the entrances to the sanctuary. We ask that all person sanitize their hands before entering, and after leaving the worship center.

We strongly encourage ALL PERSONS to wear masks when coming to worship. This is particularly important for us as a larger social gathering. Doctors tell us that persons infected with Covid-19 can be asymptomatic for days, and shedding virus during that time. Wearing masks in public is an act of love for our neighbors, and in church for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Please observe social distancing while on campus. Every other pew will be roped off from use. Family and households can sit together, but please keep 6-feet between other persons in the pews. Please do not shake hands, hugging or other close contact. Be careful to maintain proper distance in the common areas before and after worship.

We will not have bulletins. All hymnals, cards, envelopes and pens have been removed from the pews. All worship words will be on the screens. We will not pass the offering plate during worship. Instead, there will be offering boxes located in the back for you to give when you enter or leave worship. A big thank-you to Mike Schmitt, who has crafted these for us!

There will be NO nursery through the summer, including Kid’s Zone. Families are invited to worship together. The cry room will be reserved for nursing mothers and infants. Parents with rambunctious children can use the parlor, if they desire, where the service will be broadcast.

We will NOT have Sunday School or other Sunday groups for several months. We are still evaluating how to do this, but for the time being, we need to focus on restarting in-person worship and minimize the number of persons staying on campus. Sunday Schools and groups that would like to meet should call Janis Finch to arrange the use of Wesley Hall or other space during the week.

Finally, we do not believe it is prudent to have congregational singing at this time. This was an especially hard decision and one I did not want to make. Frankly, I’m not fond of it at all. However, medical advice is consistent on this question. Studies indicate that singing projects particles twice as far as coughing or sneezing, defeating social distancing practices. For this reason, medical professions are discouraging congregational singing and consider it high risk behavior.

We will not have choirs in traditional worship for the same reason. Instead, we will depend on hymn solos by Rev. Terry Bebermeyer and others, along with small ensemble groups. Tippy and the Celebrate Team will sing and lead music at 9:30.

For as integral as singing is to the praise of God, it's not the only way believers can express themselves or their love for the Lord. Perhaps as the worship leaders sing the hymns and songs, we could reflect on the meaning of the lyrics, or sing quietly to yourself as an act of prayer.

We are all learning new forms of worship, and what the heart of worship truly is as we live into a new normal for this season. We will resume congregational singing when medical professionals indicate that it is safe to do with minimal risk to others. Again, we all should follow the words of our Lord who commands us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

We are looking at different ways to serve Holy Communion safely. Intinction is not possible until a vaccine is available, but other methods of serving Communion are also problematic. The nature of Communion requires hands-on touching of the elements, and the act of giving the bread and cup involves close contact with those receiving. The pastors are exploring alternative ways to provide Communion safely, but until we are confident in that procedure, I am suspending the celebration of Holy Communion.

The church office is now open Monday – Thursday from 9 am to 3 pm. We will keep these hours through the summer. Please sanitize your hands when entering and observe social distancing while in the office. Please wear masks when coming into the office, especially when entering a staff person’s office.

Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement during this time. I believe the Lord has much to teach us about how to be the church, following him in these difficult times, and representing Him to our community.

Grace and Peace,
Jim Bass