Returning Safely - Protocols

Mon, August 17, 2020

The Board of Stewards has decided to resume in-person worship Sunday, August 23.
We examined the Texas Medical Center data and all indications that the recent COVID-19 surge is in decline. We discussed other possible start dates, and each had advantages and disadvantages. But with many school districts beginning in-person learning again, and the desire of many to return to in-person worship and ministry, we believed next Sunday was a good time to resume.

We will follow the current schedule of 9:30 am for Celebrate, and 11:00 am for Traditional. We will also support all CDC protocols for church gatherings. We are still not able to sing out loud for now. Sorry!  

WORSHIP TIMES AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS
All persons coming for in-person worship and other ministry activities on the church campus must wear face masks or coverings. We will have only two worship services for the foreseeable future. The Celebrate service will be at 9:30 am. The traditional service will begin at 11:00 am.

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.

CONGREGATIONAL SINGING AND COMMUNION
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.