My Dear People,
As the stay-at-home orders are now being lifted in our state and we have been given the go-ahead to re-open by the medical community and our government, we will be reopening to in-person services this Lord’s Day (5/24). That being the case, it must be understood that we are still not out of the woods when it comes to this virus, and so, as a Session, we have determined that the wisest path forward is to abide by the recommendations of both our government and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). What this means is that, though we are opening our doors for in-person services, these services are going to look very different from what we’re used to.
The following regulations MUST be in place in order to maintain a safe and healthy environment for all of our members:
- The first (and what should be obvious at this point) regulation to be observed is that if you are showing any of the symptoms of coronavirus STAY HOME and call your physician. It would be reckless and unloving to expose others to this sickness, especially when many in our congregation are elderly and particularly susceptible.
- As of right now, we are planning on having only one service on the Lord’s Day morning; however, if we reach the suggested capacity, we will incorporate another service.
- To maintain social distancing, every other pew will be cordoned off; likewise, those joining us must sit in household units (i.e., sit with the people you live with), with those household units sitting six feet apart from other units. This is mandatory not only for adults in our congregation, but for children as well.
- As the virus spreads through airborne particles (and moreso when the person is singing), it is required that those attending wear appropriate face coverings: masks, scarves, etc. It’s not necessary that you wear gloves, but be sure to avoid touching your face and to wash your hands before and after the service.
- The offering plates will not be passed through the congregation, but will be positioned on tables near the vestibule; you may drop your offering in the plate on your way in or out of the church.
- For now, we will not be having Sunday School, Wednesday evening classes, Sunday evening service, etc., but will only be holding Lord’s Day morning services. This is subject to change in the future, but has been determined to be the wisest choice at present.
- If, during a service, you begin to feel symptoms of coronavirus (fever, trouble breathing, etc.), quietly inform one of the Elders and then promptly excuse yourself from the service and call your physician.
- Please limit your movements within the church to the sanctuary and restrooms, as our general rule will be to sanitize wherever people have been.
- Practice good hygiene (another thing that feels silly to say, but is even more important during this epidemic than is usually so). Particularly, if you use the restroom, be sure to wash your hands for a full twenty seconds, and turn the doorknob with a paper towel when you exit.
- Due to space limitations, the choir will not be seated in the choir loft as usual. Likewise, the choir will not be meeting for practice, etc., until further notice.
- We will forego the use of bulletins for now.
- Please refrain from hugging or shaking hands.
- Be aware that for now there will be no nursery or children’s church.
- It is strongly recommended that you bring your own Bible instead of using the pew Bibles; I would add that this is not just a recommendation for the present crisis, but is a general recommendation, along with bringing pen and paper for taking notes.
- If you are particularly susceptible (i.e., over fifty years old, immunocompromised, etc.) to this sickness, use wisdom. If you feel it necessary to stay at home, or it would be advisable for you to stay home, please don’t come. Sermons and orders of service will still be provided online and in paper format to those who do not have internet access.
There are other regulations, particularly pertaining to the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, but those will be explained during the service.
Your Pastor and Session are dedicated to the health and safety of our church, both physically and spiritually. As such, I would like to list some of the things we will be doing now and in the future:
- We will be making sure, week by week, that the church is properly cleaned and sanitized to prevent the spread of the virus.
- We will be calling each household regularly to check on each member of our church family. To do this, each family has been assigned to one of our Ruling Elders. Please be open to their calling, as they have been called from our congregation to exercise church oversight (1 Pet. 5:1-3). And please know that if there is ever something you need to talk to me about personally, you can either let your Ruling Elder know, call me directly, and/or visit me at the church.
- As we will not be having regular Sunday School and Wednesday evening classes for a while yet, we are looking at some other creative ways to help you to grow in your knowledge of God’s Word and of His grace to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. I will be writing studies regularly on my website; we will be choosing a book and hosting a virtual book discussion group; I will be teaching a class on the Westminster Shorter Catechism for our kids who are presently memorizing and studying the Catechism. As other opportunities arise, you will be promptly informed.
I want you to know that I recognize that these regulations are not ideal. I’m sure that many of us believed that when we reopened our church, things would simply go back to normal; but, the reality is that things will not be “normal” for some time. This is frustrating, and it seems to be one more thing on top of all the stressors that have come along with this epidemic. But, let us focus on the great gift that God is giving us in providentially allowing us to worship together in person again. Let us be thankful to Him and rejoice in His goodness always! Let us join in David’s gladness, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Ps. 122:1)!
Grace and Peace,