What You Need to Know About Regathering for Worship on July 5, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The moment we’ve been waiting for is fast approaching. This Sunday, July 5, we will gather at 10:30 AM to worship the Lord in our church building. As you could imagine, we’ll have to do things differently than we used to. I’ll share the specifics below, but I wanted to take a moment to share the heart and mind behind the decisions that have gone into planning this service.
At the beginning of all this, we (the elders) resolved that we’d be driven not by fear but by love.
- We’ve sought to love God by searching His Word and prayerfully balancing the biblical mandate to gather with a concern for the health and welfare of His images.
- We’ve sought to love one another by consulting the best information we could find on the nature of the pandemic rather than relying on conjecture and rhetoric from either end of the political spectrum. We’ve also listened to your feedback and are operating with a paramount concern for both the physical and spiritual safety of all our people.
- We’ve sought to love our neighbors by playing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and refusing to be cavalier about the way we approach regathering.
The following decisions are rooted and grounded in that threefold love. We’ve done the research, listened to your feedback, and arrived at what we believe is best for the church at this moment in time. Our promise to you is that we’ll keep listening—to you, to the experts, and most importantly to God—and will adjust as we’re confronted with new research and expertise.
All that said, here’s what you need to know about this Sunday:
There will be no Sunday School this weekend. Casey will return with the fourth lesson in Amos next Sunday, July 12. We’ll send out more information next week about whether that will be online, in-person, or both.
Online Worship Will Be Available
If you choose not to join us in person, we’ll continue to produce a worship guide and live stream the service on YouTube as we’ve done throughout June. We encourage you to join us at 10:30 so that, even though we’re distanced in body, we can worship together in spirit in real-time. If you can, invite friends and neighbors to join you in your homes as you worship together online.
Two Options for Worshipping In Person at VCL
To ensure we can accommodate everyone who wants to worship in person without violating social distancing requirements (6 feet), we’re opening up both the Sanctuary and the Great Room for worship. The service will be live in the Sanctuary and will be streamed on the big-screen TV in the Great Room. There will be no childrens’ programming at this time.
It’s important that we do not exceed our capacity, so we’ll be implementing a reservation system to make sure neither room gets over-crowded. Should we have another case of COVID-19 in our church, this information will also help us to keep track of who needs to be notified.
To reserve your spot, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, the total number of people who will be in your party, and your room preference (Sanctuary or Great Room). If your preference is full, Karen will contact you about attending in the other room.
We plan to leave space in the church to accommodate walk-in guests who may not have known about our reservation system. In order to do this without crowding the church, it’s imperative that everyone on this email do your part by reserving a spot. If we find ourselves pushing capacity, we’re prepared to discuss creative options to ensure nobody is left out.
Entrance and Seating
When you arrive at the church, please use the entrance located closest to your reserved room. The hallway between the Sanctuary and the Great Room will be closed, so no one will be able to move from one room to the other without having to go outside.
We’ve mapped out the Sanctuary and the Great Room to maintain a distance of 6 or more feet between seated parties. When you come in, you’ll be greeted and directed by the ushers. In the Great Room, chairs will be spaced accordingly. In the Sanctuary, we will be blocking off rows, taping small X’s to the floor, and posting ushers to help direct you to your seats.
Although masks remain a controversial issue in many quarters, our best understanding is that they have been effective in reducing transmission and are a crucial measure in protecting one another right now. That said, masks must be worn at all times in the building. Please bring your own cloth or paper mask. If you forget, we’ll provide you a paper mask at the door. The only exception will be those who lead the service, and only while they’re leading. If you don’t wish to wear a mask, we kindly ask you to continue worshipping from home.
Because mask-wearing is more about protecting others than ourselves (i.e., my mask protects you more than it protects me), we’re unable to leave this up to personal preference right now. And we ask that you not put your brothers and sisters in the uncomfortable position of having to fret about your lack of a mask. For more on masks and why we’re choosing to wear them in church, this article from a pastor in Texas captures the lovingly self-sacrificial logic of mask-wearing better than I could here.
One of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make has to do with singing during this season. The research is not yet conclusive, and we are more than eager to revise this position as we learn more, but the best information we’ve been able to find shows that singing indoors is one of the riskiest things we can do together as a congregation right now—mask or no mask. That said, we ask you to please refrain from singing along in worship this Sunday. We will still have music in worship, but it’ll be directed towards contemplation and inward response.
We lament our inability to sing together right now, but I want you to know that we’re working on creative ways to make up for that missing element. We’re also looking at creating more opportunities for us to sing together outdoors—whether that’s through future outdoor services or after-service hymns in the parking lot. I’m eagerly awaiting research to demonstrate the safety of singing together. If you’re tracking the issue, please feel free to share any new information that comes your way.
Though surface contact transfer is turning out to be one of the least likely methods of transmission, we’re still playing it safe by limiting the amount of contact we all have with surfaces and materials at the church. That said, there will be no printed bulletins or pew Bibles for a while. Please print out your worship guide at home or pull it up on your phone during the service.
We won’t be able to pass a plate at this time, but we will be setting up places for you to drop your tithes and offerings. Please prepare your offering before you come to church, as we will not have envelopes available in the pews.
Bathrooms will be open for emergencies only. Also, water fountains will be closed until further notice.
To cut back on crowding, we’ll be foregoing our usual social time in the foyer before and after the service. We do encourage you, however, to chat in the parking lot—following safe social distance guidelines, of course. Please be mindful of your surroundings, so as not to block traffic or create a potential hazard.
Last, but certainly not least, is the issue of pre-screening. We each bear a responsibility toward one another to stay home if we’re not feeling well. That said, we ask you to run through the following pre-screening with everyone in your household before you come to church:
- Do you now or within the past 24 hours have any of the following?
- Fever (100 degree temperature or higher)
- Before leaving for church, please check the temperature of everyone in your home with an oral or tympanic thermometer.
- Shortness of breath (not severe)
- Dry Cough
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Atypical Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- Fever (100 degree temperature or higher)
- Are you ill, or caring for someone who is ill?
- In the past two weeks, have you…
- had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19?
- lived in or visited a place where COVID-19 is spreading?
If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, we ask that you please worship from home until you can answer no to all 3 questions.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this information. I know it’s a lot to take in. I acknowledge that some of this will be awkward and burdensome for us, but I also trust that the Lord will meet us in this strange season and that His presence will overwhelm the strangeness.
We all long for the “normal” times we enjoyed back before this happened. But, as the recent surge of new cases in the south warns us, a hasty return to normal has the potential to undo the sacrifices we’ve all had to make over these past few months. We will get to a point when we don’t have to take so many precautions. I pray the Lord will grant us all patience until then.
May we continue to love God by worshipping Him in Spirit and truth, love one another through the mundane sacrifices of making reservations, wearing masks, and staying silent during worship, and love our neighbors by safely gathering and showing them…
Oh how good it is when the family of God
Dwell together in spirit, in love and unity;
Where the bonds of peace, of acceptance and love
Are the fruits of his presence here among us.
God bless you all. I can’t wait to see you on Sunday!
In Christ alone,