The first thing to be said is that resuming church activities is a very complex matter. In the process of putting together our plan, we have consulted numerous other congregations and denominational partners. As a result, virtually everything we are planning is in keeping with what seem to be the best practices for congregations at the moment. We encourage you to please read the plan described below with care so that you will be fully informed and know what to expect on June 21.
Our goal and motive are two-fold: to begin to resume in-person worship at FBC, but to do it in a way that prioritizes the safety of the congregation.
WHAT WILL BE DIFFERENT
Most notably, at first FBC will reopen for worship only. Likewise, we will shift to two services, one at 9am and the other at 11:30am. They will both last roughly 30 to 45 minutes. The sanctuary will be cleaned between the two services. We encourage you to dress in summer casual attire as we did last summer for worship if you feel comfortable doing that. We will continue to offer worship online and on the radio every week for those not ready to return in person. The online video service will shift to being a recording of that day’s 9am worship service. It will be available by 11am each Sunday. The WLBG Radio service will remain at 11:05am.
Unfortunately, Sunday School puts too many people in too small a space to practice social distancing. So do most other in person activities at this point. For now, Sunday School will remain available virtually or for older adults via WLBG Radio beginning the week of June 7. Likewise, children and preschoolers will receive resources to use at home as a Sunday School alternative by June 7 as well.
Only sanctuary doors and the sanctuary building will be open. Unless there is rain, doors will be propped open so that you do not have to touch doors as you enter. Hand sanitizer will be at each entrance. We ask you to use the dispenser as you enter and as you leave. We will also have masks available. We encourage you to wear a mask but will not require you to do so. Staff will wear masks except when leading a portion of the service.
Likewise, we have removed pew Bibles, hymnals, and pew pads from the sanctuary, so that they will not be handled by multiple people. We have also roped off every other pew, so that no one will be sitting right in front of or behind you.
There will be no childcare during worship. Again, too many people in too small a space. This means that we may hear a child (or two or three) during worship. The voice of a child is music to the ears of God! We trust that families without children will have the grace and spiritual maturity to be grateful for these sounds.
We will not pass anything—Offering will be collected as you enter or leave or can continue to be given via the mail, in person or online. Likewise, there will be no Order of Worship.
There will be no choir. We will do our best to make music a meaningful part of worship. But, we will certainly have some limitations. The choir loft does not allow room for social distancing. We will continue, however, to have solos, both vocal and instrumental, because music is important to worship. We also hope to have congregational singing but there are challenges with spread of germs and the act of singing.
The invitation will also be different. Social distancing prohibits the conversations which generally take place as the minister prays with congregants. Instead we will encourage those interested in making a decision to phone or make an appointment to see a minister. We will acknowledge decisions that have been made each week.
WHAT WE ARE ASKING OF YOU
Most important, we are asking you to prioritize your health and safety. Because we love you, we want to see you for months and years to come. So if you are in a high risk category—due to age or overall health—please continue to participate in our virtual worship services, which will continue indefinitely.
Maintain social distancing of six feet. Using every other pew will help with this request, but it is up to you to not to sit too close to someone else and to maintain appropriate spacing as you move to and from the sanctuary. Sadly, this means no handshakes, hugs, etc. As you enter for worship we ask you to go directly to your seat and to leave and travel home immediately after the service ends. We also ask you to sit only with family members. Restrooms will be open, but, we ask you to use the restroom before coming to church. We want restrooms to be for emergencies only during this time. We will frequently clean restrooms on Sundays.
Let worship be worship. None of us is happy about these changes. (It’s not as if change is what we do best in the church!) So there will be some tendency to be distracted by what is different or what we miss. Ask the Holy Spirit to remove the distractions and help you focus on God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer!