Steps to Re-gathering
The following letter was approved by our Administrative Council as our guidelines for resuming in-person worship.
As we see the world around us take steps to resume some level of activity, we are making similar steps at Belair and Osceola. In order to do this, we are working on several things. An ad hoc committee (Barry Moore, Luther Wilson, Tommy Broome, Judy Anderson, Jim Burch, Jerry Murphy, Mallory Nickerson) has been formed to help in making recommendations for both congregations. The following is lengthy and contains a great deal of information, but I encourage you to read fully and thoroughly.
In order to safely reenter common space, we need to secure enough cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer to thoroughly cover the area for an extended period of time. We are working to secure those items now. We will minimize things we touch to the best of our ability. The pew racks will be emptied, doors will be propped open, etc.
When we return, we will be maintaining recommended social distancing guidelines. That means we will have to be deliberate about seating within our sanctuaries. You will likely come in to find areas marked for seating and others marked off to avoid. That will mean that we will have to commit to shaking off some of our old habits of seating in order to gather. I ask that you be gracious and patient with me and with each other as we make this strange, new space.
We will be encouraging the wearing of masks when we gather. Many people have their own masks, and if you have masks in which you are most comfortable, we encourage you to wear those. We are working to provide cloth masks for those who do not have their own.
Some elements of worship will be different for a time. From the SC Conference resource “Reset Restart Renew”: “There seems to be ample evidence to suggest that singing creates a quantity of fine aerosols that can stay suspended in the air for long periods of time, move with air currents, and stay infectious for many hours, exposing virtually everyone in a building. Medical, science and public health experts strongly recommend against singing indoors in public until a vaccine is widely available and widely used.” Because of this, we will avoid singing, both congregationally and as a choir. I will be working with our musicians as we navigate this reality.
We won’t be passing offering plates, so collection of tithes and offerings will be done as you enter or exit. You may continue to mail in or use the lockboxes, at your discretion. We’ll be asking that you not linger in the sanctuary to fellowship.
While our fellowship is vital to our life as a community of faith, doing so in close proximity is a risk. You’ll be encouraged to move outside at the conclusion of the service, where you may certainly greet one another from appropriate and safe distances.
Bishop Holston has asked us to avoid communion until there is a safe way to administer the sacrament. We will follow that directive.
We will focus on resuming worship first. We will not resume Sunday School or other in-person small group activities until we are confident we’re doing a good job in our time and space of worship. There are ways which we can connect virtually and by phone, and I will gladly help anyone who wishes to do so come up with best plans and options for doing that.
Many among our congregation are at a greater risk for contracting COVID-19 and having more dangerous reactions to the virus. We know that many will need to continue at home for a while, either until the virus spread has been better mitigated or until a vaccine is publicly available. As your pastor, I certainly encourage you to do so, as your health and safety is paramount. Knowing this, we will definitely continue to offer recordings and online worship in some form. I am working through our best options for this and will communicate what that will look like when I know more.
If we can secure the conditions mentioned in this letter, and if no “hot spots” of the virus emerge in our area, we will plan to resume in-person worship on June 14. Watch your email for the official word on this. I will send something out by June 11 to let you know our plan for that Sunday.
Pray for our churches and the church universal as we seek to move forward together. We are engaging these challenges, seeking God’s wisdom and committing ourselves to expression of the love of neighbor in our midst.
God’s peace be with us all,