SUNDAY MORNING REGATHERING PLAN
I am pleased to announce that on June 21 we will begin regathering for Sunday morning worship as a church! Our Governor announced last Friday that we have entered Phase II of the reopening plan in Florida, and the CDC has also updated their recommended guidelines for gathering as communities of faith. While gathering with other people inside continues to pose some risks, we will be doing everything we know to do to minimize those risks and provide a safe environment for worship. In the spirit of strong brothers and sisters accommodating the weak (Rom 14:1–15:7), we want even the most physically vulnerable among us to feel as welcome and safe as possible if they were to choose to come. We also want to emphasize that if you do not feel comfortable attending at this time due to concerns about the virus or social distancing, please continue to participate in worship online. We will miss you, but grace abounds!
Beginning on June 21, we will have two services at the same time we were having services before all of this began: 9:00AM and 11:15AM. Both services will last approximately 45 minutes, and for at least a few weeks, both services will be essentially the same service, with the only difference being what time they are offered. This will allow us time to clean the sanctuary between services and help ensure that too many people aren't leaving or entering at the same time. For those who choose not to attend, we will be live-streaming our services (instead of recording them ahead of time as we have been) and making them available on YouTube and our website later in the day on Sunday.
During our worship times, we will be doing our best to practice good social-distancing practices so that we can love our neighbors as we love God. This includes:
- Not returning to worship gatherings at this time if you are sick or think you might be sick, are in high-risk groups of infection, or are taking care of those who are high-risk
- Continuing to practice safe hygiene practices such as washing hands before entering, using hand sanitizer frequently, coughing into your elbow, and refraining from touching common surfaces as much as possible
- Not initiating handshakes or hugs (I know this will be hard, and some people will not have any issue with this, but some will)
- Roping off every other pew (I know this might mean people arriving early for a little while, as some of us might have to find a new temporary "favorite pew!")
- Putting visual markers on the floor and the pews to visually represent how far apart six feet is
- Having hand sanitizer available
- Receiving an offering through offering "boxes" to drop our gifts in instead of offering plates (please consider giving online if you haven't already)
- Strongly encouraging people to wear masks (again, this is for the benefit of others and not necessarily yourself)
- Not congregating inside the sanctuary or the Welcome Center before or after the service, but weather permitting, fellowshipping outside the building
- Not offering food or drinks during the services (this includes coffee)
- Welcoming and encouraging families to bring all of their children of all ages to the services, as we will not be offering nursery or children's care during the services at this time
As we move forward, we anticipate beginning to offer in-person SMBS classes in mid-July, after we have had an opportunity to see how these practices work during our worship services. We are already reaching out to SMBS leaders and teachers about what this might look like and what spaces we have available on campus to meet while maintaining social distancing. We then hope to resume at least some of our Wednesday night activities by the end of July/beginning of August. Other ministries, missions, ministry events, groups, and programs are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis. My hope and prayer, not only for our church but for our nation, is that by fall we are able to participate in the life of our church again without any restrictions regarding space, schedule, or number of people gathering.
Of course, all of the guidelines and plans above are subject to change as we see what works and what doesn't, what we are able to do and what we aren't, and what the future brings. I know that not everyone might agree with all of the guidelines above, but I hope you will do your best to try and follow them with grace and love (here is a link to a good article about how we must show grace to one another during these uncertain times).
I look forward to seeing many of you on the 21st, and many others of you later on in the year as God leads you in his timing to physically gather again. Let us continue to live and be the gospel, putting on the attitude of Jesus Christ, "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:6–8).