Hey, all! We are pumped about being back together in the building again. It’s been a few months (!) and if you are like me, you are feeling the deprivation – which I hope is drawing out the desire to reconvene as a church body to worship in spirit and in truth.
COVID-19 has, of course, changed things. Like other churches, we are making adjustments that acknowledge this reality. What follows is an overview of some accommodations we are making so that our time together is not only meaningful, but also safe.
10:00 – 10:20 Musical Worship
10:20 – 10:30 (Moving)
10:30 – 11:00 Sermon
11:00 – 11:30 (Visiting – outdoors)
Few of us enjoy the new restrictions on physical contact and proximity that have now become commonplace. These restrictions can be especially difficult within our church family. Still, we want to do our best to comply with recommended safety practices that we have come to know as life with Covid-19. In part, this is to honor measures put in place with the intent to protect us, but it is also a way to love our neighbor who may not be comfortable expressing their concerns about personal space.
To keep it simple, we are asking you to follow guidelines recommended for everyone right not. They are as follows:
· When on church property, seek to honor social distancing guidelines. Remember that even if you are comfortable with lots of people close to you, others might not be.
· Please limit your socializing to outdoors. We are providing space just for this (more on this in a moment).
· Masks are optional, though we strongly encourage them indoors when you are not seated.
· We will have hand sanitizer for frequent use.
· Lastly, we ask that if you bring young children that you keep them with you at all times. No public nurseries will be offered at this time – however, there is an outdoor Children’s Church for elementary school aged kids.
· Our covered drop-off area is now a walkable outdoor gathering space for before and after the service.
· Our marked handicap parking spots are now a drop-off area; the handicap parking is simply moved back a row.
If you arrive before service time, you are welcome to wait in your car, visit and sing outside (more on this in a moment), or enter the auditorium to take your seat (through the usual front doors or the doors to the right at the southeast corner of the building) and spend time in restful, contemplative worship before the message begins.
We will not be serving coffee at the present time; water fountains will be taped off, but we will have water bottles there.
Musical worship has always been an important part of the Christian service. Unfortunately, we are now presented with an airborne contagion that complicates things. It seems that outdoors is a relatively safe place to sing, but moving indoors can present a problem. The factors that seem to have the most impact indoors are length of exposure and type of activity, particularly for indoor events. Breathing normally keeps potential germs nearer to our bodies or the floor where they do not impact others. As we breathe more heavily (think exercise), or when we cough or sneeze, the germs are propelled farther and farther from our space.
So, what does all this have to do with church? Unfortunately it seems that one of the most high-risk activities in terms of spreading germs is singing. That presents a problem. And the longer you sing in the same space, the greater the potential risk.
We have always honored the fire marshal’s guidance. We do background checks on nursery workers. We have a security team in our building. So for the same prudent reasons we practice those things, we think it wise to do what we can to alter our practices where appropriate.
To that end, we offer two on-site options for musical worship, both at 10am.
1. In the auditorium, we will continue to offer the same musical worship that we have been streaming in recent months on a live-stream for those who choose to stay at home, but we are opening it up to you as well. There is one awkward stipulation – we ask that you do not sing (so there won’t be lyrics on the screen). It’s a space for a time of rest, for quiet contemplation and worship. Perhaps that is meaningful and refreshing for you, and if so, we encourage you to come on in!
2. Outdoors, under a tent in the west lawn, we will offer live worship music. Since it’s outdoors, sing to your heart’s content! (Still, please observe social distancing practices so your liberty does not make your neighbor uncomfortable.)
From 10:20 – 10:30 is a time to move into the building (for those who are not already inside). We are doing our best to maintain the same schedule our live streaming family has become accustomed to, so we will end music with time for everyone to get situated. During this time, we ask that, once you are in the building, you move quickly and purposefully to one of the spaces we have provided for you to hear God’s word. Normal congregating areas such as the lobby have been modified to serve as a hallway rather than a destination, so please do not plan to visit/socialize indoors. Get that out of your system outside before you move indoors J Of course, you will have time to do that afterwards as well – outdoors.
From approximately 10:30 – 11:00, we will be preaching God’s word as we have always done. During this time, we have three venues to choose from.
1. We have placed chairs in groups from 2 to 5 in the auditorium, spaced out to maintain recommended distancing. There will also be a few tables w/ chairs provided for families who have children who might be coerced to settle in with a coloring book J We ask that you do not move these chair groups around. There should be plenty of options to find a seat. Note that in this space, we are honoring current restrictions of 25% capacity. If the room becomes full, you may choose one of our other options. This means we can seat approximately 75 people in the auditorium.
2. For families with slightly more active children who might not fit well in the auditorium, we have set up an assortment of tables in the lobby in view of a television where the service will be shown. We ask that people remain seated here as well, but we understand that younger children present unique challenges. We will have some supplies for children available.
3. Lastly, we will have the message audio playing outdoors. So, if you would rather bring a lawn chair and enjoy the weather, stand up, and move about, or you are simply more comfortable not being indoors right now, we will make sure the message is audible in front of the church. (This may also give some good opportunity for children and adults with restless legs.)
Socializing. Mingling. Fellowship. Whatever you call it, it has become a big part of church. It’s an especially big deal at CLG, because we are a very interactive community. Covid-19 changes things, but we still need this. After the message, we encourage you to visit with your church family … outdoors! Again, we have provided a space for this – the tent, and underneath the overhang at the front entrance, which will be a “walkable space” rather than a drive through. Catch up with friends, chat with each other, pray for each other. This is part of church life. Two things to keep in mind though.
1. Please continue to observe safety protocols and consider the concerns of your neighbors
2. Take your people and things out with you, because the building will be locked by 11:30!
One of the things we have greatly missed is the Lord’s Supper. We look forward to partaking in this together, though as with many other things, this will be different. At least for the immediate future we will be using single-serve communion packets. To minimize contact, they will be placed one per seat on Sunday’s where they will be used. Please hold them until you receive instructions on how we will take communion together. After that, please discard your own cup and wrapper.
We realize that this is a lot. None of us enjoy this. Like the captives in Babylon we long for the old ways where we could worship God without strange customs or uncomfortable burdens. However, to gather is a blessing! So we are eager to see you again. That said, we realize there will be a number for whom this isn’t a good fit. Perhaps you have health concerns, or you don’t look forward to wrangling all your children. We understand that! So, while we miss you and want you here, continuing to watch at home may be a better fit. If so, hopefully you’ve found a Home Church that you meet with. That doesn’t have to stop! Do whatever is comfortable for you, those in your household, and those in your Home Church. Honor one another in this.
One final note: we don’t do formal small groups during the summer. If you have started a HomeChurch group that would now like to attend Sunday services, we encourage you to find another time to still meet. It doesn’t have to be an either/or dilemma.
[June 9, 2020]