Back in March, we indefinitely suspended our physical gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This was done to comply with the recommendations of health experts and governing officials.  And it was also an attempt to love our neighbors - to minimize contact between people, in order to slow the spread of this virus and “flatten the curve” of the pandemic.

Now, two months later, we recognize that this pandemic is still very serious.  That many people are still suffering greatly.  And we don’t want to minimize that, or overlook it.  Nevertheless, by God’s grace, there have been some encouraging metrics recently (test results, access to medical supplies, etc.).  And because of that, Governor Northam has tentatively authorized for our area to enter into “Phase One” of Virginia’s plan to reopen as soon as this Friday (May 15).  Specifically for our church, this means that we can resume physical gatherings as early as this weekend (with some restrictions).

In light of these developments, beginning this Sunday (May 17), and continuing until further notice, the elders have decided to transition from online services to hybrid services, that are both in-person and online.  This means that you have the option of worshipping with us in person in the sanctuary, or of worshipping with us in spirit from the safety of your home.

Here are the details.

We are going gather for corporate worship on Sundays at 11am.  For those people who are unable to attend, or who are not comfortable attending, the service will be recorded and posted online later that afternoon, so that you can worship with us from home.

The 11am corporate worship service is the only service taking place.  Sunday School, Adult Teaching Fellowship, and small groups in the building during the week will remain cancelled, and will resume at a later date.  We will notify you in advance when that is going to happen.

We will not have children’s ministry.  This includes Sunday School, Children’s Church, and the nursery.  As we understand it, there is still some risk in gathering together physically.  And one of the riskier aspects is putting all of our children into a room together, with a small number of adults attempting to supervise all of them together.  Instead, we are asking parents in attendance to keep their kids with them, and sit together, and help them socially distance from others.  (We recognize that this might be difficult for parents.  And you are totally welcome to worship from home if that is the case.)

We will practice social distancing.  We need your help here.  For those of us who will be present at our Sunday services, we are going to be extra careful to refrain from physical contact, and to maintain safe distances from one another.  This means:

  • Please stay 6 feet away from others.
  • Please don’t touch one another.
  • Please refrain from handshakes and hugs.  (Bowing or nodding your head is a good alternative.)
  • We are going to organize the chairs intentionally to encourage social distancing.  Please keep 2-3 empty seats between your family and others.
  • Please be extra careful to ensure that your children are staying close to their parents, and staying 6 feet away from others.
  • We will have hand sanitizer and plenty of soap.  We encourage you to wash or sanitize your hands regularly!
  • We will not be handing or passing anything (bulletins, offering plate, etc.).  We’ll use alternative methods.

We are going to limit the amount of time that people spend in the building together.  We are going to open the doors from people to come in approximately 10 minutes before the service begins (10:50am).  If anyone arrives before then, we’re asking you to wait in your car, or wait outside.  After the service ends, we’re asking everyone to exit the building promptly.  You’re more than welcome to socialize as long as you’d like outside in the fresh air (and from a safe distance).

We’ll only be using the sanctuary.  We’ll leave certain doors open (so that you don’t need to touch the handles to walk through them).  And other doors closed (because we are trying to leave them untouched, to make it easier to clean and disinfect).

We are going to keep the service short.  Probably under an hour.  For a few reasons.

  • We don’t want it too difficult for small children.
  • Less time in the building together means less risk.
  • The shorter the service, the less other rooms (restrooms, etc.) will need to be used.  Which means less risk.

We are asking everyone (10 years old and over) to wear masks.  We’ll have some on hand, in case you need one.  Remember that masks’ primary purpose is not to protect you from others.  Rather, it is to protect other people from you.  So, even if you are not worried for yourself, we are still asking everyone to wear one - if for no other reason, simply to love your neighbor, and to put them at ease.  (That said, if being in a room with someone else who is not wearing a mask is a concern for you, then we would invite you to worship with us online.)

If you prefer, you are absolutely welcome to worship from home via the online service.  We can’t stress this enough.  If you are uncomfortable, or if you are still a little wary of being in a room with a lot of people, participating through the online service at home is a perfectly viable option.  No one will judge you or think less of you.  There are a few groups of people that we specifically want to feel freedom to worship from home: 

  • People that are 65 or older.
  • People with weakened immune systems.
  • People that have an underlying medical condition (heart disease, lung disease, etc.).
  • People who live with (or are in close contact with) someone from these groups.

In fact, think of it this way.  We are not encouraging anyone to come and worship in person.  Rather, we are permitting those people who are eager to resume worshipping in person to do so.  So, the pressure is off.  If you’d prefer to worship from home, by all means do so.  You have our blessing.

If you have an increased chance of infecting others, we kindly ask you to worship from home.  There are a few groups of people that we are specifically asking to worship from home:

  • People who currently have any of these symptoms:
    • dry cough
    • fever of 100.4 or higher
    • unexplained body aches
    • unexplained shortness of breath
  • People who have recently (within the last week) had the symptoms described above.
  • People who have been in close contact in the last 2 weeks with someone that tested positive for the Coronavirus.
  • People who have had the Coronavirus, and have experienced symptoms within the last 7 days.

We will be cleaning and disinfecting the building prior to Sunday’s gathering.  Please be aware of this - particularly if you are sensitive to smells and cleaning products (including bleach).

That’s about it.

For those of you intending to worship with us in person this Sunday, we are really excited to see you and to worship together.  For those you intending to continue worshipping from home for a little longer, we totally support your decision, and hope that the service is a blessing for you.

Please let us know if you have any questions at all.  Or if we can serve you in any way.

God bless!