Greetings Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am writing to you to share some hopeful news from your Leadership Team and me. As you know, Governor Hogan has given permission for churches to open at fifty percent capacity following the recommended guidelines of the CDC. This is indeed good news; however, careful planning is required to make reopening the church for worship possible and safe.
Our District Executive, Gene Hagenberger, sent all Mid-Atlantic District churches a letter thoroughly outlining things to consider if we plan to begin meeting again. He also put before us the scripture from Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others,” and asked us to keep this in mind as we decide when to reopen and as we plan our guidelines for keeping people safe when they return to the church.
The Leadership Team and I met via Zoom on Monday night, May 18. The decision was made to tentatively plan on opening the sanctuary for worship for one service at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 14. This gives us time to see how the reopening of some businesses and activities are affecting the movement of COVID-19; and whether the Governor will allow these openings to continue. Waiting three weeks also gives us the opportunity to prepare the church for reopening. In the meantime, we will continue to meet for worship on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. on Facebook Live, and services will be posted on our webpage at hagerstowncob.org.
Guidelines: The Leadership Team and I also put together the following guidelines that we will all need to follow when we return to worship:
- If you are in the high-risk category for contracting the coronavirus, have a fever—we will not be taking your temperature before entering the church, so we encourage you each to take your temperature before coming to church. If you have flu-like symptoms, please do not come to the church. We will continue to provide worship on Facebook-Live even after we start to meet in the church, so you can continue to worship with the congregation.
- A face mask must be worn at all times while you are in the building.
- We are offering only one service for now so we can limit travel throughout the building and, because of the sanitizing that needs to be completed after every use of a room. The sanctuary will need to be sanitized after we use it every Sunday. When the Governor’s restrictions loosen up, we look forward to making a decision about when to return to two services.
- Everyone is required to enter and exit from the West entrance doors. Please do not enter through the fellowship hall doors. Please do not mingle in the sanctuary before or after the service. If you want to mingle in the parking lot, please practice social-distancing and stand 6 feet apart.
- Shaking hands, hugging, fist and elbow bumping will not be permitted.
- Sunday School classes will not meet at this time because of the challenge of being able to practice social distancing in the classrooms.
- Everyone will be required to practice social distancing while in the building. Immediate families may sit together; all others need to sit six feet apart. Every other pew will roped-off.
- Two hand sanitizer stations will be located in the narthex.
- We are asking that only two people at a time use the elevator (unless you live in the same house) and use social distancing while riding in the elevator.
- The restrooms outside the sanctuary and the ones downstairs at the entrance to the fellowship hall are the only restrooms in use during this phase of opening, and we ask that only one person at a time use the restroom. If you find that someone is already in the restroom when you enter, please wait outside until they exit before re-entering.
- Water stations/fountains will not be available for use. You may bring your own water bottle to church.
- We will not have ushers and greeters. You will need to pick up your bulletin near the entrance to the sanctuary. Offering plates will be located in several places in the sanctuary where you can place your offering when entering or leaving the sanctuary.
- Communion is scheduled for the week after June 14. So that we can stay within the CDC guidelines, we will be using prepackaged juice and wafers instead of serving our usual bread and cup. That morning upon entering the sanctuary, you will need to pick up your communion packet so you have it when it’s time for communion.
- We will be singing while wearing a mask; however, we will not be using hymnals. All the hymns will be printed in your bulletin.
- Meetings are not permitted at the church yet.
I know this sounds like a lot to remember, but these are the requirements we need to follow to be in compliance with reopening and to keep everyone safe from transmission of the virus. The Leadership Team will continue evaluating the situation and update you should anything change.
I know we are anxious to be together again. Let us be patient as we slowly reopen and follow these guidelines to make sure we do not become agents of transmission of COVID-19. Remember Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others,” as we move forward.
Blessings to all of you,
Pastor Twyla and the Leadership Team