As you may know, a “Reopening Task Force” has been meeting for two weeks now. One of the first things we did was decide to proceed with deep and loving caution. We don’t want to precipitously rush into reopening and risk the health of our sisters and brothers in Christ. At the same time, most of us feel a great yearning to be together again, and to experience the solace and joy of worshipping in each other’s presence. So our plan is to be cautious and planful, while also creating opportunities for in-person worship that might start as early as June.
Right now, we’re only considering outdoor worship, and we’ll only proceed to schedule outdoor worship services if certain benchmarks have been met. These are the questions that we’ll need an affirmative answer to before we schedule an outdoor worship service:
- Have confirmed cases that turned into hospitalizations declined over a two week period?
- Have restaurants been open for outside seating for two weeks without the number of confirmed cases going up?
- Has Governor Dewine approved of gatherings of more than ten people?
Once we start worshiping outside, the task force will meet every week to look at the data and determine whether the answer to these questions is still yes. This will be challenging, because there’s an eight to fourteen day lag in the data, meaning that numbers which are being reported today will increase exponentially for this date as more data comes in. This, in part, is why we’re going to wait until June before we even consider meeting outside — we want to make sure that the reopening of restaurants this weekend doesn’t lead to an increase in cases, and we won’t know that for certain until the end of the month.
When outdoor worship does resume, we intend to continue to stream it live on Facebook for those of you whose health might be put at risk by joining the gathering. We are going to have to adopt several new and strange practices, at least for the time being.
- You will be asked to reserve your spot at a worship service ahead of time, by the preceding Saturday at the latest.
- Once you’ve reserved your spot, you’ll be sent a copy of the bulletin that you can print and bring with you or access from a mobile device during the service.
- You will be asked to fill out a card that includes your contact information.
- On this card, there will be a Safety Covenant, and a place for you to sign, indicating that you understand that you will need to contact the church right away if you learn that you’ve been in contact with anyone who’s tested positive for Covid-19 prior to attending the service, and/or if you develop symptoms yourself.
- You will also be asked to indicate that you understand that we will contact everyone else who was at the service and let them know that they might have been exposed to the virus.
- When you arrive at the service, you will be asked to wear a mask.
- We will try to reserve three seats at each service for newcomers. They, too, will be asked to fill out information cards and sign the Safety Covenant, and they will be asked to wear masks.
In order for these outdoor worship services to run smoothly and safely, we’ll need to create some new volunteer roles. We will need people to volunteer to be:
- Bathroom attendants, who permit one person at a time into the building to use the bathroom, and then wipe the bathroom down with disinfectant each time it’s used.
- Ushers, who direct people to their reserved seats and welcome newcomers while asking them to fill out the card, sign the covenant, and wear a mask.
- Set-up and take down workers who set out chairs, measure the spaces between them, and disinfect and take chairs down after the service.
As you can see, a lot of thought and preparation is being done to make sure that we can open back up in even a limited way. Our task force is full of brilliant and talented people, which doesn’t mean we didn’t miss something or haven’t forgotten something important. If, after you’ve read this letter, you see any glaring omissions or have any concerns with the ways in which we’re proceeding, please let us know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our hope is to be as careful, loving, and safe as possible.