Pastor Clay Provides Details, Q/A Based on Survey Results
As we look toward another month of COVID life, Jesus’ words of “love your neighbor” continue to ring in my ears. While I do not interact with my physical neighbors in the same ways I used to, the command is just as true and I am trying to figure out how to live well into it. In a similar way, these words help guide our church as we make decisions about worship and gathering.
I appreciate the many of you who replied to our most recent survey about worship. Along with health recommendations from local officials, medical experts, and the CDC, your input helped us discern our next steps. During the month of November, weather permitting, we will worship outside at 11 a.m. in our parking lot.
About half of you indicated in the survey that you preferred outdoor worship at this time. About a quarter preferred online worship and about a quarter preferred indoor worship. Your responses indicated that many of the people worshipping outdoors are not yet comfortable coming into the building, but those who prefer indoor worship are still comfortable attending outdoor worship. Therefore, outdoor worship is the most inclusive option that will allow the largest number of worshippers to participate.
A number of questions were lifted up in the comments section, so I figured I’d try to answer as many as possible here. As always, feel free to email me ([email protected]) or call me (972.315.5225) with further questions.
Is there an inclement weather plan?
In the case of inclement weather, we will move the worship service indoors at 11 a.m. Our COVID-19 Task Force has taken many measures to ensure this experience will be as safe as possible. Socially distanced, our sanctuary can only hold about 70 people, but according to the survey and the lower-than-normal attendance on rainy days, we should be able to accommodate everyone who wishes to worship with us if we have bad weather. A text, email, and website notice will inform the congregation.
Why will the worship time shift to 11 a.m.?
We hope that this time will work a little better for those who like to have longer devotions with St. Mattress on Sunday mornings. Similarly, as the weather cools, the later time will hopefully bring more comfortable weather. If the sun is a concern, please feel free to bring an umbrella for shade.
Why do we wear face masks outdoors? Aren’t we distanced correctly?
The CDC has indicated that if we can be at least 10 feet apart while singing outdoors, we should be ok. However, not all of those who are worshipping outdoors are comfortable with that yet. For some in our congregation, worship on Sunday morning is the only time they leave the house. Remember, masks protect others from your aerosols. Masks add an extra layer of protection for those who are most vulnerable in our congregation. Let’s wear a mask for them to ensure they are comfortable and safe. If we err, we err on the side of loving and protecting our neighbor.
Why can’t we sing or hum with a face mask indoors?
A number of studies and the CDC show that singing produces aerosols that project much further than the six-foot of distance between us. Similarly, the length of exposure also adds to the risk of catching COVID-19. Producing a large number of aerosols, followed by sitting in the same room for a length of time, poses a greater risk. While masks do help reduce aerosols, not all face coverings are created equal and research is showing that the thinnest of them are not effective at reducing aerosols. Our ushers and greeters are not equipped to monitor the types of face coverings people wear. It’s for these reasons that Bishop Mike McKee has told congregations to postpone congregational singing until further notice.
We can go into other buildings, why not the church?
The church has been open each Sunday after worship for prayer. If you need a different time to pray in the sanctuary, we can certainly open it up for you. Throughout COVID, we’ve made lunches for The Salvation Army, created Vacation Bible Camp kits for CCA, sorted items for teacher appreciation, and helped people in need of assistance. The church is open. If you need to talk in person, I’d be happy to join you on the porch of the church. On Sundays, though, what is certainly different than strolling through Target is that during worship, we are seated in one place for an extended period of time, therefore increasing exposure. When the congregation feels ready to take that step to worship inside the building, I do believe that the COVID-19 Task Force has created a plan to keep us as safe as possible.
Why not have one indoor service and one outdoor service?
From the survey results, it looks as though we would have about 10-25 people attend an indoor worship service (and this is assuming those people are happy not singing and coming at 8:45). The size of the service would lend itself toward a more prayerful/contemplative service. We are happy to provide that when need be, but the service many of us want indoors is not yet possible, especially when the majority of our congregation still wants to worship outside.
Mobility is an issue for me. Is there some help available?
Yes! There is parking upfront for you! Please feel free to pull your vehicle up closer so that you don’t have to walk as far. If hauling your chair is difficult, please wave at an usher to help carry your chair. If you’d like, you can leave your chair in the parking lot after worship. All chairs that are left behind will be stored in a portable and put back out the next Sunday.
Why are we having a blended service?
At this time, a third or so of our congregation worships online in lieu of outdoor worship. We know there is excitement and energy in larger groups, even if we sing a song or two that isn’t exactly our preferred style. The blended service won’t last forever, but in the meantime, we’ve heard numerous people share that they’ve appreciated getting to know people who typically attended a different service.
When we are indoors for worship will the number of attendees be limited?
Yes, with social distancing, we can seat roughly 70 people. This number is fluid because we must leave three chairs between each person or group. When we return to in-person worship, we will have an RSVP or reservation system. This will likely allow people to “overflow” to an earlier service time but they’ll be making this decision earlier in the week so that they can prepare. We will work to ensure that there is room for unregistered guests and we have a list of people who have volunteered to step out of the sanctuary should we max out our estimated guest number.
Has the filtration system been beefed up to accommodate indoor worship?
We have changed out and improved the air filters in the sanctuary. We have added an air filter in the media room and in the nursery (for when it reopens). Research shows this is not the ultimate solution, but hopefully it is one extra layer of precaution.
If you’ve made it this far through the Q&A, your head is likely spinning. There are a lot of factors that go into making decisions we never thought we’d have to make. I am grateful for the COVID-19 Task Force and for the staff and volunteers who continue to be flexible as we strive to find the safest and most inclusive ways to build life-giving relationships with God, with each other, and with our community.