As we navigate this fluid situation of quarantining and now reopening, advice and opinions vary across the board. As a church, we have limited those in worship and moved to live-streaming to continue, as much as possible, some kind of normal worship life.
Governor Greg Abbott gave a press conference on April 28 in between the time I wrote my weekly email and actually remembered to hit the “Send” button. At that point I suggested nothing would change for May. But given what he said, I may backtrack on that just a bit. He suggested a two-week period of retail, restaurants, and theaters opening at 25% capacity, and, assuming no significant outbreaks as a result, a 50% capacity goal for mid-May.
I was asked what we might do given those allowances, so I want to lay out a plan for us. Even with our normal attendance, we can gather at 25% capacity. That is, if our church holds about 300 folks and we have about 65 on average, we are at about 25% capacity on a normal Sunday. I suspect not all of our members will feel safe attending, so I think we would be well below that threshold. So I would say, in general, if you feel safe in attending on Sunday and beyond, feel free to do so. We won’t have a “full” service just yet and we may be wearing masks, but at least we can be in the same room.
For both practical and theological reasons, we will continue to take some precautions. Here is a link to the state’s recommendations. We will do or recommend the following:
- Maintain social distancing in the nave
- Not yet serve communion
- Pass the peace with friendly smiles
- Allow worshippers to grab their own bulletin
- When we begin singing hymns again and using the LBWs, we will provide a pre-sanitized LBW for you and keep a stack of LBWs in the narthex
- Wipe down commonly touched items like doorknobs, etc.
- Following the advice and standards for church gatherings, masks are recommended but not mandatory
- The Monday Night Bible Study and Sunday school will be on Zoom through May and maybe beyond
- The services will continue to be viewable on YouTube Live indefinitely
A few more details:
We will not yet add our new 9:00 service and we will not yet gather in person for Sunday school. I will continue to teach that class via Zoom, but I will now begin that class at 9:45 so that it will end at 10:30, and any who want to show up for worship in person can drive to church between 10:30 and 11:00. I don’t think we can achieve 25% capacity in the Parish Hall and share food just yet.
Our first “Ask Me Anything” Bible study via Zoom on Monday night was fun. My plan would be to continue it with that format through May for sure and maybe beyond. Some who joined us on Zoom would likely not be able to join in person, so maybe that will become a combination of in-person and Zoom in the future as well. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to send them in. I spent some of Monday morning doing some fun research to find answers!
If the state moves to a 50% threshold capacity and beyond, then I would propose that we would host Sunday School at the normal hour beginning in June. I would like to let those last few weeks of May pass before we look at Communion again. But if all goes well, then June 7 seems to be a reasonable goal for our usual worship services resuming again with Sunday School gatherings as before and Communion during the service.
More could be said, but that is our plan for now. I hope to see you soon as you feel safe and as things return to normal.