Dear Church Family:
I want to thank you for your support and your patience in the midst of the pandemic. You have shown (once again) what a vibrant, healthy church you are, and it is a privilege to serve as your pastor!
Our online worship services have improved over the last weeks, and I’d like to thank everyone who has made that happen. Sheila Freeman and many others have worked tirelessly to help us get to where we are now, and we have plans to make the online worship experience even better. We have learned that our online worship presence will need to continue grow and flourish as our church adapts to the changes around us.
So far, we have only had in-person worship on Tuesday nights for Mosaic, and on Thursday nights for Thursday Night Worship. In each service we have about 20-25, and everyone has practiced social distancing and has worn their masks. We have been reluctant to open our Celebration and Traditions services up because the crowds are larger, and because, until just recently, the Alabama Department of Public Health has had Etowah County as a “high risk” county for the spread of Covid-19.
The good news is that Etowah County has finally moved from “high risk” to “low risk,” and the numbers of positive cases have dropped significantly over the last month. More importantly, the rate of transmission has been below 1.0 since July 29 (a rate of transmission 1.0 or higher means the virus is spreading quickly). It appears that Alabama’s concerted efforts to wear masks and maintain social distancing are paying off, and we are thankful!
We will be opening our Celebration and Traditions services for in-person worship beginning Sunday, September 13. Here are some important things for you to keep in mind:
- Everyone will be expected to wear a mask and to maintain social distancing to the extent possible. Every other pew will be blocked off, and while you can sit together as families, we ask that you don’t “snuggle up” with others. (I know you will be happy to see each other so it won’t be easy!)
- Celebration will begin at 9:00 am, and will be in the sanctuary (instead of the gym) due to the arrangements we have to make to broadcast live.
- Traditions will begin at 11:00 am, and again will be in the sanctuary – this time with the opposite pews blocked off.
- We will ask everyone to remain seated during singing at both services to minimize the spread of respiratory droplets, and also because we will still be broadcasting each service live.
- In Traditions, we will not have our usual choir. Anthems will be done by soloists or small ensembles. (Again, we are trying to be cautious at this time).
- Words will be on the screens for worship songs in both services. We will not use hymnals or attendance pads and we will not hand out paper bulletins and newsletters in order to minimize points of common contact.
- Offering plates will be placed at stationary places in the sanctuary, and a locked wooden box for offerings will be located near the entrance of the church offices. Folks can drop off their offering there before or after worship if they wish. We will not be “passing the plates” in order to minimize common contact.
- When we dismiss from worship services, we will ask everyone to stand for a benediction, then exit a row at a time, as directed by ushers (like you would after a wedding). This way, we can avoid a “bottleneck” situation at our doors.
What about children’s church and the nursery? We will have nursery and children’s church at the usual times. We will take every precaution we know to take – volunteers will be masked, and children will play outside when the weather cooperates. Rooms will be cleaned between services. Children will social distance and wear masks to the extent possible.
What about Sunday School? For now, we will not have in-person Sunday School. We are taking this step-by-step, and we need the time between services to be able to clean and get ready for the next worship service. Some classes are meeting online now, and may wish to continue doing so.
What about Holy Communion? We are still reviewing safe practices for serving communion, and again – we are taking this step-by-step. So, for now, Holy Communion will continue to be served “drive-thru” from 5:00 – 7:00 pm on the first Sunday of each month at the portico. As we are able to make changes we will let everybody know.
Some of you are ready to come back to in-person worship, and maybe you have been for some time. Great! We look forward to seeing you. Others will not want to return at this time because of just not wanting to take that risk due to their own health concerns. We totally understand! We will continue to do our very best to make our online worship experience meaningful and uplifting.
Please keep in mind that when we come back, things will feel different. Expecting things to be back to the way they were pre-pandemic is unrealistic. We won’t be able to hug and shake hands…we will have masks on…elements of worship that we’ve grown accustomed to will have changed. Still – the heart of worship is connecting with God and each other, and praising God and receiving spiritual nourishment. We will continue to be true to the heart of worship, and we will adjust as we need to.
One last thing - we will still be asking that only staff enter the church offices at this time. Thank you again for your patience!
Last week in my daily devotion, I read the words that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, and I thought they might be good for us to hear:We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.
(2 Cor. 4: 8-9 CEB)
The Church is still the Church, and God is still God!
Grace and peace,