June 1, 2020Dear Church Family –
The last three months have been difficult and challenging, as we have all tried to pull together to slow the spread of a pandemic. I’m so proud of how our church staff and lay leadership have adapted and improvised to continue providing worship experiences, discipleship and Bible study, and community missions…despite being under quarantine, and not being able to gather together. I’m also very proud of the way that you have supported your church with your prayers and your giving. Please keep it up!
We love our congregation, and we want to keep everyone safe to the extent possible! This is why we are being cautious about reinstating in-person worship. The North Alabama Conference has given churches guidelines about reopening our church buildings, and if you’d like to read all the guidelines, you can go to the NAC website (umcna.org) and look for the document entitled, “Do No Harm.” In this document, churches are encouraged to follow a gradual “phase in” of activities. At Gadsden FUMC, we will be taking a gradual “phase in” approach, though it won’t look exactly like the NAC guidelines.Our gradual reopening will begin in June. Early Learning Center
On Tuesday, June 2, our Early Learning Center will open for its Summer School session under strict Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. The Summer 2020 session will run from June 2 – July 23. It will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays (instead of Tuesdays and Wednesdays) to give time for deep cleaning and “mist” sanitizing of rooms Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. Arrival and dismissal procedures will change, and will include taking students’ temperatures before they are escorted inside to their classrooms. Again, our ELC is following strict guidelines, and all parents and teachers have agreed to the new procedures.Clothes Closet
On Wednesday, June 3, our Clothes Closet will open. Only five shoppers will be allowed in at a time, and will be required to wear masks as they shop. (We will provide masks for those who don’t have them) Shoppers waiting to enter the store will be asked to maintain social distancing while waiting on the sidewalks. Our goal is to be a blessing to the community, and at the same time protect our workers and the shoppers. Ladle of Love
Our Ladle of Love will continue to serve to-go meals from the portico throughout the Summer, just as they have been doing since March. Again, we want to serve the community, while protecting our workers and those who need a meal.In-Person Worship
On Thursday, June 11, we will begin phasing in our in-person worship by opening up our Thursday night 5:30 pm worship service. FOR THE MONTH OF JUNE, ALL OTHER WORSHIP SERVICES WILL BE OFFERED ON-LINE ONLY.
Why only in-person worship on Thursday night to start? We are doing this way for several reasons. There are fewer worshipers on Thursday nights, making social distancing easier. There is no singing on Thursday nights, which eliminates one of the fastest ways to potentially spread the virus. Thursday night services are shorter, from 5:30 – 6:00, and are already used to limiting contact surfaces (we never “pass the plates” on Thursday nights). It’s a way to phase in re-opening our buildings for worship gradually, learning as we go.
What about our other services – Celebration, Traditions, and Mosaic? Depending on the data (which we look at regularly on Bamatracker.com), we will phase in re-opening our other services starting in July. Our decisions will be based on our best discernment and on the best data that we have available. We will do our best to follow what our Bishop, governmental and medical authorities say is appropriate.
Your input is important to us! An email survey was sent out last week, and many of you have responded. Some are ready to resume in-person worship. Some have said they plan to wait a while before returning. Because we want everyone to be safe, we urge people who are at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19 to continue worshiping online only and not gather in crowds. This includes people 65 and older, or anyone with underlying health conditions such as chronic lung disease, asthma, heart conditions, those who are immunocompromised, those with diabetes, severe obesity, chronic kidney disease, or liver disease (these are CDC guidelines).Online Worship
We will continue online worship (even when we open back up for in-person worship) for those who don’t feel safe about returning to gatherings, and also for new people whom we are reaching through this ministry. Plans are in the works to make the online worship experience better – better audio and better picture quality. As we strive to improve the online worship experience, we will need more volunteers. Pray about it, and help if you can. Protection Plan
As we phase back in our in-person worship, we will include the following efforts to help prevent anyone from contracting or spreading Covid-19:
- Increased cleaning – All contact areas will continue to be cleaned weekly. In addition to our normal cleaning, “mist” sanitizing by Buckets & Belles cleaning company will be done on all contact areas each week. The mist that is sprayed kills the virus, and will dry without leaving a residue.
- Minimized contact area touches – This includes doors propped open or opened by greeters – water fountains turned off – offering plates/baskets will not be passed (instead placed by exits) – no coffee or snack areas – no hymnals, pew Bibles, or attendance pads – no bulletins (order of service and words to songs on screen), no Holy Communion will be served until distancing restrictions are lifted.
- Social distancing – This means sitting at least 6 feet apart from those who don’t live in your household – dismissing by rows (like you would be dismissed at the end of a wedding) – no choir (soloist or small ensembles rather than choir) – limiting our physical contact (such as shaking hands, hugging).
- Personal protection – Everyone is asked to wear a mask – (masks will be provided for those who forget). Also, hand sanitizer stations will be set up in church.
- Protocol if someone gets sick - If we find that someone who attended one of our services comes down with Covid-19, we will contact everyone who attended the same service and advise them to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days. Every area that the infected person came in contact with will then be re-sanitized.
Reestablishing in-person worship with all the measures listed above will mean a different worship experience. It just won’t feel the same for a while. We all wish it could be different. We miss being with each other; at the same time, we want to protect our families.
GFUMC wants you to know that you are a part of the GFUMC family, and we love you! Whether you choose to attend one of our in-person services, or whether you stay at home, you are a part of a vital connection! Pray for your GFUMC ministry team and lay leadership as we try to move forward wisely! Also, join us in praying for the health and well-being of our all our church and our community, and that a vaccine will be developed soon.
Grace and peace,