Congregation Letter - May 22, 2020: Resuming In-Person Worship
To the Members of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sugar Bush:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! (2 Cor. 1:2) It is with great joy that we write this letter to you. For the past two months, our congregation and congregations all around the world have been worshiping remotely and online due to COVID-19. At the time of this letter, state and county restrictions and declarations have been cancelled. Our church leadership met on the evening of Sunday May 17th to discuss what this would mean for us at Grace. We knew it would be wise to gather as much information as possible, consult with a number of people from our congregation and from others in our area, and then to prayerfully make what we think to be the best decisions right now for our congregation going forward.
Our main concern in all this, as it always has been, is caring for the spiritual well-being of the members of our church family. We as a church recognize that it would be irresponsible and not God-pleasing to recklessly rush back into a “normal” routine just because the governmental regulations have been removed. The danger for this virus may be less now, but it is still not gone. Throughout God’s Word, we are told to care for our brothers and sisters, look after them, and do nothing to harm them. To that end, our church leadership knew if we were to hold public worship services again, we would need to do so with appropriate caution and concern for our neighbors’ safety. Our worship would not be able to look exactly like it did before. Our members will be asked to follow a variety of rules for a time to ensure the comfort and safety (as much as possible!) of everyone who walks into our church for worship. After much discussion and prayer, the Grace Church Council made the decision that we will re-open our doors to public worship services beginning on the final weekend of May 2020.
Please read ALL of the following information carefully. It is imperative that we all follow these rules for the current time lest we endanger our brothers and sisters and cause a bigger problem in our community once again. We also have to understand that the situation involving COVID-19 is still a fluid situation; things can and do change rapidly. This list could quickly lessen or grow to meet any way the situation may change.
In service to Christ and to you, The Grace Lutheran Church Leadership
Our Plan to Re-Start Public Worship Services
·We are doing our best to follow any public health guidelines published by the CDC and any other local health organizations.
·Hand sanitizer will be available on site. Members are encouraged to use it as needed.
·Those who may have any symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend worship at this time.
·Those at high risk of serious illness are encouraged to stay home for the time being.
·Those who have symptoms of other illnesses are strongly encouraged to not attend worship until healthy again.
·Those who are uncomfortable returning to public worship at this time are encouraged to remain home without any sense of guilt for doing so.
·Anyone is welcome to wear a mask, but it is not required at this time.
·Everyone is expected to practice good hygiene and appropriate social distancing.
·If you do feel comfortable returning to worship, do so joyfully and with a smile—the past two months have been very challenging for everyone and we can all use a smile!
·Worship cannot and will not look “normal” for a while. The first few weeks back may be very different from what we’re used to. Thank you for being patient and willing to work with us as we try to keep everyone safe and healthy.
·We will have three worship services for a time to accommodate smaller numbers of people at a time. This will begin the weekend of May 30th and 31st.
- Saturday evening at 4pm
- Sunday morning at 8am and 10am (Summer Schedule service times)
·We are going to follow a 50 person limit per worship service. Our congregation regularly has guests in attendance. In order to make sure that can still happen, each worship service will be limited to 40 members of Grace.
·If we have already reached our attendance limit, you will be asked to come back for a later service. It’s not personal against you; we are holding to numbers for everyone’s safety.
·We will be doing our best to keep everything running smoothly, but we need your help. PLEASE fill out the electronic form on the church website BY FRIDAY AFTERNOON each weekend saying which service you will be attending that weekend. If you do not have a computer or have trouble with the form, please call the church office (715-752-4285) to speak with Pastor. When you say you will attend a specific service, please attend that one! Other services may already be full and unable to accommodate you. PLEASE DO NOT JUST SHOW UP TO WORSHIP. This is the best way we have right now to allow everyone to come to worship without creating chaos or being turned away from an already-full service and it will only work if everyone does it. Thank you in advance for your cooperation!
·If we find ourselves in need of more than three services, an additional one may be offered.
Before and After Worship
·Maintaining social distancing will be expected.
·There will be no handshaking before or after worship services.
·Outer doors will be propped open before and after worship to minimize contact with the door handles. Please only use the main entrance. The education doors will stay locked.
·We love seeing everyone talking and visiting. But for a time that cannot happen inside our building. If you feel comfortable enough to visit with someone, please do so outside.
·Bulletins may be handed to you by a greeter. The greeter will have properly cleaned hands.
·Please do not stop any longer than necessary when entering and exiting the church. We will be doing our best to avoid “traffic jams” so that safe distancing is maintained.
·One of the greatest blessings of belonging to a Lutheran church is our musical heritage. Sadly, for a time, we will be singing very minimally in church due to the increased chance of spreading illness by singing. For the first few weeks, we may sing no more than a hymn.
·All hymnals and supplements have been removed from the pews. Everything needed for the worship service will be in the worship folder.
·When you leave, please take your bulletin with you!!We cannot reuse it. Thank you!
·The offering will not be gathered during the worship service to avoid passing the plate. A podium with a slot has been placed in the back of the sanctuary. You may place your offering in the slot on your way in or out of worship. If you are not comfortable attending worship yet, you may continue mailing offerings to the church.
·High contact surfaces (pews, door handles, etc.) will be disinfected after every worship service. A deeper cleaning will be done at the end of each weekend.
·Most of the church building will be closed off. We strongly encourage you to honor this as much as possible to cut down on the places which need to be cleaned.
· As much as possible, please only use the bathroom at the back of the sanctuary and only in emergencies. We understand this may not be possible, but still ask for your effort.
·Every other pew will be blocked off. This is to help maintain safe distancing. Please do not insist on sitting in “your pew.” We encourage you to sit where there is room and to do so in a way that allows everyone coming to the service to fit. Households will be seated together. When sitting in the same pew as someone outside your household, we will still need to maintain safe distancing. An usher will be on hand to guide and assist as needed.
·Holy Communion will be offered at every service the first weekend back.
·We have yet to determine how often communion will be offered. If you are unable to attend a worship service or for any reason feel uncomfortable communing during the service, please speak with Pastor Rodrigue to set up a time and way to commune privately.
·Pastor Rodrigue will be the only person interacting with the elements and will take the time to clean his hands before each celebration of the sacrament.
·More specific communion instructions will be given during the worship service. It will be very important that we all follow them carefully. We have spent the past two months longing for the sacrament. Please do your part to keep it as safe as possible for everyone.
·If you are not comfortable returning to worship yet, please let Pastor Rodrigue know! He will do his best to make sure there is still a way for you to worship in your home. Call the Church Office (715-752-4285) or Send an e-mail: email@example.com
·No other regular church activities are resuming at this time. No groups will meet except the church council until further notice. Sunday School and Sunday Bible Class are on the Summer Schedule now, so they will not resume until the fall. Thursday Bible Class will not resume until it is safe to do so. SCRIP may be available, but not in the church building.
·Thank you for your prayers, your patience, and your understanding. Hope to see you soon!