A Message from Ellen
July 8, 2020
July 8, 2020
Q.1 When will we be allowed to come back to church!?
A.1. I wish I knew!
As I write this, SC (and Richland County in particular) is still experiencing what DHEC calls “widespread transmission” of the COVID-19 virus. And, the number of infections in the zip codes surrounding our physical church building continue to be very high. The Staff, Elders, and Leadership Team of the Board of Deacons have spent much time in the last months figuring out how we might take the first steps towards re-opening our congregational activities.
Currently, the church and office are essentially closed, except for essential business. If you need to see a staff person, we ask that you make an appointment. And we have scheduled staff to answer the phones during the week from 8:30-1pm each day. This will continue unless a staff person is diagnosed or has a primary exposure to the virus. Of course, staff are able to work remotely and are always available by email. We have been allowing meetings of small groups (10 or fewer folks) as long as basic safety protocols are followed (masks, physical distancing, etc.), but only the worship leaders have been in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. We have also been experimenting with drive-in worship and will be doing that again and holding two drive-in hymn sings on Wednesdays in July (stay tuned for details).
The next steps, which we have called “Stage 2”, will allow for groups of 50 or fewer folks to gather, as long as physical distance is kept and masks are worn. We defined protocols that will be sent out to anyone who registers to attend worship, asking those who come to abide by the regulations. We made decisions, based on what we know now, about what we could and could not do. For example, based on the research and recommendation of Dr. Beth Mears, we will not allow congregational or choral singing in worship for now, as singing (even with masks on) is a potential “super-spreader” activity. And Andrea Paschal and the Education Ministry is carefully keeping up with the flood of research about keeping children safe before reopening our nurseries and children’s Sunday school classes. The reality is that we have made a plan, even though there is much we do not yet know about COVID-19. At the Session Meeting on June 28th, Session approved that plan. But they also declined to set a date to implement those plans to reopen.
They did ask that the Staff send out a congregational survey to ask you both what you would like to see happen and how you feel about coming back to worship in person. Please keep an eye out on your email for that survey and answer it quickly when you get it. And if you do not use an email to receive church news, then PLEASE call the church office during the hours of 8:30-1 during the week when staff are scheduled to be present. We would like to know how you feel.
In the meantime, please make prayer a routine part of your daily schedule (if it isn’t already). And in those prayers, make time to pray for those who make decisions, as well as those who pay the costs and/or reap the benefits of those decisions. May God know us to be a faithful, wise, courageous and loving Church – spread throughout this city so that others may be blessed by us. I covet your prayers.
Love, Peace and Grace,
Ellen F. Skidmore