Dear Ocala First Church Family,
Grace and Peace to you! In our last update on June 3, we shared that one of our staff members tested positive for Covid-19. Thankfully, all other staff have tested negative. We have completed our 14-day self-quarantine and are doing fine. The infected staff member has completed quarantine and all recommended steps, and will return to work on a limited basis this coming week. We are grateful, but also mindful of the painful reality of this pandemic.
Our Church Council has met twice in June to consider the appropriate steps in re-launching our in-person ministries. Our priority continues to be the health and safety of our most vulnerable members, a core value at the heart of what it means to be the church. We have moved cautiously but deliberately over the past month to establish a timeline and the guidelines that will allow us to gather in person safely.
Our plan is to open our facilities for worship on August 2.
Our team will continue to monitor the recent dramatic increase in cases in Florida. If that trend continues throughout the summer, we will reevaluate this date. The clear scientific consensus indicates that large, indoor gatherings are a high risk activity. Therefore, all church activities will require the wearing of masks, social distancing, no singing, among other requirements outlined by the CDC, until a vaccine is widely available.
We are in this for the long haul.
We have posted some of the resources we are using in our discernment on our website, along with the latest guidance from our Annual Conference Office.
A few additional notes:
- Online worship and our Cox 21 broadcast will continue uninterrupted. Even after our church campus is re-opened, we encourage members to continue worshiping online at home, especially if you are in a higher health risk category, have traveled recently, or are not feeling well.
- In-Person worship services will be limited to 30 minutes. Extended time in large groups, even with masks and social distancing, increases the risk of exposure. Wearing a mask for extended periods can be increasingly uncomfortable. We will plan worship to make the most of our time together!
- We will offer worship outdoors. We will share the schedule and guidelines later this summer.
- We will offer Holy Communion at all services. We will share details later so you can be prepared.
- Some initial research suggests children may not spread the virus in the same way adults do. As more studies are completed, we will evaluate if different guidelines might be in place for those ministries.
- Other church groups and ministries may begin meeting on-campus after August 2. Because of the requirements of masks and social distancing, all gatherings will need to be coordinated through the church office to ensure the appropriate space is available and prepared. We encourage all groups to meet via Zoom video conferencing when possible. We can provide the technical assistance necessary for your group to connect online.
As we have said throughout this pandemic, Ocala First is not closed, only our physical campus. As we move into the fall, our ministries will look new and different. We will gather in-person less often, but share more resources for growing in our faith at home and online. We will be limited in the ways we physically serve the needs of our community, but will provide many opportunities to give generously of our time, talents and material resources. Our mission of making, growing and service as disciples of Jesus Christ endures! Our focus remains being Christ-Centered, Connected-Together and making a Community-Impact!
We also encourage you to continue your financial support of our congregation. (
Our staff have been working diligently under difficult circumstances to serve our church in creative ways. While our program expenses have been reduced, we have had to increase our investment in technology to meet the needs of our congregation and community more faithfully and effectively. We have needed new cameras, new computers, and new software. We are exploring further investments in new discipleship resources that you can use at home with your families. In the past, we would have phased in these upgrades over a year or more. Adapting to our current reality has required this investment over a matter of weeks.
One final note, we will be taking a family vacation from June 29 - July 13. With Michael out of school for the summer, and the uncertainty of what the fall will bring, we wanted to take the time together while we can. Online worship will continue as scheduled on July 5 and July 12. Please call the church office with any pastoral needs you may have during that time.
We love you! We miss you! We are praying for you!
Pastors Anne and David Fuquay