A Few Guidelines for a Safe Return to Indoor Worship
STARTING JUNE 20, 2021
We rejoice over the CDC’s new guidelines and at what they mean for us all—that vaccines work, that vaccinated people can do more safely, and that the pandemic’s end is in sight. We thank God for this good news and for the hope and relief it brings. We also give thanks for the intellectual gifts God gave scientists to get us to this point and for the selfless sharing of those gifts with the rest of us! Jesus constantly aligned himself with the most vulnerable—widows, women, children, the blind, the sick, the outcast, and the poor. We will follow Christ’s lead by loving all our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable among us. Such members deserve the highest care and protection of the community, and all deserve to see the example of faithful people expressing the love of Christ in following sensible precautions. In our excitement at good news for the vaccinated, let us not commit the sin of overlooking parts of the body. Hastily implemented practices can exclude “the least of these” and threaten their health. The vulnerable among us should not be expected to bear the burden of others’ unwillingness to be vaccinated or follow COVID-safe policies.
As Salem Presbytery’s COVID Task force writes, “First, let us embrace the better angels of our nature and extend grace upon grace to our Christian communities (composed of both vaccinated and unvaccinated people). We should proceed from a position of a covenant - the idea of promises and commitments between members of a community. This is the actionable essence of loving God and caring for our neighbors.” Therefore, so that we can return to worshipping together in the sanctuary, the Session asks that we covenant the following:
Perform a self-health analysis. Each person who plans to attend worship is asked to perform a self-health analysis prior to leaving the house. If you are sick or believe to have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past 14 days, you are asked to remain at home.
Entry into Church. Worship access will be made available only through the Dogwood Lobby and main Sanctuary doors. The side doors near the main office will not be unlocked, and it is requested that even if you have keycard access to refrain from using it on Sunday mornings. This will allow church staff and officials to keep better track of those in attendance for the purpose of contact tracing.
Wear a mask in the building. We are a congregation that places utmost importance upon visitors and on our young people who have not yet had the opportunity to have the vaccine. While the state has lifted its mask mandates for those that are fully vaccinated, there are others that remain vulnerable to the virus. Thus, we will maintain masking requirements for worship as a part of a covenant amongst members and as an embodiment of neighborly love. Wearing a mask extends grace to those who remain unvaccinated. It also avoids the risk of judgmental or discriminatory behavior. And for families who have young children who may not yet be eligible for vaccination, it is an act of solidarity in keeping the youngest of our community safe and well. It is the welcoming and right thing to do. Further, wearing masks can allow all in worship to return to singing and congregational participation by containing a substantial portion of the droplets and aerosolized particles exhaled. Therefore, we will take a unified approach, setting a good example for our kids and remaining welcoming and hospitable to all who enter Fellowship Presbyterian Church by all wearing a facial covering over both mouth and nose while in the building. Masks will be available for those who do not have one. It is asked the socializing take place out on the front patio and drive.
Reduce physical contact. We will start out by sitting in family units, at least three feet apart. Our greeters and ushers will provide a bulletin and communion elements (when applicable); the bulletin will still be available online and can be scanned to be viewed on your phone. All elements of worship will be included in the bulletin – neither hymnals nor bibles will be in the pews. Ushers will help you find a seat. Please plan to be patient when you arrive as ushers are instructed to assist people with finding seating in a way to allow for proper social distancing. We will continue to pass the peace in a no-contact way; offering plates will be available at the doors as you enter and exit the sanctuary. Sanitizing stations will be available in the Dogwood Lobby and Narthex. Doors will remain open to the outside to provide better opportunity for circulation.
Young people are welcome in the Sanctuary. We will not have nursery service or activities for children during the worship hour. However, there will be a space made available for parents with young children who would like to excuse themselves from the sanctuary space.
Worship online. We will continue to stream our worship services on Facebook Live and Zoom. This is a good way to remain connected for those in high-risk groups who have not yet been vaccinated or worshipping with us out-of-town.
Get vaccinated. The vaccines, now available to everyone over the age of 12, have proven to be safe and effective. We encourage members of our church family to take a leading role in building up the common good by helping end this pandemic. Learn more about the Covid-19 vaccine at vaccines.gov.
Please note: Indoor Worship will begin on June 20.
A Few Guidelines for During the Week
Effective May 26, 2021
No limits on group size. The governor has lifted the numbers for mass gatherings to 100 indoors and 200 outdoors. Therefore, FPC will no longer restrict group gatherings to 25 or less.
Perform a health self-analysis. Each person who plans to attend worship is asked to perform a self-health analysis prior to leaving the house. If you are sick or believe to have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past 14 days, you are asked to remain at home.
Check-in process. The doors at the main office will be the only point of entry and excess. It is still asked that all who come into the building sign in so that contact tracing can take place. However, temperature checks will no longer be necessary.
Masks no longer required*. As per CDC guidance, those who are fully vaccinated** no longer need to wear a mask in the building.
Hand sanitizing stations are available throughout the building.
Weekday Guidelines effective immediately.
*Outside groups can choose to mask and mandate that for their own group; however, it is not required by the church for outside groups to wear masks if fully vaccinated per CDC guidelines.
**Definition of fully vaccinated - 2 full weeks after second doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Words adapted from Fairlawn Presbyterian Church (Fairlawn, VA), Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (Brooklyn Park, MN), First Presbyterian Church (Owensboro, KY), and Salem Presbytery
Pastor Kathryn, Session, and the Getting Back to Normal Task Force