Dear Oakhurst UM Congregation
I believe that you must be wondering how and when our church will reopen for in-person gatherings. On behalf of the Transition Team we have put together this Q & A sheet and phased reopening plan to answer most questions.
When will in-person gatherings resume?
As soon as possible. The Oakhurst Transition Team has been appointed by the Church Council to determine when and how to reopen for in person gatherings. The guidance we have received from our Annual Conference is to err on the side of caution, following John Wesley’s guidance to “Do no harm.” Our phased approach to opening lines up with the phases that have been laid out by the government’s CDC recommendations, and those hinge on the health of our community. Due to the unique conditions of worship (sitting in close proximity to each other for an hour or more and singing) we have to be more cautious about how we reopen than a supermarket or post office. We will only advance through these phases as Pinellas County meets the government’s benchmarks to continue reopening. One of the most important of these benchmarks is a decline in the number of new cases in Pinellas for 14 days in a row.
What will regular activities look like?
While we expect our in-person gatherings to feel the same when we reach Phase 4, like the rest of society, we expect that the way we will need to interact with each other will look a little different, at least for a while. We know that everyone desires to come back as quickly as possible, with the consensus that we have taken appropriate precautions to keep everyone as safe as possible. During Phase Two and Phase Three of our reopening plan we’re going to continue to modify the parts of our services that required physical contact before (such as passing offering plates and greeting each other with handshakes), and we’re doing everything we can to keep our facilities clean and safe. Here is what we know so far:
- Everyone present for worship will be required to wear a mask while on campus. The church will provide cloth masks for all of our members and regular attendees, and paper masks for our guests.
- Hand sanitizer will be available for your use at every entrance.
- Offering plates, baskets, etc. will not be passed in pews or at tables but will be put out in the back of the worship space by the doors.
- Hymnals, Bibles and attendance pads will be removed
- Attendance will be taken online register on our church app
- Passing of the peace and hand shaking are out for now; instead we will greet each other with a smile and wave, or and air hug
- There will be a reservation system with assigned seating.
- There will not be a choir - there may be soloists or musicians
- There will be no congregational singing
- The clergy will not be in robes
What is the Transition Team still working on?
We are working on getting answers to a number of questions such as:
- What is the maximum number of worshipers we can have in our worship spaces?
- How can we arrange chairs and tables to maximize numbers and reduce exposure?
- Should we have shorter services and more of them to increase the number of people who can worship on Sunday?
- If everyone present is wearing a mask and someone who is infectious but wearing a mask is in worship how likely is it that another worshiper will become infected?
What about regular yearly events?
As we enter into Phase 3 our events will resume with appropriate social distancing, but events like the musical review will have to wait until we enter Phase 4.
Even if you see more face masks (and a lot more hand sanitizer), when we gather together again in-person, we hope it will feel like coming home.
From Pastor Tim, on behalf of the Transition Team