A letter from Fr. Ron Baird about precautions St. Andrew’s will be taking as we resume in-person worship services.
This coming weekend, June 20-21, will be the first time in more than three months that we’ve gathered in person to worship together as the Body of Christ. It’s going to look a little different than normal, as we’ve taken a number of actions in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic to help assure your health and safety, which is of utmost importance to us.
The decision to resume in-person services now was made with much prayer, research, and discussion about how we can safely do so. Your Vestry and I, along with the rest of the staff, have been diligent in keeping up to date with recommendations from public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Ohio Department of Health, as to best practices for churches resuming services. Our re-opening plan reflects those best practices.
Even so, we know that some of you won’t feel comfortable joining us yet. And while we’ll miss those of you who plan to continue worshiping from home via livestream, we understand. Whether you are in an at-risk group yourself, wish to protect family members who are, or simply aren’t ready to be in a larger group of people, we respect and support your decision. We have some options for you that we’ll outline later in this email that we hope will help you feel connected to the Body in worship, specifically in the act of Holy Communion.
Changes to our physical space
For those of you who will be joining us at the church, here are some of the physical changes you’ll see:
- We’ve removed all but 60 chairs from the worship area to adhere as closely as possible to the CDC’s six-foot social distancing recommendation, and we encourage you to observe social distancing by sitting in family groups. Chairs will not be hooked together, which will allow them to be moved as needed to accommodate family size.
- We’ve removed all prayer books and hymnals, and will not be providing paper copies of the bulletin or newsletter. This will minimize the possibility of germs being spread by multiple people handling these items.
- The order of service will be on the screens, as always, and we’ll continue to provide the service leaflet online for those worshiping from home. With activity at the church picking up, we’ll be returning to a more familiar version of “The Net,” which will continue to be posted online, with a link provided via email.
- Rather than passing the offering baskets, they’ll be on either side of the doors at the back of the church. You may place your offering in one of the baskets as you enter or leave.
We’re so grateful to those of you who have continued to give—online or by mailing in a check—while we’ve been apart. If you’ve been giving online and wish to continue doing so, we invite you to consider checking the “Cover the Fees” option on the giving portal so that more of your gift goes to the church. Processing fees are 2.70% for debit and credit cards, and just 0.85% for ACH bank withdrawals. While that might not seem like a lot, it does add up over time and adds to the church’s budget. Processing fees are tax-deductible for the giver, just as your regular gifts to the church are.
- We’ve set up touchless hand sanitizing stations right inside the front doors, which we encourage you to use as you enter the church, and as you leave. We’ve also equipped the restrooms with touchless soap dispensers, as well as more sanitary towel dispensers.
- We’ve installed germ and virus killing ionization in the HVAC system.
- The “busy baskets” at the back of the church have been removed. Instead, we’ll be providing individual boxes supplied with paper, crayons, and other items for our children to use during the service. Each box will be marked with a child’s name, and only that child will use that box and the items in it. Our Children’s Ministry leaders will sanitize the boxes after services each week, using appropriate safety precautions.
- We’ve marked with tape those areas of the church that we’re asking you to refrain from entering for now. This includes the Gathering Area and kitchen, and all classrooms; only those authorized by the staff should be in those areas. This will allow us to focus our efforts on sanitizing the worship area and bathrooms in between and following services.
Changes to our worship practices
You’ll also see some changes in our worship practices for the immediate future, including the following:
- For Communion, we’ll be serving the bread only from a station centered in front of the altar. When you come up for Communion, we ask that you maintain a six-foot distance between family groups and/or individuals. The center aisle will be marked with tape as a visual cue.
- Because health experts say that coronavirus is easily spread through singing, we’ll be regretfully refraining from congregational singing for now. We will have music at both Sunday services, however.
- To comply with social distancing, we ask that you find ways to exchange The Peace with non-family members that don’t require contact. While not as intimate as handshakes and hugs, we’re sure that others will appreciate a wave, a bow, or some other expression of greeting shared from your seat.
- Our prayer teams will not be offering intercessory prayer during the services. If you have prayer requests, you may submit them through our website, standrewspolaris.org, email email@example.com, or call the parish office at 740-548-5112, ext. 1, and we’ll pass along your request to a member of the prayer team.
- At the end of the service, the congregation will be dismissed by row, beginning from the back of the church.
- We know that fellowship is an integral part of our church experience, but for now we won’t be having coffee hour. We encourage you to enjoy the company of your fellow parishioners after the service outside if you’re comfortable hanging around, and again we ask that you practice social distancing.
- We will not be offering Godly Play, youth Sunday School, or the Adult Forum this summer, and will re-evaluate closer to fall when we’ve had a chance to see where things stand from a public health perspective. We will continue to offer our Godly Play videos on YouTube each Sunday.
For the health and welfare of all
Here are some things that all of us can do to help keep one another safe and healthy:
- Wash your hands! According to the CDC, washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other viruses. Hand sanitizer is an effective alternative when soap and water are not readily available.
- We’ll be wearing masks, and encourage you to do the same! The CDC says face coverings are most essential when social distancing is difficult, and are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. We’ll have disposable masks available at the sanitizing stations if you forget yours.
- Observe social distancing. We’ve mentioned above the measures we’ve taken to promote the CDC’s six-foot social distancing recommendation, and ask that you be aware of your proximity to others. In particular, we ask that you respect signs indicating the areas of the church that we ask you to avoid. We also ask that no more than two people be in the bathrooms at one time.
- Stay home—for your health and the health of others—if you don’t feel well. We’ll be providing further information on the symptoms of Covid-19 in later emails and on posters at the church.
Three ways to worship with us
We know that none of the accommodations we’re making for worship are ideal. We look forward to resuming church as we know and love it, and pray for that day to come. In the meantime, our goal is to enable everyone in our parish family to join us for worship in some form, and in a way that is safe and comfortable for them. Here are some things we’re offering to help make that happen:
- Worship in person at the church. We’ve already outlined what members who chose to wo ship with us on site can expect in light of current conditions, and what we’re doing to minimize the spread of disease. If you are in one of the groups that the CDC has identified as being at higher risk for Covid-19, but still wish to attend church services in person, you may want to consider attending the 5 p.m. Saturday service. It’s been our least-attended service, and you’re likely to have less contact with others there. The 9 a.m. service has been our most attended service. If you normally attend that service but are open to coming on Saturday evening or at 11:15 a.m., we encourage you to do so. With seating limited by social distancing restrictions, that would help assure a place for all.
- Drive in for worship and Communion. While we’ll no longer be offering Communion in the parking lot on Sunday evenings, we are offering a way for those of you who’d like to come to the church for Communion—but aren’t quite ready to come inside—to do so.We’ll be reserving the first row of parking spaces in the center of the lot closest to the church (not the handicapped or visitor parking) for those of you who’d like to come to the church, watch the livestream on your mobile device from your car using the church’s WiFi, and receive Communion outside. When the priest comes out, please turn on your emergency flashers if you wish to receive, and the priest will bring the bread to your car. Please bring a cup or small bowl for the priest to put the wafers in.
- Watch via livestream, and have Communion brought to you. Beginning this Sunday, we’ll be livestreaming both the 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. services. If you plan to continue joining us via livestream, and wish to receive Communion, please let me know by replying to this email, or by calling me at 740-548-5112, ext. 2. I’ll then make arrangements to have Communion delivered to your door. You’ll be notified when it’s been delivered so that contact does not have to be made.Livestream viewers will be glad to know that we’ve recently installed microphones in the worship area, so you should have a better listening experience with more natural sound.