FACTS AND FEELINGS ABOUT GATHERING TOGETHER FOR WORSHIP
We are all eager to come together to worship again. We miss seeing you. As we come back, we must be wise about how we gather as a church family. Our feelings about returning to in-person worship under the current COVID-19 circumstances must be informed by certain facts that will affect how and when we gather again for worship on our campus. Our Reopening Task Force is taking into consideration the following FACTS. We want to hear your feelings informed by the facts on gathering again for worship.
F - Following Authorities
As Christians, we are commanded to follow authorities (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; Titus 3:1). President Trump, Governor Kemp, and other authorities have issued orders and guidelines for reopening our country and gathering again in large groups. We want to respect and honor our authorities when making the decision about in-person worship on our campus. These orders and guidelines provide specific criteria to consider regarding continued sheltering in place for many of our members and physical distancing measures for large group gatherings. The authorities have identified the following factors, among others, that we should be mindful of in deciding when and how to gather again for worship.
A- Age Considerations
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus are those 65 years of age and above. Governor Kemp recently extended the state of emergency shelter in place order for the vulnerable until June 12 and has asked churches to comply with the distancing protocols in place by the CDC. A significant number of our members are within this vulnerable group. Additionally, many of our volunteers, including greeters and ushers, fall into the vulnerable category. When we return to in-person worship, these areas of service will need to be filled by other members who are not in the vulnerable category. Another age consideration concerns families with young children because such children do not practice social distancing from other children or their caregivers, which could place them at a higher risk of contracting and transmitting the virus.
C- Chronic Conditions
In addition to age considerations, the CDC says:
Individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy should avoid gathering in large groups until later, and when they do gather, should maintain strict social distancing until this pandemic has passed. The social distancing guidelines are adjusted according to three different phases provided in guidance from the White House and the CDC.
T- Three Phases
On May 1, President Trump implemented Phase 1 of a three-phase gaited response for “reopening America.” Further, as previously noted, Governor Kemp has extended the state of Georgia, a shelter in place order until June 12, which means no more than 10 people can be gathered. The following is consistent with President Trump and the CDC’s “Gaiting Criteria” that follows three phases. Below is a breakdown of the three phases:
- ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to shelter in place.
- Limit Social settings to no more than 10 people.
- LARGE VENUES: strict physical distancing protocols.
- ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to shelter in
- Limit Social settings to no more than 50 people.
- LARGE VENUES: moderate physical distancing protocols.
- VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS can resume public interactions,
- LOW-RISK POPULATIONS should consider minimizing the time spent in crowded environments.
- LARGE VENUES: limited physical distancing protocols.
The movement from one phase to the next is contingent on developments during each step of the tiered reopening. Each tier will be followed by a period of evaluation. Our Reopening Task Force is working on protocols and a schedule in conjunction with these phases for returning to in-person worship. More information will be shared soon with specifics as to how these phases relate to First Baptist Newnan and how they impact, among other things, Sunday school, nursery, children, and youth.
S - Social Distancing
The current recommendation is that we maintain 6 feet distance when we can gather again. The social distancing imposes physical limitations on the number of people who can gather in our main sanctuary in addition to the numerical limits of Phase 1 (no more than 10) and Phase 2 (no more than 50). These factors create significant logistical considerations in gathering for worship and will require a large group of volunteers who are not in the vulnerable categories. Also, there are other steps to be considered to reduce the risk of transmission, such as not greeting one another by handshakes and hugs, not distributing bulletins, removing hymnals from the sanctuary, and perhaps wearing masks to protect others. This will be a challenge for our church, given the size of our congregation and the layout of our buildings. It means that the worship service will be different than what we have experienced before, at least initially.
We look forward to the time we can come together again but must consider these FACTS in making a wise and informed decision. We want to hear how you are processing these FACTS. Please email your comments to email@example.com. Thank you for praying for this situation. We are praying for you.