Recently Governor Tim Walz lifted restrictions that would prohibit churches to meet in groups larger than ten (10), and as a result, local churches like ours are now allowed to meet at 25% of their seating capacity. We have actively worked on the necessary steps that we believe will lead to a safe return. Being able to worship together in person brings us great joy, but as we gather, we are doing so in a restricted manner based on the guidelines that have been put out by our local government and the CDC. Even though we may still not be “back to normal,” we want to encourage you with this:
• The church is a people, not a place. The vast majority of our calling to live as disciples who make disciples does not happen in our building but in the places where we live, work, and play. The church is not “re-opening” because the church never closed in the first place. We urge you to take every opportunity to be deeply embedded in community throughout the week.
• God has called us to submit to our governing authorities. The Bible is clear that the governing authorities over us have been placed there by the sovereign hand of God (Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Even in decisions that we do not like, we choose to submit to God’s leadership by submitting to the authorities he has placed over us.
• We choose to disadvantage ourselves for the good of our church family and community. This is the heart of the gospel: our Lord, Jesus, disadvantaged himself so that we could be raised to newness of life (Phil 2:5-11). You may find wearing a mask or face covering uncomfortable or inconvenient; you may feel as though the social distancing guidelines are too restrictive. As we move into the days ahead, we choose to do so not thinking about our own preferences, but about the good of others in our church family and community. Many members of Elmwood are in the demographic that is most vulnerable to COVID-19, and so we choose to lay down our pride and our preferences to keep others safe. This laying down of preferences is also a gospel witness to the wider community around Elmwood.
We have drafted the following safety guidelines for our worship gatherings. Please read these carefully before you come on Sunday morning. We are required by our local government to have safety protocols in place and enforce them during our gatherings. If you have any questions about what follows, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church office at (612) 788-9408.
With a deep and abiding love for you, the sheep of Elmwood,
The Elmwood Elder Team
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
• If in the past fourteen (14) days you have symptoms of any illness, including but not limited to the symptoms of COVID-19, please do not attend a worship gathering.
*Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
• If in the past fourteen (14) days you have come into contact with anyone known to have COVID-19, please do not attend a worship gathering.
• If you are in the demographic most affected by COVID-19—65 and older or with preexisting medical conditions—we strongly encourage you to stay home and worship with us virtually.
• All doors will be propped open beginning 15 minutes before the start of our gathering. Congregants will not be allowed to enter the building until 10:15 am.
• A hand sanitizing station will be just inside the main entrance doors and all congregants will be required to use sanitizer upon entrance.
• A table with masks will also be just inside the main entrance doors. The use of masks or face coverings for the entire service is not mandatory, but strongly encouraged. (See note below about singing.) If you take a mask from the table, do not return it to the table once it has been used.
• Once you have used hand sanitizer, please immediately enter the sanctuary to find a seat.
• One side of the floor-level sanctuary will be reserved for those who are 65 and older or who have preexisting medical conditions. Please observe signage and sit in the appropriate area.
DURING THE GATHERING
• Every other row will be designated a “no sitting” zone. Please observe the signage and leave one pew in between you and anyone in front of or behind you.
• A minimum distance of six feet is required between you and anyone who is not a part of your immediate household. Family units may sit together.
• You may leave your tithes and offerings in the plate at the back of the sanctuary.
• Until we can do it safely, we will not take Communion for the foreseeable future.
CONGREGATIONAL SINGING: For generations, singing has been a vital part of the life and worship of God’s people. Lifting our voices with all of creation to sing of the grace, goodness, and beauty of the Lord is one of the most important ways we express our love and devotion to him. And God is present with us in a unique way when we sing together! As we gather again, we face a dilemma; our hearts long to sing, and at the same time, the CDC now recognizes that breathing in respiratory droplets is the primary way COVID-19 is spread. Since singing more forcefully expels these droplets than speaking, any act of congregational singing is a higher-risk activity. With this knowledge we believe that the safest way for us to experience the joys of congregational singing in this season is to use masks or other face coverings while singing. Face coverings are not required to be worn for the entire service, but they are required during times of congregational singing. (Due to the distance from others, musicians on the platform will not be required to wear a mask during singing.) The benefits of singing together with this safety measure will far outweigh the discomfort we all feel. It is also a powerful sign of our unity in Christ and a visible demonstration that COVID-19 cannot silence the praise of God’s people.
AFTER THE GATHERING
• Once the gathering has ended, please leave the building immediately. We are not allowed to have groups congregate in the foyer at this time.
• If you would like to relationally connect with others, please do so outside using healthy social distancing measures.