No Indoor Services Anytime Soon, but Outdoor Gatherings are Planned
As we all know, this is a difficult time for all types of organizations that normally bring people together, for government and public health officials, and for individuals and families. A big challenge for churches these days is to discern when and how we can congregate safely, given what we know about the risks associated with COVID-19.
Back in June, the Session (our church’s governing board) authorized a ten-person Returning to In-Person Activities (RIPA) Advisory Group, to sift through the many recommendations, guidelines, and requirements from the CDC, the denomination, our presbytery, other churches and state and local governments and make recommendations to the staff and Session regarding all in-person activities. The goal is to be faithful to our calling as the church, to provide meaningful opportunities for worship, Christian education and fellowship, and to provide for the safety of our church community and staff.
Since then, the Advisory Group has been busy researching, praying and discussing. We have surveyed the congregation; special thanks to the 104 of you who responded – your input has been invaluable. An analysis of the survey results can be found below.
In late July, the Group reached consensus on a few recommendations that the Session has now approved. There’s a lot more work to do in the coming months, but here’s where things stand as of now.
We will not resume in-person worship services anytime soon. The risks of gathering indoors outweigh the advantages of doing so, while members are generally pleased with the worship livestream on Facebook.
After Labor Day, we will begin offering Sunday morning outdoor gatherings, weather permitting, in the graveyard or parking lot, with masks and physical distancing. The plan is for a simple service of prayer and scripture from 9 AM to 9:30. This will provide a worship opportunity for those who are unable to access the worship livestream. For those who can, there will be time to return home and participate in worship livestream from 10 to 11.
Sometime this fall, we may try to livestream an outdoor service.
Safe outdoor activities are also encouraged for children, youth and adults, as appropriate, including watch parties for livestream worship. The Advisory Group will provide physical distancing guidelines for outdoor activities.
More details on all of this will go out when ready via email, eNews, regular mail and the website. The Advisory Group and the Session will keep monitoring all relevant information and will update the plans as circumstances allow. Meanwhile, please do your best to stay connected as the PCOL family.