Regathering Plan

If the weekly positivity rate for Three Rivers Health Department remains in the single digits, we will resume in-person worship on July 26, 2020.

Here are the three Sunday Morning worship options beginning July 26, 2020: 

  • Online worship: Either via facebook live or the church online tab on the church website.  This will continue, even as in-person worship resumes.  Through Church Online we have reached more people than ever, even when our sanctuary doors were shut.  
  • Micro-Church: Gather with a small group of friends at a home to stream the service (thus providing community, but in a more controlled fashion).  I’m really excited about this option, as I believe it fosters deeper community, while also allowing the safety of smaller and more intimate groups.    
  • In person worship at the Church:  With precautions taken for safety.

Thank you for being the Church in these uncertain times!  Since its inception in the book of Acts, the Church has been about a movement of a community – not a building.  During this season when we cannot meet in our building, I’ve been so grateful for the way that you have reached out to one another, and to the broader community, to offer comfort and love.  

As many of you know, we will be reopening the building for worship on Sunday, July 26th. Please watch this short informational video about some of the guidelines we have put into place for your safety.

Here is the plan adapted by our Church Council:

If the weekly positivity rate for Three Rivers Health Department remains in the single digits, we will resume in-person worship on July 26, 2020.  Watch your enote and church the week before, encourage people who don’t have those to call the office – we want to be responsive to sudden spikes.  We remain committed to maintain high quality online worship, and will continue streaming services in addition to in-person services. I encourage you to use all wisdom in choosing which one to attend – please do not feel compelled or guilted into attending in person, especially if you or a loved one have health conditions.  

I know that there are different opinions as to how we ought to approach this virus.  I respect each person’s autonomy.  Here’s the theological underpinnings for why we chose to move forward this way: 

Hebrews 10:25 ‘Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.’ – We believe that powerful things happen when God moves in our midst.  Scripture teaches us that meeting together is important (though I believe the witness of scripture makes it clear that we can be connected with one another in spirit, even if we are physically separated).  

Romans 15 – ‘Those who are strong ought to bear with those who are weak’ – as Christians, we have an obligation, stated over and over again in scripture to care deeply for the most vulnerable amongst us.  Even if we might feel comfortable taking certain risks, we are taught to show care for those who cannot risk as much as we might. 

John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules

  1. Do no Harm
  2. Do all the good you can
  3. Stay in love with God

What to expect when we resume in-person worship July 26:

On July 26th, we will livestream both services.  However, we will only have in-person worship at 11:00 (9:00am will be online only).  There are two reasons for this – first, having only one service eliminates the possibility of transmission of a virus across services.  Second, 11:00 was chosen based on our Churchwide survey data – the majority of people who felt comfortable returning come from that service.  We will start with this, and evolve as we gain more information.  

We are taking a lot of precautions – for your physical safety, and for the peace of mind; if you are in worship, we want you to be able to concentrate fully on worship, and we can facilitate that by having some guardrails.  Only one entrance will be open, to control the flow of traffic – please enter through the south doors (by the circle drive/office/elevator).   When you enter, you will be greeted at a table by a volunteer who will provide you with a mask if you do not have one.  Masks will be required (and if you have one at home, we ask that you wear it to help us control costs).  Your temperature will be checked, and the greeter will ask for your name and contact information.  This both eliminates the need to pass attendance pads or cards (a high contact/contagion point), and also allows us to simplify contact tracing, should that become a necessity.  Bathroom doors are propped open so you don’t have to touch them.  When you enter the sanctuary, every other pew will be blocked, and we ask you to sit in family units 6’ from one another.  The balcony will be reserved for those with pre-existing conditions.  

While the band plays, we encourage humming rather than singing – singing spreads aerosol droplets (even behind a mask) – even if you are comfortable with risk, there are others who are not and we ask that you protect their ability to be in church.  I think that’s going to be the hardest part – but if it lets us get back into worship, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.  At the end of service, a greeter will release rows from the back to the front to prevent bottlenecks at doorways.   If you choose to stay and talk after the service, we ask that you do it outside in the sunshine, and at an appropriate distance.  While we hope to resume our fellowship coffee hour as soon as it is prudent.

At this point, we are unable to resume nursery or fellowship hour – we are going to start with what we can while we figure out plans to safely do what (at this stage) we cannot.  Childrens and Youth ministries will continue to connect in a digital form while we seek to innovative discipleship processes (for more on the great things coming out of childrens and youth ministry, contact Julie and Jill respectively).  Meetings (both small group meetings and leadership team meetings) have been restructured to facilitate virtual attendance, and Church Council has adopted the policy that all meetings may be attended remotely if you do not feel comfortable being in the building – we are not going to remove someone from leadership simply because they want to maintain social distancing.  

This might seem like a lot – and it is.  By forming strict guardrails for safety, we can actually be more inviting to a larger number of people who are afraid of going out in public.  As being an Inviting Church, Growing in Faith, and Serving our Neighbors is our Vision, this is part of what it means to be Fremont First UMC.  My hope, by having such strict guidelines, is that we will have done everything we can to both keep you safe, and relieve your fears when you are in the sanctuary – thus allowing you to relax and fully engage with worship.  

How can you help?  

  • Pray for the Church, leadership, and community – especially the most vulnerable.  
  • Continue to wear a mask when out in public.  Not only will you lower your chances of transmission to others, you just might make other people more comfortable with wearing one as well.  The more we can lower the infection rate of our community, the more fully we can open up as a church…and we can save lives.   
  • Carefully consider which church venue you will join – will you stay with online-only?  Do you feel called to gather a few friends for a micro-church (we can train you if so!)?  Do you crave being back in the sanctuary for Sunday morning worship?  Seek out wise advice, talk to your doctor, and prayerfully make the decision.  
  • Pray for those who don’t have a church and need a message of hope and comfort in their lives.  I can’t remember a time in my life that was as scary or divisive.  Invite at least one person to join you online or in a microchurch – the world could use more hope and love right now. 
  • Pray for me.  I’ve never pastored in a global pandemic before.  
  • Watch your enote.  We will resume, if the weekly positivity data stays in the single digits for our area.  I’ll be monitoring those weekly, and will communicate the Sunday prior, as well as through the enote.  If things spike, we will have to delay until we can resume safely.  If they spike at some point in the future, we may have to return to online only for a period of time.  We will continue to do our best to offer worship to the widest number of people in the face of a global pandemic, while displaying all wisdom in the process.  

Friends, we are resuming in person worship.  We are not reopening.  We can’t reopen – we’ve never closed.  In the past few weeks, our church has delivered more meals and made more care calls than this time last year; we’ve connected with more first time visitors and shared more discipleship opportunities than we would have otherwise.  I’m proud of what we have accomplished.  I’m grateful for our leaders who made it happen.  I’m thankful for the prayers that sustained us, and for your love, generosity, and care in the middle of unique challenges.   As we evolve into the next stage, I pray that we will continue to reach out in new and innovative ways, doing what is necessary to bring hope to a hurting world.   

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