FUMCOR's Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak
June 1, 2020
Taking Steps Forward Faithfully and Safely
Holston Conference Resident Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor and her cabinet and staff have released their plan, "Taking Steps Forward Faithfully and Safely," offering guidance to United Methodist Churches who are seeking to reopen with added healthy and safety precautions.
May 26, 2020
A Stage One Protocol for Reopening FUMCOR
1. In this document, “Stage 1” does not refer to any local, state, or federal government phased opening. It refers to our congregation’s plan to reopen. Our Church Council will approve and implement additional stages when necessary.
2. Our Bishop will make the decision about when churches can reopen. When she does that, our pastors, in consultation with the staff will make a recommendation to the Church Council about when and how FUMCOR’s re-opening takes place. The Council will make the final call on approving this plan.
3. We will seek to make any gatherings hospitable, safe, and respectful for people with different attitudes toward social distancing.
4. Things will look different on the Sunday’s we are back in worship/church together.
5. We anticipate Stage 1 of our plan to reopen to be stricter than the following stages.
Stage 1 Plans
1. The staff will distribute both written and video explanations of our plans and expectations for worshippers in the weeks leading up to the reopening. This will include A) a statement that if parishioners have traveled out of the country, currently have or recently had a fever, those who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, then they should not attend in person worship; B) recommendation that people in high-risk groups or not comfortable in public gathering at this time seriously consider continuing to worship online during stage 1; C) a description of the order of worship for each service, so people are aware there will be music but no communal singing; D) a reminder to parents that children should remain with them at all times; and E) instructions on how same-household family members can maintain appropriate social distance from others while at church (no physical embrace or shaking hands, etc.).
2. Those leading in the service, including ushers, will be required to participate in a health and safety training zoom call to clarify goals and precautionary measures.
3. We will focus on creating both safe worship and small group gathering spaces.
4. We will continue to provide online contemporary and traditional worship services.
5. We anticipate that we will be restricted to either A) no more than 50% of seating capacity in worship spaces or B) 100 people or less in worship spaces during stage 1. To ensure that worship is available for all, we will begin with the following schedule, offering shortened services. 8:45 am - 9:30 am Traditional in sanctuary; 10 am - 10:45 am Contemporary in MPR; 11 am - 11:45 am Traditional in sanctuary; 6 pm - 6:45 pm Vesper Service in sanctuary. Our Abiding worship service will be suspended during stage 1.
6. There will be one entrance into the church building through the Welcome Center with masks, hand sanitizer, and signage with instructions for worship and small groups. There will be tape on the ground signifying safe social distances of 6 feet apart for those standing in line to enter. All Welcome Center, narthex, and multipurpose room doors will be propped open to minimize people touching door handles. One half of the Welcome Center doors will be labeled as entrances to the building; the other half will be labeled as exits from the building.
7. Signage at the entrance will make clear that all participants during stage 1 will be required to wear masks and stay 6 feet apart from non-family members. People can bring their own masks from home. Anyone who refuses to wear a mask will be asked to leave the building.
8. Enough masks will be available for distribution that in case everyone forgets to bring one, there will be an adequate supply. 20-30 new masks will be added for distribution in subsequent weeks. When people are leaving the building, they may keep the masks or place them in laundry baskets, so that they can be laundered during the week.
9. Coffee and doughnuts will be suspended in the Welcome Center.
10. No nursery or children’s church will be offered.
11. One trained greeter will be present outside the entrance to answer questions for those arriving, while maintaining a safe social distance.
12. The contemporary candle station will not be present.
13. The multi-purpose room will have chairs arranged so that people can stay 6 feet apart. Upon entry to the room, family groups will be encouraged to arrange chairs so their member are together.
14. The sanctuary will have every other pew marked as available for seating. Ushers will ensure individuals or family groups arriving in the sanctuary sit in the first available pew closest to the altar, at least six feet from the previous persons. Later arrivals will fill the rest of the available seating. In order to limit the areas that need to be sanitized, no one other than a sound person will be allowed in the balcony.
15. Upon arrival, people will be encouraged to maintain proper social distancing.
16. Electronic bulletins for all services will be available on the church website. Printed bulletins for the traditional service will be arranged in a way that they can be picked up without touching more than one. Printed contemporary bulletins will be suspended during stage 1. Congregational singing will be prohibited in stage 1 because singing offers a significantly greater chance of an asymptomatic person spreading the virus. Therefore, hymnals and all other materials in the sanctuary pews will be removed so that people will not be tempted to touch them.
17. Attendance pads will be removed from the worship spaces. Visitors will be requested to text information to a number or email/call the church office with their contact information.
18. Designated health managers will be appointed for each service to offer “kind but firm” encouragement regarding safety practices. These health managers will have the authority to request that non-compliant people leave the building.
19. Photos of each worshipping congregation will be taken so that staff can examine to see which regular attenders are not present and can be contacted.
20. The contemporary service band will be smaller in number to enable proper social distancing. The traditional choirs will be suspended, replaced by smaller vocal ensembles that can maintain a proper social distance.
21. Holy Communion will be suspended during this time; Holy Baptism will be allowed with detailed safety measures in place.
22. Worship leaders will wear masks prior to and following leading worship. While leading worship, they will maintain safe social distancing guidelines.
23. Worship announcements will include an emphasis on maintaining healthy social distancing and the importance of masks for those around us.
24. We will not be passing the offering plates. Single plates will be made available at each exit from the worship spaces for people to drop their offering. An usher will be stationed at a safe distance from each of these plates to watch it.
25. Concluding announcements will encourage people to be thoughtful and understanding of those who do not want to socialize, even while maintaining masks and proper social distancing. Those who do want to socialize will be encouraged to do so in the parking lots following the services while maintaining proper safety features.
26. Services will be shortened so that people can have phased exits to support social distancing in hallways. At the conclusion of worship, there will be phased exits of worshippers to keep hallways and exits clear of crowds. To enable easier exiting following the traditional services, ushers will prop open the exterior sanctuary doors at the end of worship services.
27. The sanctuary will be sanitized on Sunday morning following the 8:45 am service and Sunday afternoon following the 11 am service.
28. Our custodial staff will have a list of areas to be sanitized throughout Sunday morning, including but not limited to bathrooms, water fountains, and door handles.
29. Weddings and funerals will be allowed for less than 100 people, using the same protocols.
30. The staff is exploring the cost of cameras, editing software, and staffing to make Livestream possible in the future. The goal is to continue to provide recorded worship experiences (as they currently are) until our Livestream technology is high quality.
Small Group Protocol
31. All small groups and Sunday School classes must contact the church office to schedule a day, time, and room. Reservations must include the maximum number of people who might attend so that rooms with adequate space to maintain social distance requirements can be reserved and setup.
32. Small groups and Sunday school classes cannot meet on Sunday mornings during stage 1.
33. In order to limit the amount to sterilization necessary in the building, only rooms on the second floor, accessible through the Welcome Center, will be available for meetings. The staff, with the help of our congregation’s medical personnel will determine the number of people who will be allowed in each space on the second floor. The parlors are off limits to small groups, due to difficulties of sterilizing them.
34. All small group members will enter through the Welcome Center, where masks, hand sanitizer, and signage with instructions is available. There will be tape on the ground signifying safe social distances of 6 feet apart for those standing in line to enter. All Welcome Center, sanctuary, and multipurpose room doors will be propped open to minimize people touching door handles. There will be an obvious queue in the Welcome Center indicating a side of the room for entering the building and a side for exiting the building.
35. Signage at the entrances will make clear that all participants during stage 1 will be required to wear masks and stay 6 feet apart from non-family members.
36. Enough masks will be available for distribution that in case everyone forgets to bring one, there will be an adequate supply. 20-30 new masks will be added for distribution in subsequent weeks. When people are leaving the building, they may keep the masks or place them in laundry baskets, so that they can be laundered during the week.
37. No food or drinks will be allowed in small groups.
38. No nursery will be offered for small groups.
39. One trained greeter will be present outside the entrance to answer questions for those arriving, while maintaining a safe social distance.
40. A designated health manager will greet small group participants as they arrive and begin to offer “kind but firm” encouragement regarding safety practices. These health managers will have the authority to request that non-compliant people leave the building.
41. Rooms must be sanitized after each small group meets, prior to the next small group.