Dear Union Church Family,
First, I couldn’t be more proud of the way that our church family has responded to the COVID-19 challenge. You guys have trusted our Heavenly Father and have not succumbed to fear. You’ve loved each other and your neighbors beautifully by heeding the authorities and shar- ing lavishly of your time and resources. You’ve not only participated in online worship, but you’ve spread the word to your family and friends so that our online viewing numbers have been far better than expected. Keep up the great work, Union! You are a wonderful church to lead and serve. I love Union Church and I love each of you.
Like you I am anxious for us to return to everything lovely about gathered worship. Radiant greetings as we park our cars and head inside, joy in our brand new entryway, visiting with our “pew buddies,” watching the sanctuary fill up with old friends and visitors. Seeing the familiar faces of our choir and praise team as they lead us in worship. Meeting Jesus in heartfelt prayer and being challenged by the power of the preached Word. And then exiting to warm hugs, chil- dren running around— and yes, sometimes even donuts! So, when will we begin the march back toward this kind of Sunday bliss? Well, the hard truth is that this will be a very slow and mea- sured return back to “normal.” In fact, studies I have read tell us to expect that at least 25% of you will not be ready to come back to in-person worship even when we do open our doors.
Our plan, after conferring as Session and staff, considering the local situation and listening to our governor and health experts alike, is to proceed as follows:
On Sunday, June 14th, we will resume sanctuary worship through the remainder of 2020 at 9:00 (Contemporary) and 11:00 (Traditional) and continue online worship as well. For the time be- ing our nursery care, as well as the discipleSHIP children’s ministry will be temporarily suspend- ed. However, we will continue to offer special family fun nights and activities throughout the summer.
Our target number for worship is 100 people in the sanctuary per service, with Fellowship Hall serving as our “overflow” space. We simply ask you to enter through the new main entrance, space yourselves out as either individuals or families at a reasonable distance, and then exit through the old entrances.
Those 65 and older, or those with compromised immunity or other health issues and those who are uncomfortable attending for any reason are encouraged to continue worshiping online, though we are certainly not forbidding you to come. During this slow on-ramp toward “normalcy,” congregants should feel free to continue online worship with no stigma attached. Sanctuary worship isn’t to be regarded as more faithful or obedient behavior. In fact, the choice to stay home may be the wise and obedient choice for many of you.
The resumption of sanctuary worship will be accomplished by a number of safeguards. Heightened cleaning protocols will be practiced before, after and in-between services. There will be no greeting time in the worship service, no passing of the offering plates or attendance pads, and extra care will be exercised in the serving of the Lord’s Supper. Additionally, there will be no hymnals or bulletins used in the service. This information will be displayed on the screen and/or disseminated electronically.
Again, we will urge the keeping of a reasonable distance in seating and in pre/post service inter- action. For now, we’ll have to learn that it’s okay to just smile and wave to one another! No food or coffee will be served for the remainder of 2020. For the time being, the wearing of masks is required for everyone, especially so for those who wish to join in congregational singing. What we emphasize most strongly is that if you or anyone in your family is sick (with any communicable illness), that you not come to worship or bring your children.
Brothers and sisters — we like our plan. It’s simple, sensitive and safe. But that’s all it is… a plan. It’s based on what we know in the early days of June. We all know the COVID-19 situation could improve or deteriorate any day. Thus, depending on the guidance of wise counselors and much prayerful deliberation, we will continue to alter the plan as circumstances dictate.
Let me remind you, this COVID-19 crisis is a gospel opportunity. Do some good reading. Meet a neighbor you don’t know. Share more liberally. Write a text to build someone up. Guard your mind and heart from toxic political bickering, and pray for the healing of this broken and hurting world.
Enjoy God and be amazed that He enjoys you! Blessings and see you soon! (For real!!!) Pastor Billy