Pastor’s Update, May 27

Dear Wilmore FMC Family,

I hear that the coolest pastors video record updates like this and post them on YouTube.  I have, instead, written all of mine and sent them to you in text form.  I do that because that lets me skip to the parts that I think are important without having to watch the whole thing.

But…in the interest of increasing my cool factor, and due to the information in today’s update, I’m going to do a video (which you can reach by clicking here.)  I have still, however, included the text version – the full version below, or a Quick Facts Version can be downloaded here.)

As I’ve said many times, these past couple months have been strange…strange days indeed…for the entire world.  As a church, although we have not met together in person, we have sought to meet the needs of people all around us.  While being pushed out of our buildings, we have been more profoundly pulled into the needs and suffering of our world.  And we have worshipped in the ways we’ve engaged those needs.

Although the online services have been a great blessing and will continue to serve a good purpose for those who are not yet ready or able, after much discussion among our church staff, medical professionals, the Jessamine County Health Department, and other local church and denominational leaders, the WFMC Board of Administration has approved the following plan for our church returning to in-person worship.  We do so primarily because of God’s command that His people continue to meet together, and because of our great need to be together with other Christ-followers, and we feel we can do this now in a way that honors our laws and does not harm our neighbors or ourselves.

We will begin in-person worship services on June 14 with one service at 8:30a.m.

We will meet in the Sanctuary and also in the Building C Great Hall.  There we will project a livestream video of what’s happening in the Sanctuary.

The worship service will be about 45 minutes long and it will include:

Prelude, Welcome, Prayer, Scripture Reading, Children’s Time, Music Ministry, Message, Benediction, Postlude

There will be no choral or congregational singing – more on this below.

There will be no greeting time.  Please avoid awkwardness by not attempting to shake hands, hug or touch others.  🙂

Offerings will be collected at the rear of the sanctuary/room as you exit, so that no plates will be passed.

No nursery or children’s worship of any kind will be available just yet.

Whatever then-current social distancing protocols will be observed, which means:

There will be six feet between the rows of chairs – we’ll actually be removing every other row of chairs.

We expect all family units to enter, sit and leave according to distancing guidelines.

The use of masks, while encouraged, will be left up to individuals and families to choose.

There will be no temperature checks.  We are presuming all who attend will self-examine and use appropriate caution.

All church gathering spaces will be closed to socialization and serve only as pathways in and out, so…and this goes against all that is normally encouraged…please don’t stop to chat with people until you get to the parking lot, and then do so according to protocols.

Staff participation is completely voluntary.

Only Building A and C restrooms will be available, and for emergency use only.

As many doors as possible will be opened to allow maximum airflow and circulation.

Please note that these precautions in no way guarantee a “safe” environment, and that is because there is always a level of risk in gathering and interacting with other persons.   The fact is, information about all this is still unfolding daily.  The science is not a clear guide – there are just too many unknowns and may well be for some time.

We ask all who are planning to come to notify the office via phone or e-mail (office@wfmc.net) so we know how to plan.  In your contact, let us know if you prefer one space or another, and we’ll do our best to make that happen.  But at the same time, when you arrive, please be prepared to be flexible.

Given the current space guidelines, we can accommodate approximately 300 persons – 150 per space.  Should we exceed that number of notifications, we’ll add another service in the future.

Please plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early, so all can be seated in an orderly way.  For the first service on June 14, we will all enter through the Building A entrance and then go from there.   Depending on how many plan to come, this may change, so please keep up with the latest information.  That last thing you hear is the most accurate, not always, but it is in this case.

The 8:30 in-person sanctuary service will be livestreamed privately on YouTube; the pass code will be sent via the e-chain, and that code should not be shared publicly.

A video service, like the YouTube and Facebook ones we’re doing now, will continue to be publicly available for all who are not able or ready to join in person.

Answers to Anticipated Questions:

Why was the 8:30 time chosen?  The big reason is that we have a full slate of Youth and Adult Bible Fellowships and children’s Sunday school classes meeting through Zoom on Sunday mornings at various times.  The 8:30 worship start time was the least intrusive to the current group meetings and allows most persons to come to in-person worship and return home before their online classes begin.

When are the ABF, YBF and Sunday school classes beginning again in person?  We will be working with our ABF leaders individually on this over the next couple weeks and will get these going in person as soon as possible, but this won’t be simple.  Frankly, the government’s guidelines on this are confusing and even somewhat conflicting when it comes to child-care and groups and churches.  Even when groups of up to 50 are permitted to gather (later this summer) some level of social distancing will be required.  So the unclear direction and our lack of rooms large enough for the present distancing requirements has led us to remain online with all groups for now.

Why no congregational singing?  For some, this will be the hardest pill to swallow…we get that.  This is not to say the in-person services will be music-less.  While there will be more than normal instrumental music, and even solo songs in the in-person service, we are avoiding congregational singing due to the exacerbated risk of virus transmission it introduces into the group.  Nearly all medical counsel is to not sing in any corporate manner, with or without masks.  Besides, have you ever tried to sing in a mask?

You know that we value congregational singing…for many, that is their highest expression of joy, so this is hard, but it’s not forever.

What about Communion on July 5?  Recent CDC reports are conflicted regarding the risk of contracting the virus from surfaces.  For now, I’ll say, “probably not, but let’s cross that bridge a little later, eh?”

Why are we encouraging, but not mandating, that masks be worn?  Masks have become a major point of division in our society, and unfortunately, in the Church.  Right now, masks are the proven norm for the protection of others in close contact situations – that’s why doctors wear them in surgeries, etc.  Masks help retain our own spit, which is the carrier of most virus particles.  Let’s face it, anytime we can keep our spit to ourselves, others will appreciate it.

At the same time, the science is in debate about the degree of effectiveness of masks in a setting like corporate worship, especially when all are speaking normally (not shouting or singing) and when social distancing is practiced.  In trying to balance science with perception and freedom with care for others, we are choosing this route.  No one wants to be the “mask police.”  Neither will we be judgmental of others’ convictions and decisions about this issue.  We are taking the route of simply letting everyone know what to expect and then all will be able to make their own decisions.   We are all responsible adults – except those of us who are children.  🙂

Are we providing masks?  No.  This is a BYOM (bring-your-own-mask) event.

Why will there only be room for 150 in the sanctuary?  Presently, the guidance requires six feet distancing (in all directions) between family groups in these sorts of gatherings, and specifically, churches are to use no more than a third of a room capacity.  All that considered, we’re left with room for about 150 in the sanctuary, and another 150 or so in the Great Hall.  We are also reserving a bit of room for visitors who don’t know to notify the office ahead of time.

Can I make “reservations” for the sanctuary or Great Hall when I let the office know I’m coming?  Yes, please do state your preference and plan to worship in that space unless you hear otherwise.  Since we don’t yet know how many plan to arrive, or how many visitors we’ll have, it will be something of a first come, first served thing.  We’ll have a much better feel for this once we begin hearing from people about their intentions.

When can I let you know I’m coming to worship on June 14?  As soon as you get this, you can e-mail or call the office with your message, the number in your group, your preference between sanctuary or Great Hall, and whether you’d like fries with that.  Just kidding about the fries.  🙂    We’ll assume it’s an ongoing request too, that will apply to Sundays going forward, excepting vacations, sickness (ahem) and all that.  Remember the office closes for the week on Fridays at 1:00p.

Why not begin with two service times?  Again, we really don’t know how many people will choose to attend.  If the 8:30 service “sells out,” we’ll certainly add another service time in a way to that allows for our online education classes, as well as the time needed to sanitize everything in between services.

How can I help?  Ah, the best question!  We need ushers more than anything else…people who will help answer questions and point people in the right directions.  We’ll also likely need cleaning teams, and also some to help pay for the cost of some extra technological equipment to make this all happen.  Want to help?  Contact the church office ASAP.

What have we forgotten?  I guarantee you that there are things that we’ve forgotten and things that will change through the weeks.  As you have questions, please contact the church office.  I promise you that we will either answer your question, give an honest, “I truly have no idea,” or simply say, “Sorry, that’s just our policy.”  🙂

We are very happy to return and just be together, yet we know this will be different…very different.  It’s not forever – we need to remember that.

Please also know that we all have different opinions about all of this and we will not all agree.  That’s OK.  But in our disagreement, we show grace, because that’s what Christ-followers do.  We will come together on the 14th not to argue, not to see “who believes in COVID and who doesn’t,” and not to make any political statements.  We will come together, as we always do, to worship the true and living God, and to honor Jesus Christ in our gathering in every way.

Maybe more than ever before, in these not-business-as-usual days, the world is watching how the body of Christ handles themselves.  That means we have a tremendous Kingdom opportunity.

Maybe more than ever before, the world needs to see Jesus in us.

Church Father, Tertullian, imagined the unbelievers of his day being irresistibly drawn to Jesus because of the Christian’s love for one another such that even unbelievers, noticing that while those without Christ fought and argued, exclaimed of the followers of Jesus, “Look how they love one another!”   May we be found guilty of this kind of faith in Jesus.

Blessings,

Pastor Daryl