Dear Good Shepherd,
This coming Sunday, June 14th, after three long months, both the 8am and 10:30am services will resume in-person worship. The opening committee has worked long and hard to hammer out the details and I am grateful for their time, effort, and skill.
Christian education for children, nursery, and children’s chapel will, for the time being, remain suspended while we work out details for meeting in classrooms. Adult Christian education will continue by live-stream only from 9:15am to 10:15.
The committee met with two primary goals in mind: 1. To do all that we can to accommodate everyone and 2. To protect those most at risk for infection. With these goals in mind, there will be three opportunities for worship this Sunday:
Inside the Sanctuary: If you choose to worship in the sanctuary at 8am or 10:30am, there will just be one entrance open, the main doors on the Saratoga side of the building. The committee and I ask that you maintain the recommended social distancing of 6 feet. The pews and floor will be marked with distance markers to help you do this. Between services the sanctuary will be cleaned and disinfected, but to be safe, those most at risk are encouraged to attend the 8am service. As you enter the building, you will be asked to sanitize your hands. If you’d prefer not to use hand sanitizer, please use the bathroom to wash your hands.
We also kindly ask that you follow the recommendations of the CDC and wear a mask over your mouth and nose in an effort to prevent the possible spread of illness to the most vulnerable among us. Masks are not required for those who have difficulty breathing, are under the age of two, or are unable to remove their own mask.
I understand that there has been considerable discussion about masks. Since the scriptures are, of course, silent on the matter, I do not think we need to be in agreement on the substance of the question. It is a matter of personal conscience. However, since some of our more vulnerable brothers and sisters would experience a great deal of anxiety worshiping with a large group of people who are not wearing masks, I ask that if you choose to worship within the sanctuary and are physically able, you consent to wear a mask for their sake (see 1 Corinthians 8-9 for the principle).
Worship Outside: If you prefer to worship outdoors, there will be a tent set up with live-stream video during the 10:30am service. During Communion someone will bring the sacrament to you. Masks are optional outdoors.
Livestream Worship: Finally, we will continue to live-stream the 10:30am service so that you can watch from your home. If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of illness that are new for you, including fatigue, fever, chills, difficulty breathing, cough, or nausea, please make use of the live-stream and consider contacting your healthcare provider.
Regarding the live-stream, if you choose option one or two above (in the sanctuary or outside), please keep your mobile device either on airplane mode or draw cell coverage from your data. Otherwise, your device could draw bandwidth from the live-stream causing an interruption of stream.
There are two other precautions we must, sadly, take.
1. Since studies seem inconclusive on whether singing increases risk for viral spread, and since we want to exercise an abundance of caution at this point in re-opening, there will be music but no singing for now at the 10:30am service, with the exception of the last hymn. Because we will be leaving the sanctuary shortly afterward, the risk from singing that last hymn is not as high. I know this is a very hard thing and I personally find it terribly discouraging, but for the time being the committee and I believe this precaution to be necessary.
2. We will not serve food or coffee, but we do encourage you to bring your own lunch to the 10:30am service so that those who wish might share a meal and fellowship outside after worship. You might also consider bringing a bit of extra food for someone who may forget or not be able to bring some from home. If you choose to stay after and visit outside, please also consider bringing your own camp chair for a place to sit.
I understand that some of these precautions may feel burdensome but they are temporary and, even so, I hope you will join me in giving thanks to God for bringing us back together again and ask him to give us patience with and kindness for each other.