Re-Opening and Thoughts from Romans 14 | Matt Williams
The Blessing of Endurance Through Suffering | Bill White
Small Campus Gatherings Experience
Welcome back! We are excited to be with those of you who will be able to join us for our small worship gatherings. And for those who can’t, we’ll continue to provide the entire service for you to worship at home or with your group.
While COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, the state government believes that current conditions are mild enough to allow us to begin worshiping together if we take significant precautions in order to mitigate the risk of spreading the illness. For those who feel comfortable, we will begin worshiping in small gatherings with social distancing on May 24.
Of course, conditions are unpredictable and could change at any time. With that reality in mind, we need to all be prepared to adapt together as we go.
As we begin to offer worship services, our staff and volunteer team will take the following precautions:
As we gather, we want to take precautions out of love for one another and to protect those worshiping alongside us and the vulnerable in our community. Please join us in this by:
We understand that there is inherent risk of exposure to the virus by meeting in groups and for worship services. For now, our state government officials have made it clear they are trusting church leaders to make wise decisions and follow guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other health authorities in order to minimize health risks.
We have also considered Scripture as we continue to make decisions about how we will respond to COVID-19. We know that the Bible commands us to submit to governing authorities (Romans 13:1), which is one reason we have followed and will continue to follow the guidelines and laws set in place by those authorities. We also understand that believers are encouraged to continue meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). The government is allowing churches to resume gathering, and we believe meeting together to worship is both a biblical mandate and crucial to our mission.
Coming to worship is never completely without risk—whether it is car accidents, the flu virus, or falls on a sidewalk. While the risk of Covid-19 is still greater than any of these, we believe it is currently low enough that worshiping with precautions is the best way we can currently fulfill our mission of making disciples.
In these beginning stages of reopening, some may feel more at ease worshiping with their community group in a home while following the guidelines for small group gatherings. We would encourage those groups to worship together, as long as group members who choose to worship otherwise (at home online or at their campus gathering) are able to be included in regular group meetings.
We know that coughing, sneezing, speaking, and singing release tiny particles from the lungs. A mask greatly reduces the distance these droplets travel. Since scientists believe that asymptomatic people are an important part of the spread of Covid-19, the only way to help protect our neighbors and the vulnerable in our community is for all of us to wear a mask since we may not know when we are infected.
Singers will use a plexiglas shield instead of a mask to allow them to better lead the congregation while also protecting those who are near the stage. Band members who do not sing have been given permission to remove their mask once on stage, provided they have adequate distance from the congregation and other band members.
We’ve received good questions about masks at worship gatherings. It’s clearly not a right vs. wrong decision, but rather a situation where a group of leaders must use their best judgment. We know most masks do not protect the wearer; however, medical professionals widely agree that they do help protect others if the wearer is infected (and may not know it yet). 1 2 3 We also understand that wearing masks is uncomfortable for some and traumatic for others. So this is not a decision we are taking lightly. It could also change as circumstances change.
These are NOT reasons why we are wearing masks:
• Because we are afraid of dying ourselves.
• Because we are overly concerned about liability.
• Because we think they will keep the wearer from getting sick.
These are reasons why we ARE wearing masks:
• People being hit hardest by the pandemic are the poor and vulnerable—those we should be trying to serve and protect.
• They are suffering not only in terms of health, but also economically as viral spread discourages people from all sorts of activities.
• Some transmission chains that start in our church will inevitably end in someone who is elderly or vulnerable.
• Many people in senior living facilities in the upstate consider Grace Church their church.
• Not only is their health at risk, but more transmission means that they will continue to be locked away from family and pastoral support. While we are not responsible for whatever strategy our government chooses to pursue, we are responsible for how our decisions affect those that God has put under our spiritual care. And at present, we believe wearing masks inside, especially when singing, is the best decision to balance our competing priorities.
Before you come to the worship service, we recommend that you take your temperature. If your temperature is above 100.4 °F, please stay home and worship with the online service.
Registering for a service will help our staff team effectively and safely conduct worship services. Registrations will be used to prepare the room in advance so that seating can be arranged at a six foot distance from one another according to the number of people in each attending party. Registrations allow us to ensure that our services are not exceeding the 20% capacity of our rooms, as recommended by our state government.
If someone lets us know that they have been diagnosed and gives us permission, we will notify everyone else who attended that service and send information about the area of the room where that person was sitting.
Although we are not offering Grace Church Kids programming, childcare is available for ages 2-6 during our small worship gatherings. Registration is required for childcare.
We will ask our small group leaders to help students maintain a distance of six feet from one another and to meet outside or in an area with enough room for social distancing. Leaders have been given these guidelines and have been asked to follow them.
We understand that not everyone will feel comfortable meeting in person for various reasons. Each community group that is meeting in person has been directed to include a video conferencing option to ensure that all group members are included in the small group setting.
Yes, in order to help protect others, we would ask that you stay home if you know you have been around anyone who has tested positive or is showing symptoms of Covid-19.