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Guidelines for Resuming in Sanctuary Worship

Dear Sisters & Brothers of Messiah Lutheran

Now may our God and Father and our Lord Jesus direct our way in You.

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another

and for all, just as we abound in love for you.

1 Thessalonians 3:11-14

In the event that Champaign County is designated a RED county we will not worship in the sanctuary.

It has been some twenty weeks since our congregation has gathered in one place for worship. This time has been challenging and yet new doors have opened during this time. Because of modern technology, and a lot of help, we have learned how to worship together online. Our Sunday morning service’s viewership has been steady. On a few Sundays we have had more than 200 views. I have heard from people in California, Florida and Arizona who regularly watch our service. We have been united in prayer and fellowship during our 8pm evening devotions broadcast live on Facebook.

It is time, with God’s blessings, to resume live worship in our sanctuary, however we will continue to stream our service live every Sunday morning. The council has set a date of September 13 for our first live worship service. The council has approved a list of guidelines that must be observed for the safety of all who attend worship in our sanctuary. Our primary goal is to protect the most-at-risk among us, and to offer flexibility and options in how we return to worship. Until we have confidence in some sort of measures that can kill or weaken the virus that causes COVID-19, we need to follow the advice of the CDC in terms of physical distancing and facial coverings, traffic flow inside the building, and other practices we have outlined below. We will also continue to monitor information for the Southern Ohio Synod, State of Ohio and Champaign County Department of Health.

As stated, the first service will be at 10:00am on September 13, 2020. There will be no Faith Formation classes for the near future. The following precautions will be taken and we ask everyone to do your best to support these efforts. We realize this list may present some unhappy images for you, but we believe these are the best plans we can make in the midst of great uncertainty. We ask for your love, patience, and prayer as we learn to live with new realities, and until such time as we can relax a bit more.

Before we get into the actual list, we are asking you to each week before attending worship to review your own health. If you have been ill in the previous 14 days please stay home, take care, and recover. This means, anytime in the past 14 days if you have had a temperature of over 100 degrees, or other symptoms, please stay home. We will be taking your temperature upon entry into the Narthex.

Plan for Resuming Worship at Messiah:

  1. We will have limited seating available in the sanctuary in order to comply with the standard practice of 6 feet between individuals or family units. Our revised capacity amounts to less than half our normal seating space. The fellowship hall, and the educational wing will be closed off in order to minimize what we will need to keep clean.

  2. We will broadcast the service from inside the sanctuary so that others who wish to come and remain in their cars can tune in via the short range FM signal. Instructions for how this will happen will follow in a few days.

  3. Those choosing to come inside must wear some facial covering (mask). If you are unable to do this, we ask that you remain in your car. Disposable face masks will be available on a limited basis for anyone who does not have one. If we reach capacity, we will ask everyone else to remain in their cars. If you are in your car we ask that you not watch the streamed service on our churches wifi. This will degrade the upload signal and interfere with those watching at home. We also ask that all mobil devices be turned off upon entering the sanctuary.

  4. The main entry will be the only doors used for entering and leaving the building. When the service is over, please leave when directed by the usher and leave the building directly through the main doors. As tempting as it is, please no socializing in the narthex. There will be no Passing of the Peace, we will simply wave. Even conversations across the room are a source of concern; we know that the virus is likely spread through “aerosol” vapors. We also ask that trips to the restroom be kept to a bare minimum and please use the provided hand sanitizer on entry and exiting the restroom.

  5. Once seated, everyone must remain in place. As difficult as it may be to imagine, we cannot mill around to visit.

  6. Offerings can be placed in the plate upon entering the sanctuary. If you forget to do this, you may leave them on the pew to be collected once everyone leaves. You may also mail them to the church.

  7. All hymnals, paper, and pencils have been removed from the pews to minimize surfaces that need to be cleaned. The service outline will be viewable on the monitors in the church. We will also post the service outline on the webpage for downloading on Saturday.

  8. Children under 2 should not attend, and people over 65 should also consider not attending especially if you have pre-existing health issues, for instance respiratory illness, immune deficiencies. The Nursery will be closed.

  9. A written record of who has been in the building will be maintained. The greeter will record your name as you enter the building. This is for tracking purposes in the event of someone testing positive, the Health Dept. will know who to contact for testing. We cannot reliably do this for those outside in the parking area. We ask that you do your best to recall your own contacts so that, if needed, they can be reported by you. Outside contacts may proceed at your own risk.

  10. The service will be simplified: no singing, spoken only liturgy, no live music, recorded hymns will be played, words will be on the monitors for meditation purposes. There will no children’s sermons or scripture readers.

  11. If we have communion we will commune by family units. Walk to the communion rails, please stand, the Pastor will give you a wafer, take a plastic cup from tray, prefilled with wine/grape juice. Once communed return to you seats via side aisle, place communion cup in container with plastic bag. NO ONE IS TO GO BEYOND THE COMMUNION RAILS AT ANYTIME. There will be no communion in the parking lot. If you desire communion contact the church office and home communion will be arranged with Pastor Ray.

  12. The streaming of our Sunday worship, 8pm evening devotion is here to stay. As of right now we are only live streaming on Facebook. We are looking into streaming on other platforms I the future. Sunday service will be posted on our webpage every Sunday following the live service. We have looked into programs that would allow us to broadcast on multiple sites at the same time however the reviews of such programs are not all that positive for the cost of these sites. We will continue to work on our streaming set up to insure we present a quality program. One thing we have learned, the majority of problems in reception are normally on the receiving end of the project. Please take the time to learn all you can about how to view live programs on your computer. If you have any questions, ask your grandkids or call the church office and Pastor Ray will try to help you. The main thing you need is a good internet signal. If you still have the same setup you started with 15 years ago, you probably don’t have enough bandwidth for live programing. We learned this the hard way here at the church when we started streaming. Please feel free to repost or share any of Messiah’s streaming programs.

  13. The occupied areas of the building will be cleaned and sanitized after each Sunday gathering.

  14. As long as proper distancing and face covering measures are observed fellowship is permitted in the parking lot, at your own risk.

This is a long list and we will be learning and modifying as we go along from what we do here on site and from what we learn from those agencies we monitor. Once again, our main goal is to provide everyone with a safe and secure worship space. If you have any fears or doubts, stay home. Worshiping at home is just as holy as worshiping at church.

We look forward to coming together as we are able. Blessings upon all of you.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Ray Branstiter

Bob Combs

Congregational President

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