1 John 3:18 - Dear children, let us not love with our words or speech but with actions in truth. (NIV)
The closing of the Saint Phillips Baptist Church (SPBC) facility to “in-person” ministries and worship was driven by pastoral love, care, and concern for Saint Phillips’ members and viewed as a responsible way to protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic and for the common good of the community. Public health experts agree that COVID-19 will be in the United States for the foreseeable future and there will be fluctuating levels of infection within our communities. We realize that until a COVID-19 vaccine is available, the disease will continue to be a threat to our health. We must remind ourselves that just because persons are not showing symptoms, they could still be carriers of COVID-19 and could spread COVID-19 to others.
We thank God for blessing SPBC with the ability to use technology as a vehicle to conduct weekly worship and Bible study with our church family. Consequently, we are able to remain strong and connected by our prayers and the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. However, we look forward to resuming safe in-person ministries and worship recognizing we must do all that we can to avoid the transmission of this deadly disease during our public gatherings.
To this end, SPBC has developed the following action plan which uses phase in protocols driven by the recommendations of national and state health officials in preparation for reopening our church building to “in-person” ministries and worship when the time comes. The action plan takes into account the age and physical characteristics of SPBC’s congregation. Our goal is to reduce at risk behavior which could lead to COVID-19 exposure while engaging in public church essentials. As a result, worship in the sanctuary will look differently and feel differently when we return for “in-person” gatherings because of the modifications made in order to reduce at risk behavior which could lead to COVID-19 exposure. We are approaching the reopening of our SPBC building to public gatherings with the mindset of a marathon runner, not with a sprint racer mentality. Therefore, a specific reopening date for public gatherings is to be determined. Revisions to the action plan will be made as needed.
The following essential guidelines will be adhered to by everyone on church property:
- Wearing Face Masks and Gloves – Each individual must properly wear a surgical or cloth face mask at all times after exiting a vehicle on the church parking lot and/or walking on church property. Face masks will be worn by everyone while in the church building and no one will be permitted into the church building without wearing a face mask. The face mask can be removed from the face once reentering a vehicle and/or off of the church property. Each person must be responsible for providing a face mask for self or family. The church will not be responsible for providing one for you. By now, a face mask should be a household product. Face masks will be available, at a cost, for those who left their mask home. Also, wearing rubber or latex gloves is optional unless performing duties in a serving capacity. A person wearing rubber or latex gloves to the church must sanitize the gloves with hand sanitizer upon entering the church lobby.
- Physical/SocialDistancing–Physical/social distancing of at least six (6) feet should be followed by everyone and all forms of physical contact while on church premises should be avoided. This includes physical contact while on the church parking lot, grassy areas, the sanctuary, fellowship hall, and in restrooms. Each person should obey directional signs for movement throughout the facility. Of course, it may be necessary for a parent to hold a child’s hand as appropriate.
- MaintainingPhysical/SocialDistancing-Physical/social distancing will be adhered to throughout the church facility and grounds.
- Entering the Sanctuary-Personal healthy hygiene is paramount. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water just before you leave home for church. Your temperature will be taken using a “touch-less” thermometer before you enter the sanctuary and/or fellowship hall. Each person must use one pump of hand sanitizer on hands upon entering the lobby. Do not bring food or liquids into the church – except for baby and child care needs; such as, milk or juice bottles. (Bottled water used with medication is permissible, but empty or full bottles must be taken with you when leaving the sanctuary and church premises or they should be placed in trashcans. If possible, take your medication before coming to church so that you do not have to lift your face mask to take medicine.) Also, take all personal items with you upon leaving the church after a service. Items left behind will be discarded. Bibles and hymnals have been temporarily removed from the pews in the sanctuary and the length of services will be modified to limit the time sitting together in an enclosed area. The fellowship hall will be used for overflow and its seating will maintain physical/social distancing. Please stay home if you are ill, suspect you are ill, or have come in contact with someone who is ill within the last 14 days. A person with a temperature will be asked to leave the premises. Until further notice, the church van will not transport members to and from church.
- Seating in the Sanctuary:
Follow the directional signs upon entering the sanctuary and obey the ushers, deacons, and/or security personnel. In order to maintain physical/social distancing, some pews will NOT be used for seating purposes. Only sit in the pews identified for seating and abide by the pew markers used to maintain distancing on that pew. To the greatest extent possible, persons living in the same household will be seated together on the same pew without distancing. Children should sit with their parents. Youth and young adults not living in the same household will be seated separately from seniors and “Precious Jewels.” Be aware of who is sitting around you although physical/social distancing will be in effect.
- Movement in the Sanctuary:
Traffic movement in the sanctuary will be one way in order to maintain distancing. Follow the directional signs on the floor and walls. Each person’s tithes and offerings will be collected in a basket located on a table while worshippers leave the sanctuary after the benediction. Directions for depositing contributions will be given by the presiding officer before dismissal. No one will be holding an offering basket. At the end of a service, the congregation should follow the directional signs while exiting the sanctuary promptly. Please do not socialize in the sanctuary or impede movement. Remember to use physical/social distancing while leaving the sanctuary and walking on the church grounds. We will get through these temporary inconveniences caused by COVID-19. God’s light is at “the end of the tunnel.”
- Face to Face Activity:
For the most part, all large group activities, such as, church services and Bible study will be held in the sanctuary. This will facilitate the cleaning and sanitation of the area after use. Utilization of the fellowship hall will be limited to small group activities for the most part and under no circumstance will food be served there until further notice (See additional information regarding the use of the fellowship hall in the phase in “Protocols” section of this action plan.). To the greatest extent possible, face to face seating will be eliminated and all face to face activity will be avoided in the sanctuary. This means that choirs will NOT be singing during indoor worship until further notice. Again, the congregation will exit the sanctuary as directed while maintaining physical/social distancing and without socializing. Pastor will NOT greet exiting church members at the door as customary. Any member that needs Pastor should call him on his cell or contact his/her deacon.
- Using the Restrooms: A parent must accompany his/her child under the age of eight years old to the restroom. Otherwise, only one person at a time can be in the restrooms in the lobby and fellowship hall unless a second person is needed to assist someone in his/her care to and from and in the restroom. If possible, use the restroom in the lobby during service if you are sitting in the sanctuary. Please do not use the restrooms in the fellowship hall except in an emergency. Those persons sitting in the overflow may use the restrooms in the fellowship hall. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the restroom and discard paper towels and other personal hygiene products appropriately in the trashcan.
- Movement between the Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall:
There will be limited times when a person will need to leave the sanctuary and go to the fellowship hall and vice versa. Physical/social distancing will be observed. Because the stairs leading to the sanctuary and fellowship hall do not accommodate distancing in two-way traffic, a person should call out in a moderate tone “Coming down” or “Coming up” before proceeding. Be courteous and move aside to a space that will allow distancing and wait for the other person to safely come up or move down the stairs. Entry and exit doors leading to the fellowship hall will remain locked.
- Outdoor Services: At such time when outdoor services are held, wearing face masks and physical/social distancing are in effect unless a person remains in an enclosed vehicle. A person must bring his/her own chair when sitting on the parking lot or grass while at the same time maintaining the appropriate distancing.
The phases listed below will be used to guide reopening the church building to “in- person” public gatherings. Once the reopening decision has been made, a timeline that includes a proposed amount of time that will be spent in each phase prior to moving into the next phase will be communicated to you. The amount of time spent in each phase will be driven by any updated guidelines by national and state health officials; as well as, benchmarks established by SPBC to govern movement from one phase to the next.
- Broadcasting (Live streaming using the sanctuary as a background) – Schedule must be coordinated with Pastor or designee.
- Ministry Meetings – Every effort should be made to conduct conference call meetings or stream them live from home as opposed to assembling at the church. Schedules for on sight meetings and using the church conference line must be coordinated with Pastor or designee. Of course, ministry leaders are encouraged to schedule off sight “non-in-person” ministry meetings at their discretion when using other on line or call in resources.
- Praise Team or Solo Rehearsals (Attendees – 4 Maximum including Minister of Music) – Schedule must be coordinated with Pastor or designee.
- Evening Prayer Time – Individual evening prayer time at church will be communicated to you once the decision to reopen the building to public gathering is made. Wearing face masks and physical/social distancing are expected while praying.
Tasks: Each person will wear a face mask at all times, sanitize hands with a pump of hand sanitizer upon entering the building, and maintain physical/social distancing during the duration of the activity. It is the responsibility of the ministry leader to ensure door knobs and handles, used microphones and instruments, etc. are cleaned and sanitized before leaving the area. The pulpit microphone should NOT be used by anyone during rehearsals or performances. It is for pulpit use only. All meetings in the building will last no longer than one hour.
(The “Essential Guidelines” of this Action Plan will be in effect at each SPBC public engagement.)
- “In-Person” Public Worship – These are any large gatherings in the church sanctuary on Sundays and weekdays. Sunday morning worship is our primary focus for “Phase 2” public gatherings. Thursday evening services will continue to be held on the conference line and/or streaming until further notice. Friday Night Gospel is on hold until further notice. (The “Essential Guidelines” of this Action Plan will be in effect at each SPBC public engagement.)
- The Lord’s Supper – Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper will continue to be held on each first Sunday. Whether we partake of the Lord’s Supper in the sanctuary during worship on first Sundays or continue on-line Communion is being considered. When participation occurs in the sanctuary, upon entering the lobby and after hand sanitizing, each member who plans to participate in the Communion service will take a self-contained package of the elements from the table in the lobby and keep it until the appropriate time for the elements to be consumed. The face mask should only be lifted above the mouth by the bottom ties at the designated time and for the few seconds it takes to eat and drink the elements. A mask should be returned to proper coverage immediately thereafter. The opened package should be placed in the trashcan as you exit the sanctuary. (The “Essential Guidelines” of this Action Plan will be in effect at each SPBC public engagement.)
- Bible Study – Bible study will temporarily relocate from the fellowship hall to the sanctuary once in-person sessions begin. (The “Essential Guidelines” of this Action Plan will be in effect at each SPBC public engagement.)
Tasks: The church will be ventilated, cleaned and sanitized after each worship service and Bible study. Sanitation includes restrooms and items touched; such as, door knobs and handles, microphones, instruments, etc. Personal items left behind will be discarded.
- Dedication of Babies – Dedication of babies will be arranged with Pastor. (The “Essential Guidelines” of this Action Plan will be in effect at each SPBC public engagement.)
- Funerals and Weddings – Funerals and weddings will be arranged with Pastor. Repasts, receptions and banquets at the church are suspended until further notice. (The “Essential Guidelines” of this Action Plan will be in effect at each SPBC public engagement.)
- Baptisms – Baptisms are on hold until further notice.
Tasks: The church will be ventilated, cleaned and sanitized after each church essential activity. This sanitation includes restrooms and items touched; such as, door knobs and handles, microphones, instruments, etc. Personal items left behind will be discarded.
DISCLAIMER: Anyone on the grounds of Saint Phillips Baptist Church (SPBC) and goes inside the church building recognizes that he/she enters at his/her own risk and no officer or representative of SPBC forced or encouraged that individual to enter against his/her own conscience. Although SPBC has implemented measures as recommended by national and state health officials concerning the risk of contracting COVID-19, there is NO guarantee that anyone entering the premises will not be exposed. Consequently, any member or non-member of SPBC entering on the grounds and in the church building agrees NOT to hold SPBC, its deacons and staff legally responsible for any COVID-19 infection that may occur as a result of entry on SPBC property. Further, it is expected that if you or any member of your family has been running a temperature or experiencing signs of illness, you will refrain from entering on the Church premises.
Prepared by MRJr
Seven Things NOT to Do Now in Order to Keep Yourself Safe and Help Stop the COVID-19 Surge According to Dr. Fauci
- You Should Not Gather With Family Without Realizing You Are Risking Their Life and Your Own
- You Should Not Hang Out in Bars
- You Should Avoid Indoor Restaurants That Are Packed
- You Should Not Hit the Gym
- Don’t Touch Your Face With Unwashed Hands
- Don’t Forget Washing Your Hands Is More Important Than Wiping Everything Down
- Don’t Forget the Fundamentals
- Universal wearing of masks, no matter where you live
- Physical distance of at least 6 feet
- Avoid crowds and congregate settings
- Conduct activities outdoors
- Frequent washing of hands
- Don’t go indoors with people you are not sheltering with