As Cumberland County has moved to “yellow,” we are again offering public worship to those who desire to attend, while continuing to stream a service to those who should or who prefer to stay at home at this time.
I will shamelessly share part of what our president Will Harmon sent out to the council, but I want to stress a couple of things. First, and most important, if you or a member of your household is sick or might be sick, please stay home. This is a good policy to follow even after this coronavirus thing is over. If you believe you or a member of your household may have been exposed to COVID-19, please self-quarantine for the requested 14 days. And if you are in an at-risk group, please feel free to stay home. Second, as Will says, this is a work in progress. We will probably have to make adjustments to these plans on Sunday. Our planning committee is meeting with the Worship Committee on Monday evening to evaluate and decide what we need to revise. Already we know that we do not have all the technology we had wanted to stream the services in the building, as some things had to be back-ordered. Several of our committees and our council are working hard to make St. Tim’s as safe as possible for those who come to worship. But in this world we can only reduce risk, we cannot eliminate it. And that is true of COVID-19.
So here is what Will shared with the council: The desire of the committee members [who met to discuss re-opening plans] was to accommodate as many needs of the congregation as possible by offering various alternatives for worship. In that way, each member can then choose the option that will work best considering his or her individual and personal health concerns. The options being recommended for the congregation along with a brief rationale are:
Streamed / podcast services will continue at 8:00 am until further notice for those who feel it’s too early for them to participate in live, in-person worship; these, of course, will be saved on the website for viewing later at one’s convenience
An indoor spoken service will be available at 8:00 am for those who feel uncomfortable with singing in an enclosed, confined space; during the ‘yellow phase’ a maximum of 25 will be allowed in the sanctuary to allow for the proper distancing with overflow available in the back Sunday school rooms and/or the downstairs multi-purpose room with WiFi broadcasts into those spaces; sanitizing of the space(s) will be done at the conclusion of the service
Resumption of the outdoor services at 9:45 am including singing with distancing and sanitizing procedures in place; also low-frequency FM broadcasting so those uncomfortable with singing even outdoors, can remain in their cars and participate in the worship service on-site — chairs will not be pre-set, but will be set up per family as people arrive maintaining proper distancing between families; worshippers will not handle chairs after the service so that a crew can sanitize them prior to putting them away
Communion will be offered at both services for those who wish to receive it, but at the close of service as people are leaving to avoid bunching up and creating distancing issues; proper distancing will be observed as worshippers are dismissed; this was tested this past Sunday with good results
No touching under any circumstances and masks recommended when 6 feet distancing cannot be maintained; hand sanitizer will be available at all services
Re-opening St. Timothy to public worship will continue to be a work in progress and adjustments will likely continue over the coming weeks as health guidelines continue to change. Worship, Property, and Education committees will deal with those changing issues and concerns along with the Council members on the committees. They will endeavor to continue offering as many options as possible to our congregants to accommodate individual needs and desires while keeping things as safe as possible.
Ultimately, each person has to consider his or her own health situation, risk tolerance, and to what extent he or she will participate in any of the worship alternatives being offered.
Steve Shipman, STS