covid-19 church action plan

PLAN FOR REOPENING IN-PERSON MINISTRIES AT FUMC MONTGOMERY

FUMC Family and Friends,

Church leaders all over the world are asking the same two basic questions: When and how will we reopen?
I have been in conversation with numerous church leaders in our city, state, country, South Africa, and even with one friend in Singapore. Recent statements from Governor Ivey propose that churches may reopen so long as social distancing and health guidelines are practiced. As you might also have read, Bishop Graves recently announced that in-person worship guidelines will now be decided by the minister(s) of each local church in the Alabama-West Florida Conference; however, our bishop has recommended in-person worship remain suspended until July 5. Add to the list President Trump’s recent statement that churches must reopen along with health professionals who say otherwise, and teams making decisions about reopening find themselves overwhelmed. To say the least, the past two weeks have been a gauntlet for clergy trying to figure out how to safely reopen worship and program ministries.

In conversation with our clergy team, Program Staff, program directors, and the FUMC reintegration team, I have compiled the following guidelines for when and how FUMC will begin reopening worship and program ministries. Please make careful note of each detail and begin processing what that means for your areas of involvement. Also, be thinking about our community while you read this document and ask how you might best communicate this plan to someone who needs a church family.

Finally, I want to make sure I am clear when I say that this plan is subject to modification or cancellation at any point based on spikes in COVID-19 cases, tremendous periods of diagnoses, or other factors related to our campus such as the IMPACT renovations, all of which are beginning to happen as I type. We also want to make clear that FUMC is doing everything possible to keep everyone connected, healthy, and safe. FUMC will not be held liable should diagnosed cases be traced to any of these plans.

If you are ill or predisposed to COVID-related illness, we ask that you remain home and stay safe. Anyone with pre-existing medical conditions should consider waiting longer before regathering in worship. And, of course, if you feel unsafe or uncertain about returning soon, please do not feel obligated to do so. After 190 years, we have time on our side. The day will come when we all will be together, and what a day of rejoicing it will be!

REFRESHERS

  • We are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Alabama Department of Public Health regarding COVID-19. As new information becomes available, we will adjust our protocol and response accordingly. You may find those guidelines by visiting www.cdc.gov.
  • Every person who comes onto campus—staff, subcontractor, guest, interns, all outside contractors, maintenance, pest control personnel, etc.—will enter the building through the breezeway door to the Fellowship Hall and sign in at the receptionist’s desk. Upon entry and sign in, all temperatures will be taken and recorded. Any person with a temperature above 99.4 will leave the campus immediately.
  • All personnel on campus will wear a mask at all times. The only exception is when one is working in a personal space by oneself or being filmed for worship-related content.
  • Our offices remain closed with the exception of a few personnel throughout the week. These team members work on a set schedule and rotate to ensure safety and minimal contact on-site.
  • Our campus remains closed to the general public until further notice. All members and guests must contact a staff liaison who will have that visitor pre-approved to be on-site. Any members and guests not pre-approved will not be permitted into the buildings. If you are not sure who to contact, start with Drew Norman (dnorman@fumcmontgomery.org) or Lillian Gilley (lgilley@fumcmontgomery.org).
  • Online worship remains our primary point of connection on Sunday mornings at 11:00 am via WSFA, Facebook, fumcmontgomery.org, and YouTube.
  • Throughout each week, we have program area videos on the FUMC Montgomery Facebook page and emails to keep everyone apprised and connected. Additionally, follow along with the various ministry area pages on Facebook to keep up with their happenings: Respite (@RespiteMinistry), 50 PLUS (@FUMC50PLUS), and Youth (@FUMCConnectStudentMinistry). The FUMC Montgomery Facebook video schedule is as follows:
    • Monday |  Digital Minutes (Children) | 5:00 pm
    • Tuesday |  Live with Luv (Youth) | 3:00 pm
    • Wednesday |  Wednesday Night Conversations (Clergy Study) | 5:30 pm
    • Thursday |  Music Moments | Posting times vary and may not be weekly
    • Friday |  Joy with Jay | 11:00 am
  • Approved methods for pastoral care visits are phone calls, emails, text messages, and other means of technology. In the near future, we will be releasing ways to visit with one another outside, in driveways, and other distanced forms of in-person visits. Pastoral visits in-person remain prohibited for the safety of our members and clergy staff. Our pastoral team will not visit nursing homes, hospitals, rehab centers, or homes of members until a treatment or vaccine has been discovered.
  • WORSHIP

    Pilot Group Worship Guidelines

    On the projected launch date of June 14, we will reintegrate a 50-person pilot group who will model our in-person worship practices for the following weeks. Our sanctuary can seat 91-178 socially distanced worshipers depending on the household composition. However, my goal is to create a model by which we all may abide; therefore, I plan to work with this initial group of 50 as our pilot group. After 2-4 weeks, we will reevaluate the COVID19 cases in Montgomery and then make a determination about more fully reintegrating people into worship, the guidelines of which are as follows (and apply to the pilot group as well):

    In-Person Worship Guidelines

    After the Pilot Group worship experience is evaluated, the following guidelines will go into effect. FUMC will maintain these in-person worship guidelines until the virus is mitigated, sound treatments are released, or a cure is discovered for the virus.

    • Baptisms and professions of faith are the most important things we do as a church. Those will continue, even by creative means such as pre-recordings, outdoor experiences, Zoom meetings for welcoming new members, smaller groups during worship, and other creative means for celebrating church growth.
    • We will maintain social distancing at all times during worship.
    • Worshipers will arrive in front of the sanctuary 45 minutes prior to worship.
    • Worshipers will pre-register for Sunday worship using a system that is currently being refined, but will be akin to SignUp Genius. This is to ensure we are able to control attendance and make determinations about persons who might be in at-risk categories, have traveled abroad, or other factors that could contribute to a compromised worship space.
    • An usher, wearing a mask, will take the worshipers temperature with an infrared forehead scanner. If one’s temperature exceeds 99.4 that person will not be permitted into worship.
    • Persons with a normal temperature reading will be ushered to an assigned, predetermined and socially distanced seat in the sanctuary, where that person will remain until the conclusion of the postlude. Worshippers will be seated 30 minutes prior to the start of worship.
    • Prior to worship, I will offer instructions for worship related to singing, movements, restroom instructions, so forth.
    • Worshipers and ushers will be masked until further notice.
    • Hymnals, pew pads, prayer cards, and offering plates will not be part of our current worship experience. Other means for engaging worship in these ways will be communicated soon.
    • Worshipers will be seated after the benediction response and will remain seated through the postlude, after which an usher will escort worshipers from the sanctuary one person at-a-time to maintain social distancing
    • Communion will be offered periodically as worshipers are leaving the sanctuary. The elements will be consecrated in-person and communicated safely.

    In addition to our online worship experiences, we are also planning a few other ways to engage God and one another through worship. These are as follows:

    • A monthly worship service in Cloverdale Park—bring your own chair, snacks, drinks, blanket or quilt. Worshiping in the park will include responsive readings, prayers, singing, scripture lessons, and a short homily.
    • A worship/prayer experience in the garth and/or at the Bartlett property.
    • Small groups who will be permitted into the sanctuary during the week, under the aforementioned guidelines, for the purpose of spending ten minutes in prayer and meditation.

    If you are interested in helping plan these alternative worship activities, please contact Rev. Gillian Walters (glwalters@fumcmontgomery.org) or Rev. Lucas Tribble (ltribble@fumcmontgomery.org).

    PROGRAM MINISTRIES

    During this unprecedented time, we have a unique opportunity that we want to be sure we take advantage of. While we are able to use this time of building closures to perform renovations to our campus as a part of the IMPACT Campaign, we also see this as a chance to consider “renovations” to our program ministries. This time has challenged us to think outside the box and to be more creative than ever as we engage each of you, as well as the community, and we want to keep that momentum as we plan for the post-pandemic age we are all looking forward to.

    • Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, age-level and other program areas will remain online and outdoors. During this time, we invite all members to begin thinking about three overarching questions related to program ministries:
      • What should we stop doing?
      • What should we continue doing?
      • What should we attempt to do?
    • All routine age-level and other program ministries will not resume in-person until Labor Day at the earliest. These include the following:
      • Sunday School
      • Children’s Church
      • Nursery Ministries
      • Small Groups
      • Wednesday Night Supper
      • MYF
      • ELMO/Summit Kids
      • Support Groups
      • Workout Groups
      • 50 PLUS Ministries
      • Respite
    • However, there are numerous ways to be creative about meeting in person for smaller gatherings. Consider “Poolside Chats” in the summertime. Perhaps you will consider assembling FUMC friends at the beach or the lake for a quick check-in and time of fellowship, scripture devotional, and prayer. Don’t forget to snap a photo and tag the church on social media, or use the hashtags #FUMCMontgomery and #BEthechurch.
    • ECDC and First School are devising their own plans for reintegration.

    CONNECTING

    Every person should find ways to live out one’s baptismal vows by practicing one’s spiritual gifts. There are endless ways to connect with God, one another, and our community right now. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you are encouraged to discover new ways to remain connected and to be the church. Here are a few examples for how we may be in ministry while deployed in our community:

    • Pick a grade and write every student in that grade (contact lshannon@fumcmontgomery.org if you need a list and addresses).
    • Pick an adult Sunday school class and write or call every member on that roll (contact lshannon@fumcmontgomery.org if you need a list and addresses).
    • Encourage your Sunday school class to help keep our grounds beautiful by removing trash, limbs, and debris as needed (be sure to schedule with Drew Norman).
    • Create a group to attend to our outdoor spaces with the intent of using those spaces for small groups, worship experiences, and other creative purposes.
    • Spend some time in the garth praying for our staff and community.
    • Spend time in the columbarium praying for our saints and their families.
    • Help Kate Wheaton (kwheaton@fumcmontgomery.org) and Adrian Borden (aborden@fumcmontgomery.org) run supplies to our medical workers.
    • Contact Claire Smith (csmith@fumcmontgomery.org) about ways to work with community agencies.
    • Make it a point to tell one person per week about all of the wonderful things God is doing through FUMC.
    • Watch, like, comment, and share our online worship service each week. Become an active participant in online worship.
    • Check on persons who are home alone by calling them or visiting them at a really safe distance.
    • Take fresh-baked cookies to a neighbor.
    • Volunteer to help a neighbor with grocery shopping.
    • Write a note on behalf of the church to Emergency Room workers, Labor and Delivery floors, Operating Rooms, First Responders, nurses, doctors, and others who are on the front lines right now.
    • Write notes or make signs to show appreciation to local businesses and restaurants.
    • Launch a Pay-It-Forward ministry when out in public (at a restaurant, grocery store, fast food drive-thru, etc.).
    • Participate in one of many drive-thru donation opportunities (baked goods, sock drop, etc.)
    • Teachers can tutor. Attorneys and Accountants can provide professional advice and/or tutorials. Instrumentalists can share her/his skills.
    • We want to hear from you. For additional creative ideas, please contact Rev. Gillian Walters (glwalters@fumcmontgomery.org) and Rev. Lucas Tribble (ltribble@fumcmontgomery.org).

    CAMPUS PLAN FOR DISINFECTING AND SANITATION

    • After every worship gathering, we will begin the tedious process of disinfecting the sanctuary. If you would like to be part of this team, please contact Drew Norman (dnorman@fumcmontgomery.org).
    • Anytime we host a small staff meeting, the space will be disinfected.
    • Restrooms remain closed to outside groups and will be used only for emergencies and by the minimal staff on site.
    • During the IMPACT renovations, we will ask the workers to abide by the same guidelines as worshipers and other attendees—temperature check, sanitize hands, masks as needed, no pre-existing conditions, so forth.
    • Water fountains will be covered and possibly removed due to the nature of how the virus spreads. Refilling stations are an option for the future.
    • Coffee, drink, and snack stations will be eliminated for the foreseeable future.
    • The campus will be regularly sanitized with EPA-approved disinfecting products.
    ALL church meetings and programming are suspended until further notice. Suspended activities and programming include, but are not limited to, the following:
    • In-Person Worship
    • Lenten Luncheons
    • Sunday School
    • Covenant Groups
    • Bible Studies
    • External Group Meetings and Events
    • Wednesday Night Supper
    • Early Childhood Development Center and First School
    • Wednesday Night Chapel
    • Choir and Ensemble Rehearsals
    • Age-Level Programming
    • All Other On-Site Events and Activities
    Please click the links below to connect with us in the following ways:

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    Keep up with the latest COVID-19 updates through this web page, but also on our Facebook page. Click the link below to follow along, as we strive to keep our communities as safe as possible.

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