September 3, 2020
To our Neal Avenue family and friends:
I am pleased to be able to provide you with updated guidelines on the use of our building for worship, meetings, and other events, and to announce that we plan to open our church building for in-person worship by the end of September—provided, of course, that the risk level in Licking County does not increase before then. The opening date will be announced on our website, on Facebook and via the One Call system. Volunteers able to serve as cleaners or ushers are needed before we can determine the exact date. If you may be able to serve in one of these positions, please contact the church office at 740-344-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Training will be provided.
Attached is a chart based on guidelines provided by our District Office, grouped according to the state’s assigned level of risk by county. This chart has been approved by our Administrative Council after review by the Trustees and the Worship Team. If you have any questions about this chart, please feel free to contact me.
While we are all very eager to worship and gather together again, the most loving actions are those that ensure the safety of everyone who uses our building. Please note that the following specific protocols have been established to assure the attached guidelines can be met:
General protocols (for worship and all meetings of teams/committees/studies/social groups/outside groups, etc.)
- Masks are required to be worn inside the building, with no exceptions, except that leaders may remove their masks while they are speaking to their group, when appropriate social distancing is observed. If, for any reason, you cannot wear a mask, you may not be inside the building. We wear masks to protect each other and our many senior citizens. This restriction may be removed if the county is at Level 1 (Yellow).
- You must be asymptomatic (no fever, etc.) to enter the building. Touchless thermometers will be available for temperature checks for worship services as you enter the building.
- Appropriate social distancing must be practiced at all times.
- Surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected after each use, including, but not limited to, door handles, light switches, pews/seats, tables, and countertops. Hand sanitizer and wipes will be readily available in all spaces open for use: sanctuary, restrooms, hallways, church office, elevator, etc.
- The church van will not be used to transport people except at Level 1 (Yellow). Persons using the van must wear a mask inside the van and sign a liability release.
- If you have any individual health condition that puts you at risk (such as: lung problems, including asthma; heart disease, diabetes and obesity; weakened immune system; and chronic kidney or liver disease) and/or your age may put you at increased risk, you are urged to consider your personal safety above all else, and to follow CDC/Ohio guidelines.
Special considerations for worship
- Available worship options are determined by the state-assigned level of risk for Licking County. Current State of Ohio levels by county can be found by calling 1-833-427-5634 (1-833-4 ASK ODH) or at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/public-health-advisory-system/
- Level 1 (Yellow): in-person, drive-in and online available every Sunday
- Level 2 (Orange): in-person, drive-in and online available every Sunday
- Level 3 (Red): drive-in first and third Sunday (weather permitting), online every Sunday
- Level 4 (Purple): online every Sunday
- Whenever worship services are available inside the church building (Level 1 (Yellow) and Level 2 (Orange)), there will be two doors open for entrance/exit for in-person worshippers—the north (Neal Avenue) main entrance and the elevator entrance in the north (Neal Avenue) parking lot. On those days, drive-in worship will be in the south (Main Street) parking lot, in order to allow easier access to the elevator entrance for those who desire to use it.
- Safe social distancing will be practiced in all seating. We will mark pews/seating for distancing and will add worship services if necessary to maintain gathering limits. Family groups may sit together.
- We will greet each other without physical touching, using gestures such as “jazz hands” or sign language.
- We will leave the building promptly after worship services conclude. Conversations with others may be held outside the building, using appropriate social distancing.
- We will not be reinstating a fellowship/coffee hour at this time. When it is reinstated, initially only one person will pour coffee for everyone and only one person will serve any refreshments.
- Offerings will be received at a collection point near the inside entrance to the sanctuary/worship space. Offering plates will not be passed through the worship space.
- Please bring your own communion elements on days on which we celebrate communion (typically the first Sunday of each month). Ushers/greeters will have a limited number of communion elements available for those who do not have their own.
- We will not be using printed bulletins or hymnals. The order of worship will be available electronically and we will be using the a/v system during worship. Ushers/greeters will have a limited number of printed materials available for those who need them. Congregational singing and public responses will not be used in the worship space.
- Worship services will be shortened in duration. For in-person worship, this is due to safety considerations regarding circulating air. For drive-in and online worship, it is due to consideration of the optimal time for the nature of these types of services.
- No children’s Sunday school, junior church, nursery services, child care, or other children’s times will be offered inside the building except at Level 1 (Yellow).
- Only the restrooms on the same floor as the worship space will be open. Only one person is permitted in a restroom at a time, unless assistance is required. Disposable seat covers are provided for your safety. Sanitizing wipes are also provided for each person to clean the surfaces, door handles inside and outside of restroom doors, etc. Trash baskets are provided inside and outside of restroom doors.
- Ushers/Greeters will maintain safe distances. Doors will be propped open whenever possible.
- Every effort will be made to keep accurate attendance records in the event contact tracing needs to be done. Counters will record attendance by name. Pew pads will not be used. Visitors will be asked to provide their name and contact information.
Maintaining a commitment to the health and safety of each member and friend of our congregation is the most vital and loving response we can make during this pandemic, which will last for a relatively brief period of our lives. I look forward to the coming days on the other side of the pandemic, and I am committed, as is our congregational leadership, to prioritizing safe passage through these days until we can relax our precautions and meet once again as we would wish.
May the grace, peace and joy of the Lord be with you at this time and always.