Dear Shady Grove Family,
On June 1st Bishop Taylor and the Cabinet of the Holston Conference published a plan for reopening churches. Per their guidance, I submitted our plan to re-open and I’m excited to announce we received permission to begin in-person worship on June 21st, 2020!! Our goal is to provide a welcoming environment for all to worship and experience God while also loving and protecting our members, especially those among us who are vulnerable. I ask for your understanding as you read our guidelines below. I hope and pray we will be able to ease these protocols in the coming weeks/months. Below you’ll find an outline of what Sunday services will look like for a while.
The Holston Conference plan for reopening churches outlined “4 non-negotiables:”
Based on these 4 non-negotiables and other Holston Conference guidelines, services will look different for a time. If you are in the vulnerable category, I encourage you to remain home and worship online with us. As we return to in-person worship, please note the following interim changes & protocols:
We ask everyone bring their own mask. Those who do not have a mask but want to attend service will be provided a mask at the door. If someone refuses to wear a mask, we will ask them to worship with us online. We know this will seem harsh to some, but as highlighted above, the wearing of masks is “non-negotiable” for now.
To comply with the second non-negotiable (social distancing), we will implement an RSVP system to prevent us from turning anyone away at the door. Those who wish to attend services are asked to contact the church office and let us know which service you plan on attending (traditional at 9:00 am or modern at 11:15 am). You may call the church office or email Ashley. If emailing, please include the service you wish to attend, the number attending with you (in your family) and a phone number. If calling, please do not leave a message with your RSVP – please ensure you speak to Ashley personally. We will take RSVPs on Monday, June 15th, from 10-3, Tuesday 10-3, Wednesday 9-10 and 1-3, and Thursday 9-12:00. The cut off to RSVP for June 21st is Thursday, June 18th at noon. Ashley will provide you with positive confirmation of your request either over the phone or via email.
If you do not RSVP but still come to service on June 21st, you will be asked to wait in King Street until everyone who has RSVP’d is seated. We will also be prepared to welcome guests who are unfamiliar with our RSVP requirement.
I know it’s frustrating to reserve your spot at church, but this is the only way we will be able to keep from turning people away at the door. If after the first week we find we have plenty of room left over in each service, we will reevaluate our RSVP system. We will also look at implementing more services if the demand exceeds our capacity in two services.
When you arrive at the service, you will enter through the King Street door. The King Street entrance will be the only entrance available; every other door will be locked. As you advance through King Street and into the narthex, we will confirm we have your contact information and ushers will take you to your seat(s). Please note, you probably will not sit where you always sat. I ask for your understanding as we are doing our best to fit as many people in the sanctuary as possible. Once an usher takes you to your seat, please remain there for the length of the service. I know you want to see and talk with your friends and church family, but we ask you do this outside.
Once our service concludes, ushers will dismiss congregants by row. We ask you to continue outside to the parking lot without stopping in the narthex. This may take additional time, but we will do our best to dismiss everyone as quickly and efficiently as possible. For now, I will not be standing at the door for handshakes and hugs. On that note…
We have a wonderful, loving church body who enjoys hugging and shaking hands. While I love that about you, I ask for now you abstain from all physical touch, including hugs, handshakes, elbow bumps, and high-fives. I know this will be difficult, and we will miss the hugs as well, but in order to adhere to the second non-negotiable, we need to maintain social distancing.
We will not collect the offering during the service, but we placed boxes at the back of the sanctuary for tithes and gifts (to include change for children). As you enter or exit, you may place your offerings in the designated boxes. As a reminder, you may tithe online, as well as mail tithes to the church or drop them by the office.
Children and Youth
We will not be hosting children or youth activities inside the church, which includes nursery and children’s church as it is impossible to keep small children and nursery workers socially distanced. Children will remain with their parents during the worship service. Ashley will provide activity bags to keep them busy, and King Street will serve as a “Cry Room” if your children get restless. If you do have to take your children to King Street, we ask that you and your children remain socially distanced from others in the chair groupings provided. Eddie and Ashley will continue to host Zoom meetings for kids and youth through June.
If Someone Develops Coronavirus
If anyone who has attended our services contracts coronavirus, we will immediately contact our local health department, our district leadership, and all church members who were in the building on the same Sunday as the coronavirus patient. We will then thoroughly sanitize the church. If you find out you have coronavirus after you attended one of our church services, PLEASE let us know immediately so we can begin informing all those with whom you may have had contact.
Weekly Small Groups
At this time, we are not holding small groups on Sundays or Wednesdays at the church. I hope we will be able to lift this restriction very soon after starting services, in the meantime, we encourage you to connect with your small group over Zoom.
I know all these protocols can be frustrating, but it’s our responsibility to care for the brothers and sisters among us who may be vulnerable. I take your health and wellbeing seriously as I love each and every one of you. Please be patient and give us grace as we begin this process of reopening Shady Grove. We are certainly not perfect, and this process will be full of trials and errors. Our goal is to be able to worship together, even if it will look different for a time. I hope to see you soon, church family!