I am writing this message to you with a deep concern for the physical health of our congregation and the need to be spiritually fed. Over the past two weeks our Worship Design Committee and our Administrative Council have looked at the possibility of returning to worship once again in the Claybanks United Methodist Church Sanctuary. We were carefully looking at returning to worship in the first part of July along with other churches in our area. It has been decided during these past few days that our community is not ready for us to return to worshiping together. With the recent increase of Covid-19 cases in Oceana County and the rising trend in our country, we are not ready to gather together safely in our church building. When the time is right for us to gather together additional communications will be issued by phone, email or postal mail to confirm our re-engaging in worship. To do this we must meet the requirements set before us by the State of Michigan, follow guidelines developed for the re-engaging of churches by the Michigan Conference of United Methodist Churches and the determination to do so by our church leadership. This will not be an easy process and some practices will not be what we have done before as we worship God, in the image of Christ through the guiding of the Holy Spirit.
Please hear and understand when I say this: you must decide for yourself and possibly other family members as to how comfortable you will be in returning to worship in the future. Some of us for health reasons must refrain from gathering together because of the possible health risks Covid-19 poses to those with pre-existing health conditions and other at a greater risk. For those who are just not ready to return to worship and all who will not be with us in worship as we gather together please do not let peer pressure, the habit only of being in worship on Sunday mornings or any other possible influences that might make it uncomfortable for you to be in worship be your only deciding factor. I assure you that we will not judge anyone or place a negative value on your decision to gather in common space worship until you feel comfortable. God knows your heart and wants nothing but safety and your well-being to be his desire.
If and when you so choose to return to worship, please evaluate your health each and every day including Sunday mornings prior to attending worship. People with Covid – 19 have a wide range of symptoms and if you have any of these please stay-at-home, contact your local medical providers and evaluate your current health. Some of the Covid-19 symptoms are: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficult breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, feeling nauseous or vomiting, and diarrhea. Should you have any of these symptoms please error on the side of safety for yourself and others that you might come in contact with.
For Sunday morning worship and any time we gather at Claybanks United Methodist Church we will practice safe social and physical distancing. We have developed policies and procedures in which to meet these requirements as much as possible. Wearing of face coverings is required for all with this one exception: those who because of health reasons are not able to where a face covering. We asked that you contact Pastor Gary prior to arriving at church so that we can make accommodations to keep you safe and others safe. All are welcome but certain restrictions will be in place. The entrance and exit to our building will only be through our double door entrance into the Fellowship Hall. As you approach and enter the church building please respect and use safe distancing. The entrance being used is wide and will allow the safest entry into our building. When entering and leaving safe distances are required. Hand sanitizer, sanitized wipes and face coverings will be available at our entrance area please use them. We will have a noncontact thermometer available should it be needed. In the entryway you will find baskets in which you may place your offerings for the day. We ask you to minimize your contact or touching of surfaces within the church. As you approach and enter the church building please respect and use safe distancing. Ushers will be available to seat you in the Sanctuary or in the Fellowship Hall if you prefer and we will use Fellowship Hall as overflow when needed. Please follow the directions of ushers and sit where direct (be open to the new and different perspective from your usual sitting location). We have determined the best possible seating to maximize the number of seats available in the sanctuary keeping safe distances. Bulletins will be placed in the seating areas where the ushers will guide you to. During our worship when we use a call and response, we ask you to respond in soft voices. For the immediate future we will not be singing, Suzanne is selecting music for worship that will touch our souls. To lift up Joys and Concerns we ask you to write them out prior to attending worship or use the forms provided in the pews which the pastor will collect and offer up during our prayer time. To minimize contact our Scripture Readings will be done by our liturgist and should you want to read along we asked that you bring your own Bible to worship. The touching of Bibles and our hymnals in the pews we are asking you to keep to a minimum. At the conclusion of worship, we will dismiss those in the Fellowship Hall first and then working from the back of the church towards the front you will be directed to leave by pew using safe distancing. We asked that you leave the Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall and proceed outside so that others can be directed to leave in a timely fashion.
Please be flexible and aware of the changes being made and any adjustments that will be made in the future are to protect you and the others as we gather together in community. It is our prayer that the precautions that we take will be effective in allowing us to continue to meet together in worship as the community of Christ gathers at Claybanks United Methodist Church to give glory and praise to God for the love that he has for us and our church.
We as a church have never closed, so the church does not need to be reopened only re-engaged in worship. We as a church have simply stop worshiping in our building for time to protect the health and well-being of the people in our community. The church does not require a building in order to be the church. What is required to be a church is love, compassion and the presence of God.
May the love of God and the compassion of Christ be in all that you do and say, and may the presence of the Holy Spirit be with you each and every day wherever you might be.