When are We Going Back?
Our primary concern at Hope Community Church during this time of pandemic is for the health of our members, the majority of whom are considered high-risk by the CDC guidelines. Most authorities at the local, state, and national level continue to advise that people who are in this category need to take extra precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19.
This includes not only wearing face masks in public and washing hands frequently but also avoiding groups of people where there could be asymptomatic carriers in attendance (people who are infected but are not aware, or aren‘t showing symptoms).
Our country‘s efforts to open the economy may be necessary for some people to get back to work and earn a paycheck. For others, getting back out into circulation with other people could mean contracting a serious virus for which we have very little treatment and no vaccine, and from which they may not recover. That many churches have re-opened, or have plans to do so soon, does not mean there is no danger. Each business, community organization, and place of worship needs to decide for itself how much risk is acceptable and how vulnerable its members are to becoming ill.
Several people in our leadership teams have discussed the matter and agreed it is still too soon to open our doors for worship like we did before the pandemic hit America. We all miss how it was before, but the trade-off is not acceptable.
Specifically, here are some things to consider:
- We have a sanctuary hall that can fit about 55 people comfortably, 70 or more if we really squeeze people together. Since CDC guidelines encourage partial capacity seating, and the state of Texas is about to allow 50% capacity (next week at the time of this writing), that means we could probably only allow about 35 people at maximum in the building. That would force some people to stay home for spacing reasons alone.
- After each service, a thorough cleaning must be performed to disinfect all surfaces. This applies to any place people walked, talked, or touched anything.
- People use our building both Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings/afternoons. A cleaning crew would need to disinfect the building on Saturday night (which may be difficult considering most local cleaning companies do not work on weekends or evenings) before the Sunday service, or those members would need to clean it themselves. The same would need to take place after every Sunday morning service. Either the Sunday morning worshippers would need to disinfect the building or we would need a professional cleaning company to sanitize everything the following Monday.
- Our denominational guidelines strongly discourage any kind of visiting face-to-face after services as we traditionally do. Instead, people are to exit the building immediately after worship concludes.
- Children’s Church would be impractical; it would be very difficult to expect children to wear face masks or stay 6 feet apart from everyone else, especially when Children’s Church takes place in a mid-sized classroom. Therefore children would need to stay at home or stay with their family in “adult church.”
- We would need comprehensive policies to address what to do with people who refuse to wear a mask or show any signs of being sick. We would also need policies for contact tracing and reporting, as well as volunteers to implement and enforce all those policies.
In short, we currently are meeting online and are able to do most of what we normally did before the virus became an issue. Meeting in person would take away from what we are currently doing in terms of worship and social time, since we are able to use Zoom breakout rooms for visiting after the livestream. We still have adult discipleship class before services, Wednesday Night Bible Studies, and sermon time with both a live speaker and a slide/video presentation.
We may be experiencing cabin fever or Zoom fatigue, but the risks of meeting in-person and the drawback of having so many visiting limitations together do not compare with the safety or richness of meeting online.
Of course, we will continue to monitor the situation and make changes as circumstances permit.