Survey Regarding Future Reinstatement of In-Person Worship

Survey Regarding Future Reinstatement of In-Person Worship

Greetings friends,
Included with this email is a link to a survey we would like EVERYONE to complete, as it will help us as we transition into in-person worship and other in-person activities in the future. Also below is a lot of information related to that survey. We ask that all SoL members and friends read this important information before completing the survey. By doing so, you will be fully informed about what in-person worship will include and exclude when we are able to reinstate in-person worship in the sanctuary at Song of Life UMC.

As we have shared over the last few weeks, our Bishop has communicated with us on a regular basis to keep us informed of our state’s progress toward mitigating the coronavirus. He has repeatedly advised us that, when our state has met the federal government’s requirement of at least 14 days of declining COVID-19 cases, he will advise us to begin our three-phase process to resume in-person worship and activities. Song of Life UMC, like the other churches in our Conference, will be guided by our Bishop as to when it is safe for us to gather together in our worship space.

The three-phase approach that will guide us can be viewed online at https://dscumc.org/church-opening-guidelines/. Included on that website is a document called “Ministry in the Season of COVID-19 and Beyond” that has a checklist of precautions we must put in place to resume in-person worship.
We have assembled a team of persons from Song of Life, called the “Resuming In-Person Worship” (or RIW) Team. This team evaluated documentation provided by our Conference and other organizations. Based on the team’s recommendation, and out of an abundance of love and care for our church members and friends, we expect in-person worship will look very different. Some of these differences are included in the “Reopening Covenant With and Between Song of Life UMC Members and Friends During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which is included near the end of this letter. In addition to the policies listed in the Reopening Covenant, the following procedures will also be put into practice. We ask that you to review the Covenant as well as the bullet points below before completing the survey so you are familiar with the policies that will be followed during in-person groups, meetings, and worship.

The policies that will be put in place in addition to those listed in the Reopening Covenant are:

  • Access to the worship space will include no more than 50 people per service, including our pastor and other worship leaders.
  • Worshipers will enter and exit the worship space by separate doorways and in small groups.
  • Paper bulletins/announcement sheets will NOT be distributed during worship. Digital Bulletins will be sent by email before worship. Worshipers are encouraged to download the bulletin to their personal digital devices (i.e. smartphone or tablet) before they come to worship with their digital devices. Those who desire a paper bulletin may print it at home and bring it with them to worship. However, we ask they not share their paper bulletins with any other worshipers, and that they take their paper bulletins home with them to dispose of properly following worship.
  • Restroom usage will be strongly discouraged except in the case of an emergency.
  • All individuals attending in-person worship will register their attendance when they arrive for worship. Should the church be informed that someone who attended in-person worship has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the records for the Sundays they attended during the 2-weeks prior to their diagnosis will be provided to health officials for Contact Tracing purposes.
  • The “Wiggle Room” will be used as overflow seating and therefore will not be available for use by young children and their families.
  • Initially, children will be asked to attend worship with their parents or guardians, since Children’s Church will not initially be available. Once Children’s Church is reinstated, further information about any changes made to that ministry will be communicated at that time.
  • Before returning to in-person worship, those planning to attend must print, sign and submit to the church office the “Reopening Covenant” promising to agree to the stipulations listed. This covenant will also be given to guests who arrive unexpectedly as they will be expected to comply as well. The “Reopening Covenant” is shown here:
Reopening Covenant with and between SONG OF LIFE UMC
members and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic

We, the people of Song of Life United Methodist Church covenant with one another to protect each other’s health and safety and prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the spirit of John Wesley’s proclamation of “Do no harm” and “Do good” and Jesus’ call to love our neighbors as ourselves, we covenant to the following actions:

  • To abide by the directives of the Bishop of the Desert Southwest Conference and his guidance on the extent and ability to open our church buildings and offer in-person gatherings.
  • To refrain from attending activities at the church if we are sick, and especially if we are experiencing any of the common COVID-19 symptoms; believe we have been exposed to someone who is sick; or have attended another activity of 50 or more people in an enclosed space over the last two weeks.
  • To use the RSVP system to reserve seats for our family members and guests who will attend with us at our preferred worship service; to be flexible and willing to attend a different service than the one we usually attended before the pandemic; to inform any guests we bring to church about these measures and that they will be asked to also sign this covenant before attending in-person worship to secure their cooperation in abiding by them.
  • To attend worship online as often as we can when we are unable to attend in-person.
  • To wear a mask at all church gatherings to protect the health of our brothers & sisters in Christ (does not apply to children under age 2).
  • To maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet between ourselves and other persons with whom we are not sheltering at home. This means we will not hug, shake hands, or engage in direct physical contact when we are with others in the church or at church-sponsored activities.
  • To practice handwashing, use hand sanitizer, and take other precautions to mitigate spread of the virus through touching common surfaces.
  • To be seated by an usher in a designated safe distance seat, and to keep our assigned chairs in their assigned places (i.e. we will not move any chairs to other locations in the worship space). We further covenant not to ask ushers for special treatment or seating as they attempt to seat all worshipers safely and efficiently before and during the worship service.
  • To continue giving of our time, talents, and financial resources as we are able; to volunteer to help with Sunday setup and/or sanitizing, as members of the audio/ visual/online worship team(s) as we are able; and to increase our financial giving if possible to ensure additional expenses incurred, especially related to cleaning/sanitizing church facilities, are covered.
  • To be patient and gracious with each other as we seek to address the health and safety challenges and the changing information about the spread and nature of the virus.
  • To abide by other necessary restrictions, including suspension of congregational singing and speaking; suspension of “Community Connection;” suspension of passing or holding objects normally used in worship, including offering baskets, hymnals, Bibles, pens/pencils, etc.
  • To continue these practices until the leaders in the scientific, medical, and leaders in the Desert Southwest Conference all give their “ok” to gather again.

We know this is a lot of information to digest, but we also believe it is very important that everyone understand what in-person worship will include and exclude, at least until COVID-19 can be mitigated or eliminated through intense physical distancing or a vaccine. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to complete this important survey, which can be accessed by clicking here: Reinstating In-Person Worship Survey

Blessings, Pastor Jody