Dear Brothers and Sister of Canaan Church,
I am pleased to inform you about some encouraging efforts that are being made to reopen churches in Columbia County. Pastor Cary Wacker of Warren Community Fellowship is leading the effort by working directly with government officials and proposing a plan for reopening churches as early as May 10, 2020.
Please find below a copy of a letter from Pastor Wacker and his draft proposal.
I am asking for you to do THREE things.
- First, please join in prayer regarding these efforts, that God's will be accomplished, and that we will be able to reopen churches for services soon.
- Second, please take a few minutes to read and think about the proposed draft reopening plan and its details. What would implementation of such a plan look like at Canaan Church? What would be your questions or concerns that we would need to address if this plan is acceptable to the authorities and to provide appropriate levels of health protections?
- Third, in what way(s) might you personally serve to help meet the requirements needed to reopen church? There will be lots of things that will need to be done in addition to what we normally do. This will be a good opportunity to put into practice the service of worship that I previously brought to our attention.
I am cautiously optimistic that we may be able to resume services soon in at least some form. I am looking forward to that time and to seeing you personally.
Thank you for your love and support in the Lord.
Serving with joy,
Letter from Pastor Wacker
I know these days are very difficult for all of us, especially for church leaders. If you are like me, you are watching the news hoping that this pandemic would soon be over so we can gather our congregations back together and minister to their needs in person. I wanted to drop you a note and let you know what I am working on to reopen churches. I have spoken with Brad Witt, our representative, and Betsy Johnson, trying to get an idea of how to reopen our churches.
After talking with Rep. Witt, he suggested that all or as many churches as possible create a comprehensive plan for reopening. He stated that we are at the low end of the medium-risk group, and there is a good chance we could reopen. I pointed out that we have only had 14 cases in Columbia County and no new cases in two weeks and no deaths. My proposal is to get our churches open for Mother's Day.
I have drafted a plan to start with that I think speaks the same language that Governor Brown is using and aligns with some of her plans. I have included this working draft for you all to see. I would like to schedule a zoom meeting to pray and discuss this draft so we can present this to Rep. Witt, and in turn, he will present it to the county and Governor Brown.
As you well know, the wheels of government move slowly, so it is important for us to meet as soon as possible. I am proposing that a Zoom meeting to take place on Friday, May 1, at 7 pm. I know there are some bi-vocational pastors, so an evening probably would be best.
This is an ambitious plan, but God is in the battle. Please let me know what you think and a preference for a zoom meeting.
In-Person Church Services
Reopening Proposal – Working Draft
April 30, 2020
Goal: Responsibly and safely reopen churches to provide in-person church services and community support for the population of Columbia County.
Need: The mental, emotional, and spiritual health of Columbia County is suffering from an extended time of isolation and in need of healthy community support from religious and community support services that are provided by churches and faith-based organizations.
Restrictions: During the pandemic of COVID-19, people have been isolated to their homes with limited outside connections and contact. The coping mechanism of families has been stressed to their fullest resulting in high levels of stress. With little to no relief, these households are exposed to stress-based reactions and inappropriate behavior. Essential workers are working long hours and have no reprieve or resource to step away and receive support after so much selfless giving. Spiritual needs in the community are going unmet and unfulfilled because of the limitations of the Online Church. Churches, in turn, cannot support families who grieve because funerals have been stopped, nor can they celebrate the union of marriage. Sacerdotal services like weddings, funerals, communion, community prayer, visitations have ceased because of social distancing.
Risk: If a healthy community is not restored soon, then there will be a rise of domestic violence, marital problems, child abuse, substance abuse, depression, and suicide. People are social beings and need the community to support each other during a crisis.
Recommendation: Reopen in-person church services by May 10 to celebrate Mother’s Day and support families and community.
Proposal: Church Service Reopening Requirements.
The social distancing of 6 feet must be maintained.
Older and at-risk members are encouraged to stay home.
If someone has a fever or feels sick, they are to stay home.
Online services continue as an option for church members.
Attendees are encouraged to wear face masks.
Hand sanitization stations are available, and attendees are encouraged to wash hands.
Attendees will be encouraged to refrain from shaking hands and hugging.
Church services in-person attendance will be based on 50% of building occupancy.
Seating will accommodate families of the same household to sit together; otherwise, there must be two chair widths between non-household family members and one empty row between each seated row.
No food or beverages will be served.
Children’s classes are limited to 10 students in a room, and hand sanitization is mandatory upon entrance and exit.
Offering stations will be put in place instead of the passing of offering plates/bags.
Communion elements will be self-contained.
Building to be sanitized before and after services.
Special services such as Weddings and Funerals follow the above guidelines. Receptions will follow the timing of the reopening of restaurants.
If, after 14 days, there is no rise in COVID-19 cases in the area, then churches may extend attendance to 75% of occupancy and children’s classes to 20 students. Coffee and single service food items may be served.
If, after another 14 days of there being no rise in COVID-19 cases, then the church will follow the state guidance of phase 3 in the state plan.