The first announcement from Governor Ivey on April 28 updated our state to a Safer-At-Home order but changed nothing for churches. On Friday, May 8, 2020, however, the Governor started Phase 2 effective Monday, May 11, 2020. This order does change what is permissible for churches in that it allows gatherings of any size so long as a 6-foot distance can be maintained. While this does give us the ability to meet, it’s not without its challenges.
EBC is currently planning to emerge from this pandemic in three phases: Phase 1 – Worship Service Only, Phase 2 – Partial Resumption, and Phase 3 – Fully Reopened. During Phase 1, we will be reopening our worship center for in-person services on Sunday, May 17, 2020. During Phase 1, we will have a worship service only at 10:30 am. There will be no Building Blocks, Sunday school, or nursery for at least the first couple of weeks so we can assess the attendance. For our part, in an effort to comply with Governor Ivey’s order, we will be blocking off every other pew, and we will open the fellowship hall for overflow (with appropriate spacing), or if you have to take a child out. For your part, we are trusting you to maintain a 6-foot distance, but we will not and cannot enforce that in any real way. However, we do want you to take it seriously for the sake of others.
We will be keeping the livestream going on YouTube for you to access from home. I want to express to you the Christian liberty you have to do what you determine is necessary for you and your family during this time. As an example, if you are 60+, the primary care-taker of an elderly individual, if you or anyone in your family is ill or has a fever, or if the prospect of a child running up to you and giving you a hug (or playing with your children) is too risky given your particular situation, it’ll be best for you to watch the livestream for a little while longer.
If you are concerned about having your children with you in the service, let me encourage you. First, there are only 6 of us that have been in the worship center for the last couple of months. You and your family will be the first humans we’ve worshipped with in a long time. Seeing you and your children will be a welcomed relief for us. Second, we expect more movement and probably more noise than normal because children will be getting readjusted to being in the church building after 2 months of eating Lucky Charms while going to church. The fellowship hall will be streaming the service for you to utilize as you need. Third, if this pandemic has taught us anything it’s that we’re a family and we’re imperfect, but it’s still a joy to be together.
In sum for Phase 1:
* Worship center opened Sunday May 17, 2020
* Every other pew blocked off (until that restriction passes)
* No Building Blocks, No Sunday school, No Nursery/Child Care
* Cleaning crew resumes normal cleaning Thursday, May 14, 2020
* FOR ALL PHASES: Hand sanitizer stations placed at entrances, bulletins on tables instead of being handed out, offering boxes instead of plate passing
Future Phases will most likely look something like this.
Phase 2 will most likely include:
* Nursery rotation established and keeping ages 0-4
* Building Blocks, Sunday school, and Children’s Sunday school opened
* Resume serving coffee in Fellowship Hall
* Greeters resume posts, but only waving, smiling, and directing from whatever distance complies with current CDC recommendations
* Wednesday night activities resume
* Small groups opened to meet
* Date: TBD
Phase 3 will most likely include:
* A resumption of all normal activities (i.e. on-campus meetings, organized church activities, etc.)
* Live Stream ended
* Date: TBD
Although I know that opinions are varied on all of these issues I pray that we may be encouraged in the years to come to heed the words of Paul from Romans 14:1-4:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
I love you all, and I look forward to the day when we can all be together under one roof on Sunday morning.