Covenant’s COVID Reentry Working Plan
Obviously there is still a fair amount of uncertainty about how things will play out, but we've identified four principles that will guide us in the decisions we make going forward:
- We remain highly committed to the value of gathering together in person for worship as the people of God. We see this as defining for us as a church and have been so grateful for the way technology has allowed us to continue to gather online, but we look forward to the day when we can return to in-person worship as soon as is safe and appropriate. We are also highly committed to the value of staying relationally connected to one another. While we trust the church family will do so in wise and safe ways, we encourage the body to find creative ways to stay connected during this time, including in person as that becomes more feasible.
- Even though the government was gracious to allow churches the freedom to make their own decisions, we are committed to abiding by the Governor's guidance, our medical community's advice, and the county council's parameters.
- As we wait for restrictions to be lifted, we as a church staff are committed to providing the most effective ministry possible. We see this time as an opportunity when we can grow and deepen as a church, and when we can become more creative and effective in our church’s ministry efforts, rather than merely holding ground.
- As things slowly return to normal, we encourage our church members to be especially gracious to those whose decisions may be different from their own. Each person in the church has (or lives with those who have) different levels of vulnerability and we all have different comfort levels with taking risk. This is a time when it will be important for us to be gracious and understanding toward one another, both giving and receiving the freedom to follow our consciences, and being quick to bless and accept one another's decisions. Groups are also asked during this time to make decisions about beginning to gather that are sensitive to both the safety of those who gather and the feelings of those who for whatever reason are unable.
As to the timing of our return to in-person gatherings, we are uncertain at this point. This is the shape of our thinking as of now:
Stage 1: In keeping with the Governor's request, we will continue to meet online for worship using livestreaming until at least June 14. That is the date when the Governor has said it may be appropriate for groups under 250 to begin to meet. We will delay past June 14 if the state or county guidelines change, or if those we are consulting in our congregation who are part of the medical community believe it warrants waiting.
We will prayerfully seek to discern when and how to return to corporate worship on the basis of what we believe best serves the body life of the Covenant family. We're asking not when we can open, but when we should. Depending on the extent of restrictions that will be in place, it is conceivable that both our government officials and our medical advisors would give a green light to beginning to worship together but we would still wait. The final decision will be made by our staff lead team and Session together.
During this first stage, Covenant Cove will remain closed, Grow Groups will not be allowed to use the church building, and staff will continue to be encouraged to work from home when possible, and to be free to be in the church building when they deem it necessary.
Stage 2: Once we begin to meet in person, we will gather only in a very modified way. During this stage we will likely offer multiple smaller worship gatherings for those who are comfortable meeting at the church building, with careful attention to safe social practices, group size limits, and careful cleaning before and after.
At the same time we will encourage small groups that are comfortable doing so to meet together in homes for our online worship at the same time (again, while observing safe practices). Those who are not comfortable with gathering with others for any reason will be given freedom to continue to stay home and join us online.
Individuals showing any of the primary Covid symptoms as identified by the CDC will be asked to remain home until they have been symptom free for two weeks or tested negative for the virus. Children and students are not likely to be meeting separately during this second stage. We may allow Grow Groups to begin to meet in the church building during this time.
Stage 3: Once the way is clear - and we expect this may not be for quite some time - we'll return to our regular large group worship gatherings, while continuing to offer a warm welcome to those who have begun to worship with us as part of our online family.
As there is much that remains unknown about the future, we ask the church family to remain patient and flexible. We may find ourselves having to go back from small gatherings to no gatherings for a season before we eventually come through this, or skipping small gatherings altogether and waiting until we can all be together.
Because our circumstances and personalities are different, not all of our decisions will be to everyone’s liking. As we inch our way back toward gathering together we will all have opportunity to love one another and place each other’s concerns ahead of our own.
While there remain many details still to be worked out, we are committed to clearly communicating our plans as they come together. We’re still not clear about the best timing for phasing specific ministries back in, or for opening up the building for wider use. As they are made, these decisions will be communicated to the congregation via our enews and our website. We do encourage the congregation to check the website on a regular basis in case events outside of our control make it necessary for us to make any last minute changes.
Approved by Session: May 5, 2020
Final Edit: May 8, 2020