First Church COVID Protocols Update

By April 22, 2021

If you, like so many, have been wondering what the increase in vaccinations may mean to our gradual return to in person worship and on-campus gatherings, here’s a quick update as to where we are not and where we hope to go.

According to our public health experts and updated CDC guidelines, we are now entering a period of “cautious optimism.” And, even with the number of “no” answers we’re still hearing, we’re starting to get tentative green lights on a few important items including

  • For Worship, reservations and masks are still required, whether you’ve been vaccinated or not.
  • We’re expanding and updating our reservation system continuously as permitted to offer an increase — and increased flexibility — in available seating.
  • Regardless of when you make your reservation, we will be sure there is a place for you; just let us know you’re coming, and we’ll be sure your place is reserved.
  • Eleven:eleven will return to limited in-person worship by reservation only on May 2 in the Center for Transforming Lives (the historic 512 building where they were previously worshiping)
  • Childcare with worship reservation returning May 9 for Pre-K-5th grade and 3 months through 4-year-olds with reservation and during worship only. You will be able to reserve your childcare on the same form you use to reserve your space in worship.
  • Limited VBS with mitigations including bigger rooms, smaller groups, masks, no singing, maintaining 4-6 feet of distance. Outdoor activities are preferable to indoor whenever possible
  • Youth returning to more or less regular Sunday morning programming with masks and social distancing; use of hallways, multiple spaces, and restrooms permissible; no overnight trips for summer missions until full vaccination achieved in teens and adults.
  • A hybrid (both zoom and in person) GROW Bible Study has resumed on Wednesdays (morning and evening) with multiple options to participate.
  • Adult Sunday school and other adult small groups get a full greenlight to resume meeting on campus with masks and social distancing; hallway passage and restroom use permissible. Please no food or beverages yet so you can keep the masks on.
  • Hospitality will resume serving coffee in the garden with masked and gloved servers pouring coffee, putting on lids, and setting them down for others to “get and take” to somewhere they can social distance rather than standing too closely in the Garden to drink coffee. Further exploration now underway for hospitality ideas that will help us return to the cherished Sunday morning opportunity to meet, greet, and catch up with friends.

In general, regardless of your vaccination status,

  • Outdoor activities are still preferable to indoor.
  • If you’re indoors, wear masks and observe social distancing whenever possible; and
  • Avoid food or drink while on campus, especially in an indoor setting.

For all the ministries who have been given a green light to resume their activities with revised restrictions, program staff and clergy related to those ministries are busy at work making these adjustments to facilitate these returns as soon as possible. Please check with the clergy or program director for details in each area.

The priority for all of us, county health experts agree, is to remain diligent so that we will continue to stem the transmission rate. It’s crucial when numbers are trending down to keep them down by continuing to observe these protocols and help others remember to do the same.

With vaccination projections looking promising for having everyone, including middle school and high school youth hopefully vaccinated by the end of August, the possibility of a nearly normal Fall dangles as a very promising light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Because as well know very well by now, this return to “normal” (whatever that will look like!) is more or less a moving target, please keep an eye on our home page (fumcfw.org) and enews for future updates.

Our Most Frequently Asked Questions

 We know it’s frustrating. All around us there are people and other churches behaving as if the pandemic is over and we can go back to business — and worship — as usual. However, as we continue to follow the advice of our local public health authorities to do our part to help keep community spread low, we will continue to adhere to our protocols until we’re told otherwise. To provide answers to the questions most people are asking, here’s where we are now on a few key issues, including:

1. If we’re wearing a mask and are vaccinated, why do we still have to have reserved seating in the sanctuary?

We still need to distance, and it is very helpful to our planning for this to know in advance that you’re coming. And, as noted earlier, if you wake up on Sunday and decide that you want to want to come to church, come on! We’ll be glad to find a spot for you when you get here. Please don’t ever let a lack of reservation be what keeps you from coming to church — we’ll make it work! However, if you do know in advance that you’re coming, please help us plan for proper spacing by letting us know in advance. Also, if you find the reservation system to daunting, you can always just call the Main Church Office (817-336-7277) and let Donna Smith know you’re coming. She is always happy to help make that reservation for you!

2. If the choir is singing and wearing masks, and if we’re wearing masks, why can’t we sing too?

We still have a much smaller choir, and they wear special masks that are made for singing. We also have them sitting much farther than six feet from anyone in our congregation. We all are excited to sing again; however, we learned early on in the pandemic that singing is a big contributor to spread, so congregational singing must remain one of our last things to bring back. We will ease this as soon as we’re given a “green light” by our public health experts.

3. Why can’t we seat ourselves?

Because we are still working hard to maintain safe social distancing in our seating — and committed to making sure everyone feels comfortable and confident that they can join us safely — we must keep or reserved seating protocols in place for just a while longer. Please remember that while one person may feel this is an unnecessary step, another person may only be coming to church because we have this safety measure in place. We want our whole community to feel — and be — safe in our space.

 4. If we’re all vaccinated, why can’t I sit with my friends?

We need to use and reinforce safety measures that make everyone feel comfortable in our space. Because we aren’t going to ask anyone about vaccinations or isolate anyone who isn’t vaccinated, for now, we ask that everyone sit only with members of their own household while in church to meet these public health guidelines. We, too, look forward to the day where less and less of this is needed. The more we demonstrate that we can set and follow rules as a community, the safer all members of our community can feel!

5. Why can’t we have bulletins and Bibles in the pews?

While it’s true that transmission is seen as very low from objects and surfaces, it isn’t impossible. (That’s why we still disinfectant the Sanctuary surfaces between services!) Therefore, we still won’t be able to have shared items that multiple people can touch. Bibles, in particular, cannot be cleaned between people. Bulletins, just like with many area restaurants, can be accessed for traditional worship using your tablet or smart phone and the no-contact QR code found in the pew pockets and on signage at the back of the sanctuary.

As always, we thank you for your patience, your diligence, and your commitment to helping us keep everyone in our faith community safe, particularly the youth, children, and others who have not been vaccinated.

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