Guidance to our Church Family for Reopening on May 31, 2020 (and beyond)
This coming Sunday, May 31, for the first time in over two months, Lakeside Community Chapel will be holding worship services with in-person attendance. We are excited to resume our public worship services and to have the opportunity to worship together as a church family.
However, as we have previously indicated, our resumption of church services will not be in the same manner to which we are normally accustomed. The pandemic we are experiencing has resulted in changes to seemingly every aspect of our society, and we are not immune to those effects simply because we are a church. As an elder board we realize that there are countless opinions, from experts and laypeople alike, on the best course of action for almost every aspect of this pandemic. The health recommendations and guidance on the Covid-19 virus have evolved and changed over time, and even this week the government at various levels issued new guidelines that seem to change earlier assumptions regarding aspects of this health crisis.
Amid this cacophony of differing opinions on a variety of issues, we as an elder board have been seeking the Lord’s wisdom on the best way to move forward. We take the responsibility to care for our church family seriously, and we have prayerfully and diligently planned and discussed how to reopen in a safe and responsible manner. The culmination of our planning and discussion are the changes outlined in this letter. We realize that these plans may be tweaked or changed over time based on our experiences and changed circumstances, but as we resume our services on May 31, the following outlines the general parameters for the resumption of our public worship.
Perhaps the most notable change involving our upcoming worship is the new requirement that individuals register to attend one of our church services. This change is not something we prefer nor is it something we want to have to do any longer than necessary. We never want there to be barriers to church attendance for anyone, especially our church family, and we realize that requiring a reservation to attend church goes against this commitment. Yet we feel this requirement is necessary to comply with the social distancing guidelines recommended by our government.
Prior to this pandemic, we regularly had over 500 individuals seated in our sanctuary during a typical Sunday morning service. This simply is not possible with social distancing. One of the foundational social distancing requirements recommended at present is that individuals not already residing in the same household maintain a distance of at least 6 feet away from one another. Our church staff has spent considerable time analyzing and measuring our current sanctuary, and that leads us to the conclusion that we have no choice but to dramatically reduce our seating capacity when we resume our public worship. To allow us maximum flexibility and to give us the ability to maximize our seating within social distancing parameters, we have removed all of our church pews and will be using our cushioned chairs from the overflow room to seat those in attendance.
While time and experience may allow us to modify our figures, we feel it is safest to start back with a single service capacity of 160 people. Since we want to leave at least some seats for visitors who may seek to attend, we are going to be opening up 150 of the 160 seats to our church family for the morning service at 10:40 a.m. and for our evening service at 6:00 p.m. The seats for either the morning or evening service will be reserved each week. After everyone has signed up, our church staff will map out the sanctuary based on the number of people attending form each household and will set up reserved seats for each attendee in a manner consistent with social distancing requirements.
The reservation process will involve going to a link on our church website at lakesidechapel.com. The link will direct you to a reservation portal for selecting either the morning or evening service, where you will be asked to input your name, as well as the number of people from your household who will be attending. You will also be asked for your email address so that you can receive a confirmation email. We would request that you do not register for both morning and evening services, as the services are going to be identical, and we want as many people as possible to be able to attend. While it is preferable that you register through the online portal, if that is not possible or if you need assistance, you can call the church office and someone will assist you with registration.
Since we are forced to limit registration to 150 people in the morning and 150 people in the evening, that means only 300 people total will be able to register to attend a worship service in-person on May 31. We do not know if that will be enough seats for everyone who wants to attend. We anticipate that many who have pre-existing health issues or compromised immune systems will not likely be joining us when we resume on May 31. In addition, others may have other reasons for not attending immediately when we gather. Yet the fact remains, it may be that we have more people who desire to attend than we are able to accommodate. This will become evident quickly, as the online reservation portal will stop taking new reservations when the seating capacity is reached for a service. If that happens, we ask that you be patient with us and with each other. We will still be live streaming our service on May 31 and we would ask you to join with us in spirit through our online format, even if you cannot be present in-person.
To facilitate a greater number of people being on campus for future Sundays, we are currently working to prepare our gym to serve as an overflow seating location. We anticipate that this will be ready for use in early June. There will be seats set up in the gym to allow for some to gather together and watch the service on a live video feed. While this will not be the same as being in the sanctuary, it will allow even more people to corporately sing and worship together on a Sunday morning. When this overflow seating is ready, a separate registration link will be added to our website to allow those who do not get a seat in the main sanctuary to choose this option.
While the registration requirement may be the most significant change when we resume services, it will not be the only change. As was mentioned in an earlier notification about the resumption of services, when we resume our services next Sunday, we will not be having any adult or children’s Sunday school classes on-site, and our nursery and cry room will not be open (though there will be a nursing room for mother’s with infants). Some Sunday School classes that have been meeting remotely via Zoom will continue to operate in this manner, but no classes will be occurring in-person for the time being. Since there will be no Sunday school classes on-site initially, for either children or adults, we will not be running our shuttle bus between our church and school on Sunday morning or evening, so you may want to consider this when deciding where to park.
After you have arrived and parked, please be aware that we are only going to have three entry points for our church building: the main sanctuary entrance on the east side of the building and the two back doors facing our church parking lot (located by the old nursery area and the kitchen). The west entry doors will be locked and not in use when we initially reopen.
When you come to one of the three exterior entry doors, we will have a greeter present holding the door open to avoid everyone having to touch handles. You can enter through any of the three exterior doors, but we would encourage you to not overwhelm any one door. If you see a line at one door, feel free to choose one of the other doors.
Once you enter through one of the exterior doors, you will notice markings at 6-foot intervals on the floor. We would ask that you use these to keep 6 feet of distance between you and others that are entering the building. Based on which door you enter through, you will be directed through our building directly to an interior door leading into the sanctuary. You will be met there by one of our elders who will be opening the interior entry door and welcoming you to the service. Once in the sanctuary, there will be ushers who will direct you to your assigned seat(s), which will be marked with your name, or the name of the family member who made the seating reservation. Please be advised that we will be opening the sanctuary 40 minutes before the start of the service (10:00 a.m. for the 10:40 a.m. service, 5:20 p.m. for the 6:00 p.m. service) to allow for the additional time that may be needed due to these entry changes. When the service begins, you will notice some changes in our traditional order of service, particularly relating to when we worship through music. We are taking these steps in an effort to create the safest possible worship environment for all those who are able to attend our services.
Another significant step we are going to be taking for our reopening involves personal contact among our church members. Many of us regularly shake hands and give hugs when we see our church family. After having been apart for so long, the desire for many of us will be to reach out and embrace those we haven’t seen. However, this type of contact would defeat the purpose of us putting in place social distancing measures. We would ask that when you enter the church, you would not engage in physical contact with those outside of your household (e.g., no hugs or handshakes). Also, we would ask that when you do engage others in conversation, you attempt to do so in a manner consistent with social distancing.
At the conclusion of the service, we will be dismissing everyone from the sanctuary in what we hope will be an orderly fashion. We would ask that you observe social distancing when exiting the building as you will be doing upon entering.
While in the building, there are a few additional changes you will notice. First, there will be no paper bulletins or other similar materials in the foyer or sanctuary. Also, we have temporarily removed our hymnals from the sanctuary, as well as our registration/welcome cards and offering envelopes. You will also notice that we will not be passing offering plates for the time being. You will have the option of continuing to give online, or you can place your offering in one of two new wall boxes that will be located near the double doors on each side of the sanctuary. These steps will minimize each of us touching multiple surfaces, which will assist us in keeping our facility clean by reducing the number of items that need to be individually sanitized.
In addition, our church water fountains will not be in operation while we are in the midst of this pandemic. You are welcome to bring your own water bottles or containers with you if that is something you customarily need during a service. In terms of the restroom facilities within our building, we would simply ask people to enter the bathroom one person/family at a time to facilitate social distancing.
The foregoing changes to our worship experience, as noted above, may be modified based on our experiences and changed circumstances. All of us want things to go back to normal as soon as possible, but we have no idea when that will occur. We realize that the steps and changes outlined here will be foreign to us all, and may be uncomfortable distractions initially. Yet even though these steps may be difficult to observe (and may seem like overkill to some), please remember that we are trying to protect the most vulnerable among us from the devastating effects of this virus by instituting these measures. Our patience with one another and compliance with these recommendations, regardless of our differing personal views as to their wisdom or necessity, will go a long way to making our resumption of services a joy for us all. As Pastor Steve noted in his recent Pastor’s Pen, Satan would love to sow division among us in these difficult times. We pray that our differences of opinions will not become divisive and that any differences we may have will be overcome by our mutual love of Christ and our preference for others' interests above our own.
We love you all and look forward with excitement to the opportunity to worship with you again soon. To God be the Glory!
Summary of Reopening Changes:
1. Registration required for all services: register at lakesidechapel.com
2. Reduced seating capacity in the sanctuary for each service: additional overflow seating to be provided in the gym in the near future
3. Enter the church building only at specified points; greeters and directional markings will help direct you to the right location
4. Assigned seating in the sanctuary for each service based on current seating capacity
5. Morning and evening services will be identical until further notice
6. Social distancing throughout the church building at all times