Recommencing Public Worship:
Guidelines and Protocols for Grace Presbyterian Church
In preparation to recommence gatherings for public worship, the Session of Grace Presbyterian Church, in consultation with the Diaconate, has put in place a series of protocols and guidelines in an effort to protect the health and safety of all.
We are aware of the uniqueness of this time in our nation’s history and in the life of our congregation. Though never forbidden to meet for public worship, the Session chose to cancel public gatherings for these past weeks out of love and concern for the well–being of our church family and community. Now that we have had some time to observe the impact of the reopening of the retail and service industries, we believe it is time to start our public services again. We are, however, also aware of how divisive COVID–19 has become, not only politically but socially as well. Some Americans have a great fear of this virus. Others are concerned and cautious. They follow the guidelines of social distancing and wear a mask when in public. Some take no precautions, and still others think the pandemic is a hoax, a conspiracy, or is simply overblown. With regard to the churches in our nation, the opinions range from “We should never have stopped meeting” to “We’re starting back too soon.”
Wherever you fall on the spectrum of opinion, please realize that not everyone will agree with your position. As the elders of the church, we are aware that not everyone will agree with all of the protocols and guidelines we have established. We do, however, ask you to abide by them for the good of all and for the peace of the church. None of us should look at regathering for worship as an opportunity make a statement, either politically or socially. The worship of the church is the opportunity to bring glory and honor to God through the unified praise of his people.
As God’s people, our goal is to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). With that goal in mind, we urge tolerance toward those with whom you may disagree. The gospel calls for us to lay aside our own preferences, opinions, and liberties for the good of others (see Romans 14).
If you feel ill, have any symptoms of illness, such as a cough or fever, or have been in contact with someone who is ill, please stay home. If you have underlying health concerns or are not comfortable attending public gatherings, please do not feel ashamed or judged. The worship service will be uploaded to the internet as soon after the service as possible so that you can still have this connection to your church family.
If you choose to attend worship, then please note the following guidelines and protocols:
Services(s) and Times
As a general rule, for the time being, we will have only one service each Lord’s Day morning which will begin at 10:30. We will not have Sunday School until further notice. Once a month, we will have a missionary service in the evening at 6:00. The dates for these missionary services will be announced ahead of time.
We ask you please to refrain from handshaking, hugging, and other forms of touch or personal contact with those outside your family. Please attempt to maintain a social distance of six feet. Ushers will be stationed at each entrance to hold open the door for you to minimize contact with door handles.
The chairs in the sanctuary have been arranged to provide for six feet of space between each row. We ask you to sit as family units and to leave two or three chairs between families. When you enter the building, please find a seat as soon as you are able. There should be no gatherings in the narthex. Please fellowship outside before and after the service.
Masks and Gloves
In a recent order from Governor Mike DeWine, everyone in Summit County attending religious services is now required to wear a mask. The exceptions are the officiant(s) and children under the age of ten.
In our adherence to the principles of Romans 13, we should submit to those in authority over us and follow this ruling. Part of the God–given duty of the civil government is the protection of those under its authority. Requiring masks is an attempt to protect us and not an infringement on our rights to worship. Beginning Sunday, July 12, we are, therefore, asking all those attending worship please to wear a mask.
If you would like to read further about this new order, see the online Akron Beacon Journal article at https://www.beaconjournal.com/news/20200709/coronavirus-ohio-requiring-masks-at-religious-services-in-worst-covid-counties-including-summit
Please wash your hands, especially after visits to the restroom. We also ask you to use a paper towel to open the restroom door when you exit. A trash can will be stationed outside the door for you to deposit the used towel. Hand sanitizer is also located around the church for your convenience. When you leave, please be sure to take all trash with you and place it in the trash cans in the narthex.
Food and Beverage
There will be no food or beverage served until further notice. The water fountain will not be in use, but bottled water will be provided. The kitchen area is off limits until further notice.
Nursery and Playground Equipment
The nursery will be open for parents to use, but it will not be staffed by a church worker. Sanitizing wipes will be available for the changing table. No toys will be available. Parents may bring crayons, toys, etc. from home. The playground equipment will be off limits until further notice.
The Worship Service
When you enter the sanctuary, you will find a worship bulletin on your seat or a nearby seat. We ask you to handle only your bulletin or one used by a family member.
Offering plates are stationed at each entrance to the sanctuary. Please place your offering in the plate when you enter or exit the service. No offering plates will be passed during the service.
On Communion Sundays, you will find individually packaged communion elements stationed on the coffee bar in the narthex. Please take one of these if you plan to participate in the Lord’s Supper. These packages contain a wafer and juice for one person. As with the offering, there will be no passing of the bread or the cup until further notice.
Because of the potential danger posed by congregational singing in confined and air-conditioned spaces, our hymn singing will be done outside at the conclusion of the service. After the sermon, the pastor will dismiss families by sections and rows. Please take your bulletin with you because it will contain the songs and hymns. We ask everyone to exit through the front doors of the church and spread out in family units in front of the church (maintaining at least six feet between each family unit). We will use an electronic keyboard and amplification to accompany the singing. After the hymns, the pastor will pronounce the benediction. The worship service will not conclude until the benediction. In the case of inclement weather, alternate instructions will be given.