First Lutheran will return to in-person worship on Palm zSunday, March 28th.
This letter has information about that, including requirements and instructions to make this as safe as we can. Please read it in its entirety if you are considering coming.
This is not a “return to normal”. There are several reasons that is not feasible or advisable. It is better described as allowing a “live studio audience”. Some differences from pre-COVID worship are:
- MASKS MUST BE WORN the full time we are inside. The only exception will be pastor during the sermon, because there are many who need the visual cues of seeing his mouth move. During that time he is at least 10 feet from anyone not in his household. If you need to remove your mask for a short time, we ask that you do so outside only.
- Singing has a high likelihood of spreading aerosols. Group singing multiplies the risk. Only our worship team will sing. Others are asked to hum quietly. Open mouths, even when masked, raise the risk of transmission. Even when speaking in unison we ask that it be done softly.
- We will not be moving around the sanctuary. Communion will be with individual kits provided at the entrance and received in the pews. Offering will be received on the way into the sanctuary and placed on the altar for worship.
- Most of our people will continue worshipping online, and the way that is produced will be distracting. That will remain a primary focus regarding worship. We will continue with the more limited liturgy rather than return to the full liturgical worship.
Should I come:
We cannot answer that. We encourage anyone with health concerns that mean increased risk to stay online rather than in-person. We also know that many long to be back together even if it is not ‘normal’. We do have the following expectations for who should NOT come:
- If you have been in a large group gathering, or traveled anywhere with a high number of cases, we ask that you worship from home for 2 weeks.
- If you have been tested for COVID for any reason, please wait until you have received negative test results AND any symptoms are gone.
- If you have been exposed to anyone exhibiting symptoms possibly connected to COVID-19, or anyone with unusual health symptoms, please worship at home for 2 weeks or until that person is known to not have had a COVID infection.
- If you cannot wear your mask from arrival until departure, please continue to worship at home.
We ask everyone to use an abundance of caution. This is not only a decision about your own safety, it is about the safety of others. Care for neighbor means assessing if you are possibly putting anyone else at risk.
- Pre-register: We do not anticipate a larger crowd than we can handle, but seating is limited. We ask you to pre-register by emailing the church office so we have an idea how many are coming to not waste paper by printing excess worship materials. This also helps us keep a list of all present should contact tracing become necessary. EMAIL SUE at email@example.com .
- Arrival: Please plan to arrive very shortly before worship. We will open doors at 10:20. This is both to keep the amount of time we are in the same room short AND because the worship team is setting up and rehearsing. Until then please remain outside and physically distanced. We will follow procedures similar to what KOK is following for best practices at arrival, including a temperature check using an infrared thermometer.
- Distancing: PLEASE REFRAIN FROM HUGS, shaking hands, etc. Maintain physical distance at all times.
- ENTRY will be through the centrum for traffic flow and screening purposes. Worship materials, including individual communion kits, will be laid out on tables in the centrum. All doors will be held open to minimize touch surfaces.
- Seating: We will use only specific pews, and we will fill them from one side of the sanctuary to the other, first come seated on the far side, etc. to keep distance. We will also leave in a similar fashion. We have not figured a specific capacity, but instead based our ability to maintain 6 foot spacing. Pews have been marked indicating where to sit.
- No gathering inside to visit. The centrum will not be available. Seating there has been removed or blocked off. If you wish to visit, there will be a designated area outside under the trees near the sanctuary. It will be marked to give a cautious 10 feet distance between households.
- The main AC unit in the sanctuary is not working. It has been fairly comfortable in there during the mornings, even in July. Now that we are in cooler months this should not be too difficult but it is not as cool as you might prefer. (Council is trying to decide how to proceed but it will be a challenging process. A proposal will be brought to the October congregational meeting.
Anyone who does not abide by these rules will be asked to worship at home
We will suspend in-person worship if we begin to see a rise in cases. Our metric for opening is a steadily declining number of cases or be holding at a consistently low range, which we have set as the Hays County new case 7-day rolling average remaining near or below 30.
We will also suspend worship in person if orders are issued from state or local government that call for increased caution. This does not mean that there are no orders suspending worship, but will include any orders that give us cause to believe that gathering is inadvisable.