Letter to the Congregation - Return to Worship in the Sanctuary
Dear MEFC Family:
First, we want to thank each of you for the patience and the Grace that has been so evident in this body to each other in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. This has been a trying and stressful time for many, and we want to thank all of you for being the hands and feet of Jesus to each other during this time.
As you know, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ proclamation on May 1, 2020, allowed churches to begin meeting again under certain guidelines. At that time, MEFC’s leadership chose to wait a little longer before making any decisions regarding holding in-person services. We made this decision in an effort to gain more information and to be able to have enough time to strategize and come up with a plan on how MEFC could effectively implement the state’s guidelines to hold in-person worship services.
The MEFC Board has been considering how we as a congregation can meet together and meet the state guidelines. Below is our current strategy for holding services in the sanctuary beginning Sunday, May 31, 2020 @ 10:30 am.
Live Streaming at home: We recommend live streaming at home for the following:
For those who are elderly or who have underlying conditions that put them at risk should they contract the COVID 19 virus.
Those who have COVID 19 like symptoms or who have had contact with anyone with COVID 19 symptoms.
If you do not believe your children will be able to maintain appropriate social distancing.
Main Sanctuary: Pews have been labeled in the main sanctuary that designate where families should sit. They have been labeled to maintain the social distancing guidelines. We ask that families with 4 or more sit in the main sanctuary. Only 1 family per pew. We ask for your flexibility and patience as you will be directed where to sit by an usher.
Fellowship Hall: Chairs have been arranged in the Fellowship Hall that maintain social distancing guidelines. We ask that families of 3 or less sit in the arranged chairs in the Fellowship Hall. We ask for your flexibility and patience as you will be directed where to sit by an usher.
Family Life Center: If the need arises, the Family Life Center will be set up for overflow. Chairs will be arranged so that social distancing guidelines are followed and the service will be streamed (video & audio) on the screen in the FLC.
After the service: We request that all social interaction be moved outside the church building to make it easier to maintain social distancing. It is much harder to spread the COVID 19 virus outdoors so please try to observe this practice as much as possible.
Face masks: Face masks are strongly recommended by the CDC but we are not going to require them so please be aware that there will probably be those attending that will not be wearing face masks when making your decision to attend.
Nursery & Children’s Church: There will be no Nursery or Children’s Church for the time being. Please plan accordingly if you will be attending.
Sunday School: There will be no in-person Sunday School for the time being. We will assess how to hold Sunday School via Zoom, and still allow time for those who want to attend the in-person service to participate in both. Watch for more information concerning Sunday School.
Greeting each other: We will not hold the traditional “meet & greet” portion of the service, and we ask that you do not shake hands or hug each other.
Offering: Offering plates will be stationed in the east and west foyers. We will not pass the offering plate during the service.
Coffee & treats: We will not be offering any coffee or treats for the time being.
Please be aware that attending MEFC services in person could increase your risk of spreading or contracting the COVID 19 virus. We all need to do what we can to minimize those risks as much as possible. If you have concerns about contracting this virus, please consider not attending in-person.
We believe in the autonomy of the believer, which means you are free without presumption to attend in person or via our online platform, the choice is yours to make. We hold no one in judgement should you decide not to attend. This is an individual decision.
What we request from you if plan to attend:
· RSVP your attendance: We humbly request that you RSVP (no later than the Friday of the week of the service) that you or your family will be attending by calling the church office at 712-443-8283 (leave a message if no one answers). We request this so that we can have a good idea of how many to expect in an effort to make sure we have adequately planned for seating. Rest-assured, we will not turn anyone away if they didn’t RSVP. We anticipate discontinuing RSVP’s at a future date once we have a few Sundays under our belts.
· Grace: We realize that there will be some who disagree with the decision to hold services inside the church building. Differing opinions are ok. We only ask that as you express your opinions you do so with Grace.
· Patience: This situation is something none of have ever experienced. None of this is ideal and some may feel inconvenienced by some of the protocols that have been developed (i.e. where to sit, hand sanitizing, fellowship after the service outside, etc.). All of us (church leadership included) are learning as we go. The decisions we have made were done so with a great deal of prayer, thought and love for you and your family. We will undoubtedly have overlooked certain things/situations that will need to be addressed “on the fly” or in future Sunday services. We humbly ask that everyone show patience during this time. The following is an excerpt from an article that was shared by an MEFC member. We think it has some good counsel for all of us.
Patience is one of the rarest virtues in today’s insta-everything world. And yet patience has rarely been more needed, as many of us are antsy to break free of “stay home” isolation and get back to normalcy as soon as possible. To be sure, it is good and right to be eager to gather again as churches. We should take Hebrews 10:25 seriously when it says we ought not neglect meeting together. We should feel the ache of what is lost when we only meet virtually, and every Christian should long for the day when “church on Zoom” gives way to “church in a room.” That day will come. But we should be careful to not rush it. We should be careful to not go faster than governments allow, or faster than those in our community can understand. We should be patient with a timeline that might be slower than we’d prefer; patient with a reopening process that will doubtless be clunky; patient with leaders feeling the pressure of this complex situation; and patient with one another as we figure out the new normal. Those who are not comfortable with physical gatherings should be patient with those who are, and vice versa. As hard as it will be to practice patience, remember that in the scheme of eternity this season—whether it’s months long or years—will be but a blip.