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Letter from Pastor Phil

Dear Christian Fellowship Family,

As we cautiously re-open our church building in June, we want to keep a certain kind of spirit in our thinking – The spirit of being respectful of different levels of risk tolerance among our members. The key word here is respect.

We have consulted with doctors and scientists in our church as well as those outside. We have examined the city/county health guidelines for our area. Our priority is to keep us healthy. While many of us may not personally know anyone who has contracted Covid-19, we are aware of some families who have members who have contracted it, been hospitalized, been put on ventilators, been isolated from families while in the hospital, and have experienced the death of family members or friends. The threat is real.

One of our primary considerations for in-person worship is how to allow for distancing while singing whole-heartedly in an enclosed setting for an extended period. Singing can project air particles up to 20 feet. Being in an enclosed environment for an extended period creates a higher level of risk. One of the earliest stories of this pandemic happened at a church choir practice that was keeping a 6-foot distancing guideline where 90% of the choir contacted Covid-19.

Some area churches are opening using the 6-foot guideline, we acknowledge that, but extended vibrant worship is a big reason for why we gather as a church.

As we plan to reopen in June and consider the safety concerns mentioned above, we are setting guidelines that will allow for a much smaller number of people – approximately 40-50 people, plus the staff and volunteers who make our Sunday services possible.

The current guideline for church spaces our size is 50% of our auditorium capacity. For us, that number would mean allowing more than 400 people into our facility. We cannot accommodate that number of people safely.

We have arranged our auditorium so that there are three rows separated by 20 feet. Each family unit attending will have 6 feet of distance between those sitting to the left and right with a 20-foot separation between the rows.

As one of our doctors said, this virus is not going away. All the precautionary measures are to reduce the infection rate and not overwhelm health care. Immunization will be the treatment that allows us to get back to normal life. Till then, he said, it is wise to be cautious.

The following are the initial guidelines for re-opening our building for Sunday services and classes:

  • We will have an on-line sign-up for attending along with a survey and instructions. For those who don’t have access to social media, we will contact them to give them the option to participate in our gatherings.
  • Members and attenders will have the opportunity to sign up for at least one service over the summer months.
  • There will be no nursery or children’s service, coffee service, or use of water fountains. (Sorry, but we currently feel it is too great a risk). You can attend with your small children if you will keep them with you all times.
  • If you are in a high-risk category due to health or age, we ask that you carefully consider your decision to attend.
  • If you are comfortable doing at home worship and do not feel the need for an in-person experience, we encourage you to continue with that as it allows others the opportunity to attend.
  • We will continue to promote social distancing, hand sanitizing, and encourage the wearing of face masks, following the CDC guidelines.
  • If you are symptomatic in any way, we ask that you not attend the in-person gathering.
  • We ask that you be at the church building by 8:30 so we may give instructions for how the morning will proceed. (Note, it will not be a typical looking room setting or format.)
  • We will take attendance at the door for safety purposes. Should someone in one of our gatherings become positive for Covid-19, we want to be able to contact all those who attended that gathering.
  • Initially we will hold only one in-person service at 9:00 am, and once we have worked out the logistics for safety, we may move to two services as the summer unfolds.
  • We may also move to increase our size limit for attendance as we monitor the number of cases in Boone County.
  • We will continue with our live-streaming of the Sunday service and the in-person gathering will be structured for a live-stream service. Again, this will feel quite different than a typical Sunday service, but it allows for an in-person experience for worship.
  • We will be allowing designated Bible studies or study groups to meet in the building during the week while also using acceptable safety guidelines and will put those meetings on Zoom for those who wish to participate from home.
  • We have initiated a travel quarantine. Any staff or volunteers who travel outside the state by plane or to a large city must quarantine for 7-10 days before returning to the church facility.

Everyone we have spoken with on the decisions we are making has used this refrain: I don’t envy the task that you have for how to re-open the building. We appreciate your understanding of this formidable process. Safety is our highest concern, but we realize that certain risks are inevitable in this season.

Again, we want to have a spirit of respect for different levels of risk tolerance. We want to be considerate of others, preferring one another in love.

Our greatest desire is for all of us to be able one day to gather freely, without restrictions, filling our sanctuary, hugging, singing, and seeing each other’s faces.

God made his church for fellowship.

Phil Schaefer, Senior Pastor

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