Dear Church,

As you know, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the church has never really closed. Church is not a building; it’s a family of people committed to Jesus, and we have remained, and will continue to be, church for one another during these difficult times.

As the state of North Carolina begins tentative steps toward “re-opening,” it’s time for us to consider what resumption of our in-person activities might look like. Your Leadership Council met earlier this week and made the following intermediate decisions. The following does not offer a full-fledged reopening plan, but it does offer guidance through the end of June. Future decisions will be made as information and conditions warrant.

Building Usage

Except for the Weekday Ministry and the production of virtual worship services on Sunday mornings, all FBC-H buildings will remain closed at least through the end of June. Staff will continue to work from home, and as has been their practice, they will coordinate short visits to the office for materials/supplies so that no more than one staff member is present at a time.

In-person Worship Services:

Before in-person services can resume, the sanctuary building must be wired for the internet so that live-streaming may continue for those who choose not to attend in-person. Reasons, why this is and has been a challenge, are many, but “necessity is the mother of invention,” as they say, and our tech team feels optimistic that they have identified a solution. Execution, however, will take an undetermined amount of time. They are working on it as expeditiously as possible.

For this reason, and in the interest of health and safety, in-person worship services will not resume at least through June 30. As the end of June nears, the Leadership Council will reconvene to assess progress on internet connectivity and appropriate steps for moving forward.

In addition to continued virtual worship services, we will offer “drive-in” worship services the last Sundays of May (31) and June (28).

  • Our tech team has secured an AM/FM transmitter, which will allow for improved audio within vehicles.
  • Families may also choose to bring chairs/blankets and sit outside their cars, but a minimum of 6-feet distance must be maintained between households.
  • The buildings will not be opened, and therefore restrooms will not be accessible.
  • The services will simultaneously be live-streamed for those who prefer to worship from home.

Funerals will be an exception to this policy, and protocols for the safety of all participants have been established.

Small-groups (i.e. Sunday Schools and Bible Studies)

Beginning today, in conjunction with the official start of “Phase 2” from the governor’s office, the Leadership Council has established the following protocols for in-person gatherings of small groups/Sunday School classes.

Preference is given to outdoor gatherings, as current evidence suggests that the transmission rate is the lowest in an outdoor setting.

  • The FBC-H campus is available for these gatherings. However, buildings remain closed, which means that restrooms are not accessible. Please observe this restriction, even if you have a key to the buildings.
  • Suggestions include “tailgates” in the parking lot or “blanket parties” on any of the green spaces.
  • Six-foot social distancing should be observed between households.
  • Please notify the office of your gatherings so that there can be coordination between when and where members utilize FBC-H’s outdoor spaces.

For gatherings that take place indoors, groups should be limited to approximately 15, and masks are strongly encouraged.

  • Again, church buildings will not reopen at least through the end of June, so these gatherings would take place in homes at the homeowners’ discretion.
  • To meet the numbers requirement, a suggestion is that larger Sunday School classes break into smaller “care groups” for in-person gatherings. In this scenario, the full class might choose to continue meeting virtually.
  • The advice of medical experts is that these groups of approximately 15 should remain static. This means that the composition of the small groups should not rotate between now and the end of June.

As always, these in-person meetings are voluntary, and if some classes/groups prefer to meet only virtually, this is certainly fine. Classes/groups will make these determinations for themselves, and individuals are free to participate in in-person gatherings or not.

Thank you for the grace you extend to your church leadership and each other during this time. As you can imagine, there is no clear-cut path forward for how to resume in-person services, balancing both concerns for safety and our genuine need for community. However, based on available guidance, the Leadership Council believes the above plans to be wise first steps. If you would like to know more about the information that guided our decisions, you may wish to read the following article from Christianity Today. It was not the only resource utilized, but it is the one we found to be most helpful:

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/when-churches-reopen-phase-coronavirus-covid-19-guidelines.html?utm_source=ctweekly-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=23009970&utm_content=711240621&utm_campaign=email

Blessings on you and your loved ones as you continue to navigate these challenging times, and remember that your church family is only a phone call away.  “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1

In Christ,
Pastor Stacy
Gerald Craig, Trustee Chair
Dean Jones, Trustee Chair-elect
Tami Guerrier, Deacon Chair
Kathy Vinge, Deacon Chair-elect
Kelley Lefler, Ministry Council Chair
Rita Mashburn, Ministry Council Chair-elect