Plans and Practices for Returning to Worship
The following plans and practices will be in place as we return to worship on June 21st. They will be in place until further notice. Please take the time to review the document below and help us care for our community. To download the document, click here.
Target Date Set for In Person Worship Resuming
May 12, 2020
Greetings in the name of Jesus the Christ!
As I write this letter it seems as though time is simultaneously racing by and moving at the pace of a snail. The days seem long, but the calendar continues to change. I know that we are all longing to gain a sense of normalcy and routine we once had. I am with everyone on that feeling. We’ve recently seen the slow reopening of parts of our community, state, and nation. This is a positive sign for our mental wellbeing, but we still have much of a journey to go. I’m writing to let you know of some decisions that have been made to move us closer to returning to in person worship in our building. I will share the decisions that have been made, the rationale behind it, and what to be looking for in the coming weeks.
First, I know that there will be some of you who think we are (1) being too cautious, (2) not being cautious enough, (3) somewhere in the middle. I want to say each of those positions is perfectly understandable. These are tough, agonizing decisions, many of which have kept me up at night as I’ve contemplated my recommendations to the Church Council. I also know that this won’t be the final decisions we will make. Situations are rapidly changing and flexibility and understanding will be needed for many months to come.
Now, the most important decision you are likely wondering about is, when are we getting back to worshipping in the sanctuary? At the May 7th Church Council meeting, it was agreed upon that we would set a target date for returning to in person worship of June 21, 2020. This is the date that I proposed and was affirmed by the Church Council. This date gives us time to put together a plan and ensure that we have adequate cleaning supplies and cleaning/sanitizing procedures in place prior to a return to usage of the sanctuary and church building. Our staff and volunteers will have adequate time do building walkthroughs and ensure that we are in the best condition to have worshippers sharing communal space.
Using this date also allows us to follow the guidelines set forth in the “Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas.” Based on our average Sunday attendance, we will be able to accommodate everyone who wants to worship in person on that date. If the phases of the “Ad Astra Plan” go forward in the minimum required time frames, we would be into Phase 4 at that point with no recommended restrictions to gathering size. Opening before everyone could attend worship at the same time was not something I felt was in our best interest, and did not want to have to turn any potential worshipper away. I believe it is important for us to be together as much as a whole congregation as possible on our first Sunday back, and this date gives us more confidence in making that possible.
In the coming days and weeks, we will be sharing with you a document of “Plans and Practices for Returning to Worship.” This will include the changes we are making to our Sunday morning worship to ensure we are protecting our congregation to the best of our ability. This will result in some changes to our usual routine, and will cause us to try new things. These changes will be necessary for some time. When this document is ready, we will post it on our website, share it in the e-newsletter, and post it on social media. If you are unable to access any of these electronic services, please give the office a call and let us know that you would like it mailed to you when it is available.
I am aware that there are some who feel that this may all be unnecessary or we are going too far, so I want to share with you my reasonings for these decisions from a pastoral perspective. First and foremost, I believe the church should be a safe space for all people. I’ve realized that this pandemic has taken some sense of safety away from us and made us feel vulnerable. In proposing the June 21st date of returning to worship, I felt it was the best conclusion to a complex problem. I believe we are at our best as a church when we can have as many people with us in worship as possible. By delaying to later in June, it will be possible for more of our congregation to be present, with hopefully less of a risk. Looking out for the most vulnerable among us has been a guiding principle of my call to ministry, and honoring that is vital for me to do in this time. I want to be able to do everything in my ability to not leave anyone feeling that the church is moving on without them if they are in a higher risk category at this time.
Another topic I’ve had some questions on is around Holy Communion. I’m sure those of you who have been watching other church services from all over have noticed some have been practicing Holy Communion through online worship and we have not. This is a decision I struggled with from the moment I realized we would be worshipping online for an extended period of time. There are many things that weighed into my decision to not include that in our worship. To start, online Communion is a fairly new thing to United Methodists. In 2004, our denomination approved a document around Holy Communion named, “This Holy Mystery.” In it, our denominational theology was shared around the practice of Holy Communion. One area that wasn’t clear was around online practices, since this was a very new technology that very few churches were participating in. During this time the Council of Bishops declared a moratorium on online Communion, and that moratorium was still in place at the start of this pandemic. Some, but not all, bishops have granted guidance and special permission for this online practice and left it up to our pastors to decide for their congregations. This was part of my thoughts theologically, but the practical side convicted me to wait on this practice for us. Many in our congregation do not access online services and participate weekly in worship during this time. I could not imagine offering Holy Communion when so many of our beloved congregation members would not be participating alongside those present online. So, I made the decision to not offer online Communion and wait for us to all gather together again in our sanctuary to connect in this beloved Sacrament.
When we return to in person worship, we will take some time before offering Holy Communion in worship as well. With all the new procedures in place, I want to ensure we get used to those first before also implementing an adjusted Communion process as well. There are some logistics to work out with serving Communion that need to be cared for to ensure everyone is safe while receiving the bread and cup. I am currently researching recommended practices for Holy Communion and as soon as we are able to implement those in our congregation, I will enthusiastically make it part of our worship service that Sunday.
I know there are other churches in our community that will begin worshiping in person earlier than we are, some may have already started before this letter is received, but I believe with everything I have that this is the right direction for our congregation at this time. Know that these decisions have come with much thought and stress, and are made with the overall safety of our congregation at the forefront of our minds. No matter how we feel about the decisions, let us unite in prayer for our local church, community, and world, that we may stay safe and an end to this pandemic will come sooner rather than later.
To stay up to date on everything going on, or to join us for online worship on Sundays, please check out the following sources:
E-Newsletter: Sign Up at http://goodlandumc.org/e-newsletter/
If you have any questions or concerns related to these decisions or anything else with the church, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach me on my cell phone at 785-414-8885.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Zach Anderson
April 30, 2020
I wanted to give you a quick update as to our plans for worship in the coming weeks. New information and guidelines for resuming activity are coming our way daily. We’ve received guidelines from our bishop, our governor, and yes, even our insurance company. It will take some time to wade through it and determine when we will have to ability to resume in person activity. As of the writing of this, my plan is to offer online worship for the next few weeks as our Church Council works on a comprehensive plan for resuming activity in our building. We have a meeting scheduled for May 7 through a video conference call. We should have a more detailed update for you following that meeting. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Grace and Peace,
All Church Activities Suspended Until Further Notice
March 25, 2020
I want to update you on our plans for in person worship and other church activities. There are lots of variables to consider as this decision is made, and as always, what is desirable isn’t always what is the correct course of action. In keeping with the guiding principle of protecting the most vulnerable among us, we are suspending all church activities indefinitely at this time. Currently Governor Kelly has issued Executive Order 20-14 limiting public gatherings to less than 10 people. While I know there is an exemption for religious groups, I do not feel comfortable going ahead in the current situation with gatherings. We will adhere to the recommendations of the CDC and local health officials. To read the executive order you can click here.
These changes mean that worship will continue in an online format until further notice. This will include Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I am planning an amazing celebration for our first Sunday pack together that will definitely reflect the pageantry of Easter. We will be expanding the content of worship and our offerings beyond Sunday morning through technology as we go forward. I’m working on the structures now so the content can expand.
At this time, we will not have Holy Communion until we gather again in person. As the situation changes, we may explore opportunities, but this is where we are at this point. Ideas are being shared regularly with ways we can connect and partake in shared meal experiences, and I will continue to look into those.
With church activities cancelled and the schools not meeting in person, we will not have any more sessions of KidZone at this time. However, we are going to offer a weekly email to our families that contain lessons and activities for them to do at home. Music and videos will also be included. The publisher of our materials has authorized the sharing in this way. To receive these emails, look in our newsletter for a signup or visit either the church’s or the Children & Youth Facebook page.
With visitation restrictions in place for our care facilities and hospitals, most of the pastoral care will need to take place through phone calls. I am available to do this for whatever your care needs might be. Please contact me on my cell phone at 785-414-8885. If you need to dial locally, the parsonage number is 890-2549, but there is not a voicemail available on that line.
If you would like to be a part of outreach by phone to our members in the coming month, please let me know. I am working on creating lists for different people to call and check in with our members. If this is interesting to you, please call or email me.
While we are not meeting in person, we still have expenses that will accrue for our ministries. Please continue to mail in your giving if that is something you are accustomed to. We also have the ability to receive online giving. You can find information on our website or in our newsletter.
Online Gathering Opportunities
I have begun hosting online gathering opportunities to stay in contact with as many people as possible. This will be done utilizing a program called Zoom. Details about times of gatherings will be shared through the newsletter and on our Facebook page.
If you have prayer requests you’d like shared during worship or in our newsletter, please send them directly to me by call, text, or email.
Our staff will not be regularly in the office during this time. We will be checking mail and messages and working remotely as often as possible. You can call and leave a message and we will get back to you within 24 hours. If it is urgent, please contact the pastor.
These are unique times which we don’t have a manual for how to proceed. We will continue to look at new ways to stay connected and serve our ministry. I ask for your prayers as we figure this out, and prayers for the health and safety of our community and world.
Grace and Peace,
All Activities Cancelled Through March 31st
March 16, 2020
It seems like information is coming to us quickly and is everchanging. On Saturday I wrote to those who receive our e-newsletter about the cancellation of Sunday services as guidelines had changed to the size of recommended gatherings. Since then they have changed again. The Center for Disease Control has amended the public gathering guidelines to include:
“Large events and mass
gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via
travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities.
Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals,
parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies.
These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also
Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.
This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.”
In lieu of these guidelines, I am announcing a suspension of all church activities through March 31st. This includes Worship, UMW and UMMen events, KidZone, Youth Group, Music groups, and regular office hours. If you need something from the office please reach out to Pastor Zach by email (email@example.com) or on his cell phone 785-414-8885. The staff will be working as needed during this time. We will be taking the time to do extensive deep cleaning of the building and preparing for the return of regularly scheduled programs. In consultation with many others, we will evaluate what we will be doing after March 31st. The guidelines recommend a longer timeframe, and it is possible this suspension will last longer, but we are going to start here and see how things develop.
These are unique times for us, and there is no manual on how to do things. We are working with the best information we have at any given time and learning to adapt as we go. A few things we are putting in place during this suspension.
- Online worship each Sunday. We will be recording worship services from the sanctuary a day in advance and then posting on Sunday morning. This will allow you to worship at your leisure after they are posted. The goal is to post each Sunday morning at 9:30am. You can view this on our Facebook page by going to https://www.facebook.com/goodlandumc/. We will also post it to our website at www.goodlandumc.org.
- I will be posting and sharing updates as we go through this time. Some of it will practical updates about our programing schedule, but other times it will be ways to practice our faith during this time.
- I am available for phone calls and, if you are technologically savvy, video calls with you for pastoral care.
- I have had some members contact me concerned about giving and our budget during this time. We currently have a donate function available on our Facebook page that you can utilize if you feel comfortable with that. We are working on another electronic giving option that I will share when it’s available. You can also mail your tithes/gifts to the church at: 1116 Sherman Ave. Goodland, KS 67735.
The most important
thing during this time is to take care of yourself. Reach out to a friend or
neighbor if you need something. Find ways to keep your mind focused on what you
can control and go from there. And as always, pray without ceasing. There are a
lot of people who are hurting and scared right now, and it’s sure to grow. Let
us turn to God with our anxieties and lift one another in prayer.
I want to leave you these words from the Apostle Paul, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Praying with and for you,
Worship Services Suspended for March 15th
We are living in stressful times and we are learning to adapt as we go. After spending the day looking at guidelines and reading all the updated precautions recommended to the public, Church Leadership and I have made the difficult decision to suspend our in person worship together for tomorrow, March 15th. During the week we will be in conversation about what we will do in the coming days and weeks, but we didn’t want to hesitate for the coming week.
Recent guidelines recommend the suspension of gatherings that are of 100 people or more. This number clearly puts our worshiping congregation into the recommended group to halt gatherings temporarily. You can read about this recommendation here (http://www.kake.com/story/41894845/kdhe-recommends-avoiding-gatherings-larger-than-100-people?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook_KAKE-TV&fbclid=IwAR2NjEovQ6LPlyQo6BVMJQApjmfxcdN-bs_aXi9cL0HQ9VZ8Y43pN_WLrCo).
This decision is made to protect the most susceptible in our community and ensure we are being caring in that way. We will offer an online option for tomorrow morning and any Sunday we do not gather in person going forward. What this looks like and what is involved will continue to evolve. I promise to communicate updates as we make decisions. Look to our newsletter and Facebook postings to keep up to date. Please also share this information with church friends who may not see these postings as regularly as you do.
If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.
In prayer with and for you,