Dear Church Family,

 

After much prayer, planning, and preparation, we are ready to re-gather for worship services at Second Baptist Church beginning Sunday, July 12. Our plans are subject to change due to the ever-evolving situation with the pandemic. But the plan right now is to resume in-person services on July 12 with the following schedule.

 

8:45 a.m.: The Well (FLC Gym)
10:00 a.m.: Sunday School (ONLINE ONLY)
10:30 a.m.: Portuguese Language Ministry (Spence Hall)
11:30 a.m.: Sanctuary Service (Sanctuary)

 

Please note that Sunday School will be online only for the time being, the Sanctuary Service will begin at 11:30 a.m. rather than the usual 11:00 a.m., and the Arabic Language Ministry will resume meeting on Saturday evenings in Spence Hall.

 

For the safety of the congregation, the following policies and practices will be in place as we re-gather. Each is grounded in Christian love and intended for the health and wellbeing of our church.

 

Wearing face masks that cover the nose and the mouth will be required.

 

All worshipers are to bring and wear your own mask from the time you exit the car until the time you return to it to depart. In keeping with CDC guidelines, children under the age of two are not required to wear a mask. In case a worshipper inadvertently forgets to bring a mask, we will have some masks available. The reason for this requirement is not only that the state of Virginia has mandated the wearing of face masks in public buildings, but also because medical science indicates that wearing a face mask decreases the probability of spreading the virus to others. Since people with no symptoms can spread the virus unknowingly, it is important to wear a mask at church as a demonstration of love for others and as an essential safety measure. If for some reason you cannot wear a mask, we ask you to stay home and worship online for now. All who gather for in-person worship will be required to wear a face mask at all times while inside church facilities.

 

Strict social distancing will be required.

 

All worshippers will need to maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves and others (except members of their household) at all times while on the church campus, including while parking, entering the building, navigating hallways, being seated in the worship space, and exiting. The reason is not only that the state of Virginia currently mandates such distancing at church gatherings, but also because medical science indicates that the primary way the virus is transmitted is from person to person, and leaving at least six feet between people diminishes the risk of spreading contagion. When we greet one another, we will not shake hands, hug, fist bump, or elbow bump. Rather, we will nod, bow, or wave at a safe distance. Seating areas will be marked to show you where to sit in a socially distanced arrangement. In the interest of social distancing, there will be no gathering or greeting time before, during, or after worship services, nor will there be any coffee or snack stations.

 

We will have to limit the number of people that attend each worship service.

 

The reason is that our worship spaces can only accommodate a certain number of people safely and lawfully in light of social distancing requirements. In our congregational survey, only one third of the respondents indicated their intent to return to church at the first opportunity. Therefore, we do not expect to be overcrowded when we re-gather. However, it will help us to know in advance how many people plan to attend, so we will be sending a separate email in coming days asking you to indicate if you are planning to attend in-person worship on July 12.

 

There will be no nursery, childcare, or worship care available.

 

The reason is that it is unfeasible for us to maintain the current safety requirements and regulations for “drop-in childcare.” Alternatively, children are welcome to attend worship services with their parents.

 

Each worship service will last approximately 40 minutes.

 

The reason for holding shorter services is threefold. First, spending less time in the same space will decrease the chances of transmission. Second, being at church for a shorter period of time should minimize the need for restroom use, which will decrease the chances of transmission. Third, having briefer worship services will be more hospitable to any children and parents that might attend.

 

There will be no choral singing and no congregational singing.

 

The reason is that singing expels far more particles that can transmit contagion than speaking or breathing do. Even wearing a mask while singing does not make congregational singing safe. As much as it pains us to reach this conclusion, since congregational singing significantly increases the risk of transmission, it will be suspended for a time. Music at worship services will take the form of instrumental offerings and two to four singers spaced safely apart at the front of the worship space. These singers will do the singing until the time when choral and congregational singing become safe again.

 

The church building will be thoroughly cleaned before, between, and after services.

 

The reason is that strong cleaning decreases the risk of transmission. Between services, cleaning will focus on high-touch surfaces and common areas. The building will be thoroughly cleaned during the week as well.

 

We will not use pew rack items such as Bibles, hymnals, pencils, or offering envelopes, nor will we use friendship registers.

 

These items have been removed from the worship spaces because they are high-touch objects. Nor will we pass offering plates or offering baskets during worship, for these are high-touch objects as well. Rather, we will encourage continued online giving and offer stationary receptacles in the church building where worshippers can safely submit contributions.

 

We will have special policies and procedures for the use of restrooms in order to ensure the highest levels of safety and health.

 

For example, we will prop all outer restroom doors open at all times to eliminate the need to touch door handles upon entry or exit. We will limit occupancy in most restrooms to two persons, except in smaller restrooms (such as in the main foyer and Spence Hall), where the occupancy will be limited to one person at a time. Everyone will be expected to thoroughly wash their hands before exiting the restroom.

 

We will have three doors open for entry and exit.

 

These doors will be 1) the main door at the entrance to the commons area facing Gaskins Road, 2) the door beside the kitchen that leads into the FLC Gym, and 3) the door beside the large conference room (which is near the door to the staff office). As you enter each door, there will be a sanitation station where you can sanitize your hands.

 

We will ask you to leave a space between your car and other cars in the parking lot, if you are able.

 

This will create more space for social distancing while getting in and out of vehicles.

 

The following plans will also be in place.

 

  • We will email the order of worship to the congregation in advance, so that you can bring your own hardcopy to church or pull it up on your phone for access.
  • We will make alternate plans pertaining to the Lord’s Supper and baptism.
  • Our language ministries will follow the same policies and practices. The Arabic Language Ministry will resume meeting on Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. and The Portuguese Language Ministry will resume meeting on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. in Spence Hall.

It will be critical for everyone to heed the following requirements when we begin re-gathering.

 

  • Anyone who feels sick should stay home, especially if they are experiencing (or have recently experienced) symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath; also, muscle pain, headache, chills, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell. Anyone observed as exhibiting these symptoms will be encouraged to go home.
  • Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will not be permitted to enter the church until they have been cleared by a doctor to return to church.
  • Anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will not be permitted to enter the church until at least 14 days after the contact occurred without symptoms.
  • Anyone who has been at church and tests positive for COVID-19 during the following week will be required to notify the church.

Both the Well and the Sanctuary Service will continue to be livestreamed so that you can continue worshipping from home.

 

We will fully and enthusiastically support all—including those who are “high risk”—who choose to stay home, worship online, and remain connected to the church through mailed materials and electronic resources. If there is a small crowd at church when we re-gather, it will be totally fine. In fact, that is exactly what we expect. We as church leaders are perfectly happy for you to continue worshipping online for the time being, if you so choose. We are not asking anyone to return to church on July 12. We are simply making the opportunity available for those who are ready to return to in-person services.

 

For now, please join us in praying that all will go well per our re-gathering efforts. We are looking forward to it. The Lord bless you and keep you!

 

In Christ,
Pastor Noel Schoonmaker