You may have heard that the cap is off as far as worship gatherings. So the message appears to be that it is business as usual for churches. Except, it’s not anything like that.
In our current circumstances there are many factors to be considered all at once before decisions are made. Here are the factors we are wrestling with:
As of June 12, 2020 there is no “cap” on the number of people who can attend a religious “Worship Service” in Alberta.
However, there are literally pages of guidelines and restrictions in place as to how that “worship gathering” must take place. These pertain only to what we would typically deem a “worship service” with singing, a sermon, communion, taking an offering, etc.
Any other form of church programing is exempt from this unlimited cap and falls under other guidelines, such as (examples only, and subject to regular changes):
In order for our congregation to meet for what we would call our Sunday morning worship gathering we have to do the following:
1. Keep 2 meters between all households at all times.
We have placed chairs in our sanctuary and balcony to roughly represent what this would look like.
We have estimated that we could squeeze 108 people into our sanctuary at once. 90 on the main floor, and 18 in the balcony. We have included pictures above to give evidence as to how this looks. We do have the option of putting other people into our Multi Purpose and Fireside rooms, however, they would only be getting a LiveStream of what is happening in the other room. Please don’t confuse that with the quality we have delivered via LiveStream these past few months. This would be a video version of what is happening in the main sanctuary.
2. Children under 2 are often prohibited from leaving their parent’s side at all times.
3. Children over 2 are able to meet separate from parents. However, they must function under day-camp guidelines.
a. Separation between various programs, which includes entrances/exits and washrooms
b. Constant cleaning of any items touched by kids
c. Physical distancing of 2 meters
d. Parents are required to take the temperature of and physically assess the wellness of their children before dropping them off
e. All workers are required to daily assess their health and stay home if symptomatic
f. Any child with any symptoms must be immediately isolated and removed from the premises ASAP
4. Face masks are at minimum encouraged for all attendees, volunteers, and staff, and according to municipal requirements required when certain benchmarks are met.
5. People over 65 and those with medical conditions are not encouraged to attend (or wear masks if they do).
6. Food or drink (coffee/water) is not allowed unless it’s for communion. Communion elements are not allowed to be passed from person to person. Contact between servers is not allowed.
7. Congregational singing is STRONGLY discouraged. Humming is suggested as an alternative. Wearing masks while humming or singing is at best implied, and for durations of this crisis required. A single worship leader, from a distance, preferably behind plexiglass or while wearing a mask is suggested.
8. Donation plates are not allowed to be passed between people.
9. Contact tracing is highly encouraged. We are to keep lists of all people working and volunteering and preferably who attend. This information is to be kept for 2 weeks and is the property of the church, only used if an outbreak occurs.
10. We are encouraged to utilize separate entrances and exits to keep people apart. Traffic flow and bottlenecks must be reduced or eliminated.
11. Groups are not allowed to sit together (unless same household or cohort families).
12. Washrooms and other high traffic areas must allow for physical distancing and be cleaned regularly.
13. Between services the entire facility should be sanitized.
14. Microphones must be sterilized between users.
15. Staggering entrance and exits from the services to reduce people is encouraged.
16. A registration system for attendance is encouraged to manage people flow and volumes.
17. Shaking hands, hugging, touching, or passing items between people compromises the two-meter distance between congregants and must not occur, except between members of the same household or cohort family.
18. Mingling and visiting between services or after services is discouraged.
Our fear is that if we rush into this, we will only end up frustrating people, especially our seniors and our parents. We desire to avoid generating a lot of activity with limited positive results. We desire to find a way to offer life-changing discipleship and do better than just luke-warm fellowship.
In summary of an 8 page document available for your perusal here:
Your staff and elders are carefully making decisions about our future. We desire to offer you something better in person than we are currently offering online and with our Growth Groups. Until we can do that, we don’t want to rush into anything.
To our Growth Groups... we are encouraged by your willingness to gather (in whatever formats you utilize) the midst of all of this chaos. You are filling a huge gap this situation has left us in.
Church, our short-term response will be to encourage you to continue to join us online. This will allow us to provide you with a level of quality we can be proud of, without the hardships these regulations and guidelines pose.
However, we acknowledge that this season is painful. Many of us are relationship and fellowship deprived. We get that. We are now asking ourselves if that need can be met in addition to our Sunday online services, and we wonder if we can add other ways to gather on top of what we are doing.
We will keep you posted regarding these developments.
If you have suggestions that meet all of the requirements and offer something better than we can currently offer, we welcome your input.
Please pray for us during this season. We know you do, and we need an abundance of wisdom in this season of life. If you would like even more information that we are factoring in, as we make these decisions, don’t hesitate to contact us for details.
If you've made it this far.... have a laugh.