Returning to In-Person Worship
Let me begin this letter to you with a word of gratitude and thanks. One year ago, following the recommendations of both church and elected officials, we began offering online worship only, and for the last 52 Sundays, that is how we have worshipped together. Again, I cannot thank you enough for your faithfulness and grace. It has been quite a journey, and together, with the help of God, we are definitely finding our way.
After much prayer and consideration among our leadership and staff, we are excited to announce that beginning April 18, we will be opening a 7-week pilot of in-person worship. This will be a chance to ease back into in-person community life, to learn about best practices, and make the necessary adjustments moving forward. Admittedly, this has taken longer than we could have ever imagined, and so once again, I thank you for your patience and understanding.
We know that every person and family will need to make the decisions that are best for their health and comfort. We support whatever choice you make. Attached you will find the details for beginning in-person worship. Please read all the information and let us know if you have any questions.
You are loved!
Grace and Peace,
What are our hopes for in-person worship?
We know that the church building and sanctuary are sacred and can bring us in closer connection to God and to each other. Although we cannot do all the fellowship things we miss like handshakes, hugs (I miss your hugs!), and coffee hour, we hope that seeing each other will be really refreshing and healing. Hopefully, the extended conversations on the sidewalks and in the parking lot will allow you to catch up with each other. And being together, even just in the silence of prayer, is powerful. I am looking forward to being back together.
When do we hope to begin offering in-person worship?
We will begin in-person worship on April 18.
What time would we offer in-person worship?
We will start with one in-person worship at 9:00 am. We will do this as a seven-week pilot (through Memorial Day weekend, May 31). This will give us the chance to evaluate as we go, watch local infection trends, and decide if we need to expand worship times or move outdoors during the summer.
How many people will we be able to include?
In addition to the staff and volunteers needed on hand, we will be able to include up to 50 worshipers.
Will we be asking people to register for worship?
Yes. We will be using a registration process. We will be asking people to register online or by calling the office. The registration process will begin on March 28. Registration will be available on our website at rofum.org/worship.
What safety measures will be implemented for in-person worship?
Please see Addendum A for a full list of our safety procedures and protocols for beginning in-person worship. But let me just be upfront that we require masks for all persons over the age of 5 in the building at all times.
Once we begin in-person worship, what will be our online worship presence?
It is our goal to offer a true live stream of our in-person worship experiences. Unlike our current pre-recorded and edited service, live stream means that the online viewer will experience what is happening in the sanctuary as it happens. The live stream will then be posted and available for people to watch at any time thereafter.
What will the format of the worship look like?
It will be different. It will be shorter. It will involve fewer people than we are using for our pre-recorded service. Music will be primarily instrumental, and singing will be offered by only one or two voices. We will not be able to offer corporate singing or ensembles, with the exception of handbells, at this time (I miss singing and the choir so much!) We may do some pre-recorded musical offerings to be shared during worship. These are the necessary first steps as we find our way back into corporate worship.
This would be the simplified format:
Welcome and Announcements
Will there be childcare or programming for children?
During our 7-week pilot, we will offer nursery care for infants and children up to age 4. This will be included in the registration process so our Nursery Team can be prepared for your kids. Older children and youth are welcome to sit with families in the sanctuary during worship. At the end of this pilot period, we will reevaluate our needs around children’s ministries and make any adjustments or expansions at that time.
Please see Addendum B for all of the procedures and protocols for using the nursery during this pilot period.
How will we be handling the offering?
We will continue to encourage online and mail-in giving as much as possible. We will include offering boxes on the way in and out of the sanctuary for people to give while worshiping in the building.
Will there be printed materials?
Yes. Bulletins will be in the assigned pew prior to service.
How were these decisions made?
Yes. In fact, without some extra hands, we will not be able to offer in-person worship. One of the things we want to make sure is a part of our next steps is the warmth and hospitality that makes Royal Oak First such a special place. We will need people to help welcome and direct people with kindness and understanding. This will include parking lot hosts, door greeters, sanctuary ushers, and gathering space attendants.
We will make sure that you are trained. We will also have run-throughs to practice our new procedures and protocols prior to our first in-person worship experience.
If you would be willing to lend a hand, please contact Karen Calhoun, firstname.lastname@example.org.
When do you think we will be back to “normal?”
If we have learned anything in the last year, it is that the COVID-19 world is an ever-changing reality. It is hard to make predictions with any certainty. These are my hopes:
I hope that after the pilot run, we will be able to commit to ongoing in-person worship. I am open to having worship on the front lawn, with a tent, this summer as a way to include more people as well as be a sign to the larger community that God is alive and at work in our church.
I hope that after Labor Day, we will be ready to have two worship services (most likely with limited capacity) at 9:00 and 11:00 with expanded children’s ministry as a part of the program.
Plans change, and flexibility is required. Safety for our staff, our congregation, and our wider community will continue to be priorities. We will do our best to keep you informed and seek your input as the months unfold.
Addendum A: Safety Guidelines
Royal Oak First’s Re-Entry Task Force developed the following guidelines for returning to in-person worship with thoughtful consideration based upon the expertise and experience of Task Force members. The team ensured this plan aligns with guidance
from the State of Michigan and the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Re-Entry Task Force includes Jennifer Tripoli, Bridget Nelson, Karen Calhoun, Patrick Calhoun, Annette Wahl, Paul Perkins, Andrea McKinnon, and Jay
How we will prepare our building for safe use:
• Congregation size will be limited to 50 participants excluding the worship team and support staff.
• Participation capacity will be controlled by reservations.
• A sign will be placed at the Tower entrance noting that anyone not feeling well or displaying any symptoms of the virus should return home without entering the building.
• Signage will be placed at entrances, in restrooms, and at strategic locations throughout the building encouraging hand-washing, social distancing, and avoiding physical contact with others.
• Six-foot spacing will be marked outside the tower doors and inside the church walkways (signs, tape on floors, etc.).
• Hand sanitation stations will be located strategically throughout the portions of the building open to use.
• In addition to regular cleaning throughout the building, high-touch surfaces will receive enhanced cleaning following populated building use. These surfaces include such things as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, toilets, faucets, handles, desks, phones, keyboards.
• An adequate supply of hand sanitizers, facial tissues, soap, paper towels, and disposable masks, disinfectants, and cleaning supplies will be maintained.
How you can prepare for your safe return:
• Stay home if you feel ill.
• Everyone must put on a mask that covers their nose and mouth before entering the building. Royal Oak First will provide a mask for anyone who has forgotten or misplaced theirs.
• Check your email the day prior to your reservation for any additional information.
What to expect when you arrive:
• The Lafayette Doors will be closed, with signs placed directing congregants to the Tower (7th Street) doors for entrance into the building.
• People will only enter through the Tower (7th Street) entrance of the church.
• The doors will be propped open by ushers/greeters.
• Entry into the building will be monitored and paced to avoid having family groupings too close to each other.
• Preferably, congregants will provide their own masks, but masks will be available for visitors and those who forget theirs.
• Hand sanitizer will be available at the tower entrance and in the narthex.
• Ushers will greet you at a few checkpoints as you make your way from the tower entrance to the sanctuary. Please look for them.
• Please follow the floor markings and roped off walkway to ensure we all maintain a safe distance between one another.
• Ushers will lead you to your pre-assigned seats. Family units will be able to sit together. Others must be socially distanced.
What to expect during worship:
In addition to the physical changes in the way congregants move through the building and arrange themselves in the sanctuary, the worship experience itself will be different.
• You will find paper bulletins in the pew when you arrive at your seats. Hymnals, offering envelopes, bibles, and pencils have been removed from the pews.
• Worship leaders will remove their masks when speaking from the pulpit and lectern.
• Worship leadership will be kept to a minimum and microphones will not be shared during worship services. Microphones will be sanitized after each service.
• Because singing spreads virus-laden droplets farther and faster than ordinary talking, there will be no congregational singing.
• There will be no movement of people during a time of greeting. Congregants may turn and wave, smile, etc. but no handshaking or hugging.
• There will be white boxes available in the narthex and near building entrances for depositing your offering or offering envelopes. There will be no collection plates passed during the service.
• Communion will be conducted using individual, sealed, pre-packaged packets.
• Ushers will dismiss congregants at the end of the service by rows from back to front (as with funerals and weddings). Please remain seated until the usher arrives at your row.
• There will be no Fellowship Time after the service. When the usher releases your row for exiting, please proceed to the tower doors without lingering. The pastor and staff members will greet you outside near the Little Food Pantry.
• Worship will continue to be recorded and will be posted to YouTube and Facebook for viewing later.
Addendum B: Nursery Care
Q: Will the church Nursery be open during the 9 am service?
Q: What age kids can be in the Nursery?
A: Kids age 4 and under are welcome. Older kids are welcome to be with their parents in worship. We will have activity bags available for you to use and take home.
Q: Is a reservation required?
A: Yes. Please sign up for Nursery Care when you sign up to attend worship. The reservations will help us have proper staffing or to know that we do not need any Nursery Care on a particular Sunday.
Q: What safety measures are in place in the Nursery?
A: All adults in the nursery will be wearing masks and washing hands often. Some of our adults have been vaccinated. Surfaces and toys will be cleaned and sanitized before the service each week. We will do our best with social distancing, knowing that little kids might not understand that concern and also wanting our Nursery to be a warm and nurturing space.
Q: What do we need to bring with our child?
A: Please bring a diaper bag. If your child is willing to wear a mask, that is welcome but not required. Please do not bring any snacks.
Q: Will there be any kind of health assessment?
A: There will not be an onsite health assessment; however, once you sign up to attend church and the nursery, you will receive an email from the church asking you to monitor yourself and your children for any of the following symptoms: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, loss of taste, loss of smell, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, or nausea. If you or your child are experiencing any of these symptoms, we ask that you stay home.
Q: Where can I get more information about this?
A: You can call or email Bridget Nelson at church anytime – email@example.com or 248-541-1400 ext. 1102