Guidelines for Reopening the Walnut Creek Baptist Church
Understanding the times and where we are.
We understand that reopening the church to public gatherings will take place over a period of time — weeks, possibly months. We also understand there are people with a strong position on both sides regarding when and how we reopen the church for public gatherings. Above all, we must not allow this issue to become a divisive issue within the body of Christ. There has been so much negative and misleading news on both sides of this issue, but we want to have unity within our fellowship.
1 Cor 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined.
- First of all, no one should feel pressured or shamed into attending the public gatherings of the church. If any individual has a condition that might make them more susceptible to the effects of the COVID-19 virus, then by all means, stay home. If any individual feels uncomfortable attending the public gatherings, then stay home. Some examples of those who should not attend are the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and those who are not feeling well. If in doubt, please stay home. We love you and will welcome you back when the appropriate time comes. If you are unsure, you can always call your doctor or check with the CDC guidelines.
- Online services will continue as they have been during the shutdown. We welcome anyone to join online instead of in person for as long as they feel appropriate. We will have our normal online schedule available for all services. People who watch online and people who attend in person will experience the same worship service.
- We understand there is a command to be a testimony in the community. We will not meet corporately in a manner that violates the public trust of our neighbors and friends. We uphold civil government as identified in Romans 13. We also understand that the Lord wants us to meet together as identified in Hebrews 10. We will comply with the governor’s directives on May 1st and 5th regarding church gatherings. The summary of those two meetings are:
On May 1st, the governor re-affirmed religious institutions can have services. On May 5th, on a call regarding COVID-19, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health re-affirmed to church leaders that there is no prohibition on churches meeting, but if they do meet, it is recommended they follow the guidance applicable to essential businesses. These guidelines include cleaning requirements, distance requirements, mitigation, and mask requirements. “Businesses are also asked to…limit occupancy to no greater than 50 percent of the number stated on their certificate of occupancy…”
In addition, we have discussed our plans with the Erie County Board of Health, the Pennsylvania State Police, and Fairview Township. All are in agreement with our plan to hold services and agree that we are in compliance with the COVID-19 state guidelines for churches as indicated in the directives from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on May 1st and May 5th.
We have been coordinating our opening with five other churches in the Erie region. The five churches range in attendance from 50 to 500. All churches have scheduled to open in the next couple of weeks and have similar reopening plans to the one we have developed. You can be assured that we have done due diligence regarding the safety of all attendees and will be in compliance with the regulations. We desire to keep our testimony in the community while we meet corporately. Never in church history have we dealt with a situation like this one. Our plans to safely open the church are a work in progress.
We understand that the procedures to have services may seem burdensome and excessive to some.
However, we have developed them after hours of consulting with several churches and government officials around the state. This was not done in a vacuum. Hours of prayer and planning brought forth this plan. We ask you to be patient as we open other ministries over the next few weeks/months.
Reopening Sunday Services
May 31, 2020
9:30 and 11:00 AM
In order to practice social distancing and maintain the limited attendance capacity that the state guidelines require, we have implemented the following policy:
- All attendees must preregister on the church app, website, or by calling the church and leaving a message. Upon arrival, those who have registered will be directed to assigned seats. Please do not assume that last minute seating will be available. There will be a limited of number of seats set aside for unregistered visitors. (Remember, we have less than 50% seating capacity available.)
- Social distancing is to be maintained by obeying the floor markers and sitting in assigned seats.
- During this phase there will be no nursery or Jr. Church. We anticipate phasing in Jr. Church after two or three weeks; nursery will be phased in when Erie County goes to green.
- Families are welcome to come and worship together. If your child(ren) have difficulty sitting quietly through the service, you may take them to the fellowship hall where there will be a live stream of the service.
- All attendees are asked to use the right entry door of the church and follow the signage to an usher who will point you to your seat. Each attendee will have a name card on their seat. Changing seats or relocating will not be allowed.
- Masks must be worn. We will have a limited number of masks available at the entrance door. *This will be re-evaluated after Erie County goes into the green phase.
- In the sanctuary, every other pew will be used front to back.
- Please abstain from handshakes, high fives, and hugs.
- The offering plates will not be passed. If not giving online, please use the offering box located in the foyer.
- At the end of each service, rows will be dismissed by ushers to maintain social distancing. Please exit the building as soon as your row is dismissed. We cannot allow the 11:00 service in the building until the auditorium has been wiped and cleaned.
Children/Teens, SEED Groups, Wednesday Services
Under the present guidelines, we can meet in small groups of 25 or less as long as social distancing is practiced. We can also use the auditorium at 50% capacity.
As most of you know, we had a classroom space problem that preexisted the virus. With the current restrictions, this problem is even more challenging. We are working on some way for teens and children to meet soon, but we have no definitive answer at this time. We anticipate that the Ladies Bible Study, certain teen events, and men’s prayer groups can meet shortly.
In summary: most of these restrictions, while necessary, are temporary. This is a very fluid situation, and we hope to offer most of our ministries soon. However, under the present conditions, we feel it’s appropriate to delay reopening our SEED groups and children’s ministries until we can do so safely.
When Erie County goes to the green phase, we anticipate opening more of our services and programs.