Etowah Baptist Church
Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Resuming Worship Gatherings On Campus

This most recent season of our lives has been unprecedented. When 2020 began, we weren’t thinking about a pandemic, nor did we think of how our way of life could be so changed. We have spent these past few months adjusting, compromising, and sacrificing. We have prayerfully sought God’s wisdom for our leaders, for all of the people and families who have suffered so much, and for our own families and our church family. It has been difficult and discouraging for everyone. However, we know that God works in ways that are beyond our ability to understand, in order to bring good. We are confident that the gospel has gone out in unique and different ways. We are sure that many are seeking God in new or renewed ways. This time of national crisis has turned many people towards God.

Our church leadership team met in early March to plan our church’s response to the emerging pandemic. We wanted to respond responsibly, thoughtfully, and with faith. We set in place a phased plan to remain open, as long as possible. Our last worship gathering, on campus, took place on Sunday, March 15th. It was inspiring to see our people work so diligently, across two different venues, each limited to 100, in order to provide a worship opportunity, for God’s glory. However, as the trends continued to unfold, and as our governing officials unveiled more and more strict restrictions, we moved to our leadership team’s planned phase to transition to a totally online ministry format.

It has been amazing to see how God has used our online ministry. Starting basically from nothing, our team has worked very diligently to implement and develop this format. At present, we offer an excellent worship service, a Bible study, a mid-week worship video, and studies for our youth and children each week. We have also developed multiple avenues for making contributions online. We are all so very proud of the talented and skilled people, using their gifts to share the gospel and make disciples. God has taken our offering and multiplied it in ways none of us could have ever imagined. Instead of sharing God’s Word with several hundred people each week, we are now, likely, sharing God’s Word with several thousand people each week! We give God all of the glory and honor for His sovereign wisdom and goodness.

But, we have a great desire to gather together again, here on our campus. Recently, a judge issued an injunction overturning our governor’s restrictions against gatherings for worship. This is good news in that, churches can now seek to resume on-campus, indoor gatherings at the same level of guidance as retail stores. Our leadership team (deacons, pastoral staff, medical worker) has met again to discuss these changes. We feel that we should responsibly and prayerfully move forward towards the reopening of our campus for worship. We will not restart all of our ministries at this time. There are many different dynamics and considerations unique to some of our program audiences. Our plan is to gradually restart all of our programs and ministries, following all government restrictions, and giving consideration to CDC guidelines. We are currently planning to begin offering our weekly youth ministry service again, sometime in mid-June. Unfortunately, we will not be able to offer our children’s ministry or nursery until all restrictions have been removed. However, parents are welcome to bring their children to our outdoor or indoor/sanctuary gatherings. It is our hope that all of our regular programs, ministries, and groups will be able to resume their meetings in the near future. With this being said, we are excited to announce our planned starting point...

We will reopen our sanctuary for worship on Sunday, June 14, with two services: 8:30 and 11:00 a.m.

Because we will be following guidelines on capacity, we will be restricting both services to 100 (including workers). As restrictions ease, and eventually are removed, we will make further adjustments. We ask anyone who has had a temperature of 100.4 or greater, or has shown any flu-like symptoms in the 14 days prior to


any scheduled gathering, to please remain at home, allow time to get well, and worship with us online, before choosing to join with us here on campus.

We have already begun making preparations for June 14th. If you choose to attend that day, things will be different. Prior to that day, we will provide a video walkthrough, allowing you to see what to expect when attending an on-campus gathering. Everyone will enter through the front of the sanctuary. Ushers will greet us, directing us into receiving lines out in front of the sanctuary doors. These lines will be set up to maintain social distancing (at least 6 feet). Our ushers will seat everyone who attends. The pews will be divided into two sections. We will seat individuals and/or families in each section. Additionally, we will also be marking off every other pew for seating. Hand sanitizer will be available when we enter the front area of the sanctuary. We strongly encourage everyone who attends to bring a face mask with you and wear it during the service. Those who choose not to wear a mask, or who cannot wear a mask, for medical reasons, are asked to bring tissues or a handkerchief in order to cover coughs and sneezes. We will not be having small group meetings, at 9:45 a.m., at this time. Instead, a cleaning team will be wiping down surfaces between services. Instead of passing offering plates, offering boxes have been installed. Rather than distribute a bulletin, we will communicate important information via email and the sanctuary video screen. Greeting time will take the form of a friendly wave to neighbors. And, the dismissal will be led by our ushers, one row at a time.

We hope to best utilize the sanctuary’s seating capacity during both services. Initially, for the first few weeks, we are going to try using a reservation process. We ask that you call the church office and let us know which service (8:30 or 11:00) you would like to attend. If we reach capacity in either service, and have space still available at the other time, we will ask if you would be willing to attend the other service. We are also currently working to be able to begin live-streaming our services. On June 14th, we will have a worship venue set up in the Promise Center (gym). The service will be broadcast live in the gym for anyone preferring to attend there, or for those who wanted to attend one of our sanctuary gatherings but could not, because our full seating capacity was already reached.

In order to be able to meet our June 14th goal, we will need help from many of you. We will need anexpanded usher team, for both services. If you would be willing to be trained and to serve as an usher, please call the church office and sign up. We will also need a team to help clean between the services (9:45-10:45 a.m.). If you would be willing to serve with this team, please call the church office and let us know. We will be contacting volunteers on each of these teams for an on-campus training time, to be scheduled prior to Sunday, June 14th.

But, what about the Sundays prior to June 14th? Leading up to June 14th, we will be offering an on- campus, outdoor worship opportunity. On Sunday, May 31st and Sunday, June 7th, we will be meeting at 11:00 a.m. for worship, outdoors! On those days, when there is no rain, our worship team will set up on the front porch of the sanctuary. We invite those who feel comfortable to bring your own chairs to sit in the congregation area. The congregation area will be in front of the sanctuary, reaching out to the “guest” row of parking spaces. Ushers will be greeting and working in this area to maintain social distancing guidelines (at least 6 feet). For those not comfortable sitting in the congregation area, you are invited to sit in your automobile during the service. We will be broadcasting the service over the radio. Should the weather be rainy either May 31st and/or June 7th, we will only offer the prerecorded audio of the service, broadcast over the radio, to anyone desiring to sit in their automobile.

Finally, we understand that many people might not feel comfortable attending on June 14th. We support you in making the prayerful decision that you feel is best for you and your family. We want you to know that we will


continue to offer weekly worship and Bible study online. We want to keep ministering to you throughout this time. Based on current CDC guidelines, the following describes those people who are considered to be in the “high risk” category...

  • People 65 years and older

  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:

    People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

  • People who have serious heart conditions

  • People who are immunocompromised

  • People with severe obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher)

  • People with diabetes

  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis

  • People with liver disease

    Please keep your church leadership in prayer as we move forward. We are asking for God’s wisdom and discernment in these plans. The health of our church family, and our community, is one of our highest priorities. We are prayerfully asking God to allow us to discern the right and responsible balance between worshipping together on campus, as a spiritual community, and safeguarding our well-being. May God bless you and lead you in His good and perfect will.