Please see below for video and written announcements regarding our church reopening plans from our Reopening Task Force.
With Illinois moving to Phase 4 of the pandemic recovery plan this week, we have additional information to share regarding our church’s reopening plans. As we’ve previously mentioned, a task force has been working on a reopening plan since early May. We’re following guidelines from the State of Illinois, our local health department and our Bishop’s Office, and enlisting the help of our church staff and ministry teams, local churches and others. We’ve identified some best practices and determined next steps.
Our overall goal is to ensure we can offer worship opportunities to the widest audience, which is currently limited both by social distancing guidelines and our technology – so as we transition into Phase 4, here’s what you can expect:
In-person worship: We will begin offering casual in-person worship services on Wednesday evenings, starting July 8th! These services will be held in our church parking lot (on July 8 and 15) and the outdoor chapel at Funks Grove (on July 22 and 29) at 6:30 P.M. See the newsletter, website or Facebook page for directions and additional details.
Sanctuary worship: Cleaning, tracking, social distancing and capacity requirements mean worship will look a little different when we initially return to the sanctuary. Here’s what you can expect:
· We will continue weekend worship services online only through July, as we continue preparing our building and our technology to ensure we are able to continue offering worship opportunities to the largest audience possible.
· We hope to begin offering one weekly service in the sanctuary on Sundays at 9:30 A.M., starting in August.
· Sunday services will then be live streamed on our website, as well as recorded and posted on our website, which would replace our prerecorded virtual worship sessions.
· We’ll be offering advance registration for a few weeks at a time (either online or by calling the church office) and we ask that you register for one of three weekends to allow everyone who wishes to worship in-person an opportunity to do so.
· When you attend worship, you’ll be asked to wear a mask and go directly to the sanctuary to be seated.
· Seating will be in every other row, with one family or 2-3 individuals per pew, in order to maintain social distancing.
· We’ll have special music but will not be singing as a choir or congregation just yet.
· Offering and communion will look different because we won’t be passing items around or moving throughout the sanctuary during worship.
· The congregation will be dismissed at the end of the service, likely row by row, and directed to the appropriate exit.
· Bathrooms will be available, but we ask that people do not gather in the lounge or narthex either before or after worship.
· Coffee and donuts will not be offered, but you’re welcome to bring your own.
· Childcare and Sunday School will not be offered during worship.
These guidelines are not meant to be unnecessarily restrictive. They are intended to be loving and to keep our church family healthy and safe.
While we know some have been waiting for this opportunity, we also understand others may be hesitant, so we want to stress that no one should feel they need to attend worship in person. While we leave it to individual discretion, we encourage people with young children, underlying health conditions (such as diabetes or asthma), other identified vulnerable populations, and anyone else who wishes, to please continue enjoying our virtual worship services and fellowship time.
Virtual worship: We had been moving toward offering a virtual worship option prior to the pandemic, so please know that we do plan to continue offering that on an ongoing basis moving forward. As I mentioned, we are working to transition to livestreaming services when we’re back in the sanctuary.
Our building remains closed to walk-in guests Staff will continue working mostly from home but may be in the office on a limited basis. If you have a scheduled appointment or meeting in the building, please enter through the door on the west side (across from the ISU Bowling and Billiards Center). You’ll be asked to wear a mask, sign in and out, and maintain social distancing.
We will continue virtual children’s programming. We will not yet hold Sunday School or open the nursery over the summer, so we encourage families with young children to continue enjoying our virtual worship services and other online children’s activities…maybe check out a Wednesday night worship service.
Youth will continue virtual games, outdoor movies and other outdoor activities through the summer.
We continue to look at different options for ministries and programs for the fall and will keep you informed as decisions are made. All plans are tentative and dependent upon the continued pandemic environment Please bear with us as we continue to work through logistics that are appropriate, feasible and keep everyone as safe as possible.
The most important thing is that we continue to be the church during this time.
Please reach out to our pastors, staff, or the church office (309.452-2096) if you need anything.
Take care, everyone! Stay safe and have a great summer. I hope to see you soon.
Grace and peace,
Normal First UMC Reopening Task Force
Kathy King-Nobles, Kent King-Nobles, John Freese, Amy Fuller, Kathy Gossard, Chuck McGuire, Sarah Ogdon, Alice Pomeroy, Rachael Schlipmann