Dear Church Family,

Last week, the CDC issued new guidance regarding masks for those who have been fully vaccinated. Both the State of Illinois and the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church also came out with statements following those CDC Guidelines. In addition, the State of Illinois moved to the "Bridge Phase" on May 14.

These new guidelines have opened up the possibility for loosening some of our restrictions.  Both the FUMC Pandemic Response Team and the Normal 1st Staff met to discuss the next steps towards re-opening.  There are more details below about the specific changes.

But first we want to note of some of the ways that the Church is in a unique situation.  Broad recommendations from outside agencies may not take into account the uniqueness of a Church and other religious gathering places.

  • We are one of the few places where there are potentially 5 generations of people gathering together. In other words, we can have infants, along with children, youth, and adults of all  ages. Our community looks different than a school, a business, or a restaurant.
  • This means that we have a larger % of people coming who are more vulnerable or not eligible for the vaccine.
  • And because one of our main goals is community with one another, we try to take into account the multiple situations of our congregation.

So our steps towards re-opening may seem slower than we all wish.  But they are done so with a recognition of our entire community in mind.

Below is more information about the next steps.  But we also want to state that the on-line services are continuing.  Those will continue to be available each weekend.  On-line worship continues even as we re-open.

After discussions with the FUMC Pandemic Response Committee and the Normal 1st Staff, we have determined these next 2 steps in our phased-in re-opening of worship:

Phase 1           Last 2 weekends of May 2021

  • The number of people who can be in the sanctuary at one time will increase to 100.
  • Please continue to make reservations for either of the two services online or by calling the church office at (309) 452-2096. Reservations continue to be necessary to assure our count and provide for contact tracing if necessary.
  • There will no longer be assigned seating. Instead, we will individually practice social distancing in the pews. Every other pew will continue to be roped off. Please, no hugs or handshakes.
  • We will continue the current mask policy, requesting everyone to wear a mask while they are in the building.

Phase 2           Beginning June 2021

  • Additional Changes while gathering for worship
  1. We ask that everyone please continue to wear a face mask as you enter the building.
  2. Once you are seated, those who are fully vaccinated MAY remove their face masks if they wish. Those who are not fully vaccinated or who are not comfortable removing their masks should keep their masks on.
  3. At the end of worship, please put your face mask back on as you exit the building. Similarly, if you move around the sanctuary space for any reason, please put your face mask back on.
  4. Congregational singing can resume. Anyone choosing to sing will need to wear their mask, even if they are fully vaccinated. This helps to protect those around you.    "COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies for Choir"
  5. We realize that some people may be uncomfortable being seated near someone who is unmasked. To assist with this, we will designate the rear half of the lectern side of the sanctuary as "Masked Only." Those who would prefer to be seated in this section may do so while remaining socially distant. Those wearing masks are also welcome to sit anywhere else in the sanctuary.
  • Please continue to make reservations for either of the two services online or by calling the church office at (309) 452-2096. Reservations continue to be necessary to assure our count and provide for contact tracing if necessary.
  • Beginning June 6, there will be children’s activities outdoors during the 9:30 worship. We will continue to ask our children and youth to wear face masks as directed, including at all times while indoors. This new policy from the CDC applies to vaccinated individuals only.

Thank you for loving your neighbor by following these guidelines. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! We are grateful to our congregation for your hard work and patience during these difficult times. We appreciate your patience as we continue to move towards full re-opening.

We are called to be a community that watches over one another in love.  Out of love and respect for all, please continue to follow these protocols. Keeping everyone safe and comfortable requires trust and respect.

Pastors Kathy & Kent