PLAN FOR SAFELY REOPENING

FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF NORMAL

Approved by the Church Council, February 18, 2021

INTRODUCTION

With the move of Region 2 (including McLean County) to Phase 4, Revitalization under the State of Illinois Restore Illinois plan, First United Methodist Church has the opportunity to begin planning for the gradual reopening of our beloved sanctuary and other areas of the building. We will do so within the guidelines of the State of Illinois plan and those of our Conference in Coming Back to the Heart of Worship: Illinois Great Rivers Conference Guidance on Safely Gathering. In addition to the State and Conference Guidelines, we will also bear in mind the guidance of local health officials and health professionals, and we will act in coordination with other United Methodist churches in our area.

Those guidelines permit us to begin planning and reopening, but with care, discernment, and a view to the safety of our congregation.

As noted in Coming Back to the Heart of Worship, the first principle of our process must be:

"1) Do no Harm. The first rule of a Methodist is "Do no harm." Our churches should attempt to minimize harm as much as possible. This will likely require inconveniencing many people in order to make it safer for some other people. In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this means that we must do all we can to keep people as safe as possible, even if it is difficult, inconvenient, frustrating, unprofitable, or disruptive."

CURRENT PLANNING FOR CHURCH REOPENING: PHASE 4

Region 2 of the State of Illinois, including McLean County, moved (again) to Phase 4, (Revitalization) on January 25, 2021. Under the Conference Guidelines for Phase 4, indoor worship is permitted, but is limited to 25% of room capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower. Our sanctuary has a capacity of 330 persons, which means the maximum capacity under this guideline is 82 people, including pastors, ushers, and all others.

With that in mind, First United Methodist Church plans to reopen for in-person worship at an early opportunity. Our plan for re-opening our facilities is as follows:

Worship:

1. What services will we be offering? Initially, one in-person service will be held on Sunday mornings. On-line worship services will continue as we have been doing for the last several months. As safety permits, we hope to transition to additional in-person services. Occasional outside services also remain a possibility.

2. Preparing for Worship

A. Pre-register on Sign-Up Genius. Initially, we will ask people to sign up for 1 service over a 3-week span.  This could be modified as we see the number of people who are choosing to attend. Unfortunately, people who have not registered cannot be admitted. If handicapped parking or handicapped access is necessary, please request it at the time of registration.

B. There will be a seating chart based on pre-registration.

C. Entry/exit will be through the main (east) sanctuary doors (Door A) only unless handicapped parking and access have been requested and are being used.

D. The water fountains have been turned off. Only one person (or members of the same family) in a restroom at one time.

3. In Worship, What Can You Expect to be Different?

A. Masks are required for all attendees except children under two. Persons speaking may remove their masks in the chancel area.

B. All ages will be in worship – kids, youth, and adults. The nursery and classrooms will not be open.

C. The balcony and comfort room will not be available except to technology personnel.

D. Hymnals, pew Bibles and attendance pads have been removed. Bulletins will be single use or printed and brought from home.

E. Occupied pews will alternate with vacant pews. No more than two persons per pew, except that families may sit in the same pew.

F. Prepackaged communion will be available at designated services.

G. While there will be instrumental music, there will be no in-person singing or reading by the congregation, nor any handshakes or hugging as a sign of peace. We encourage nods, waves, "eye smiles" and an occasional elbow bump.

H. An offering plate will be available during entry and exit from the sanctuary.

4. After Worship

A. The congregation will be directed to leave through the sanctuary main (east) doors (Door A) unless handicapped access has been requested.

B. The congregation will be "ushered" out, starting from the back, much like you see at a wedding.

C. Pews will be wiped down. (Volunteers will be needed to assist with this.)

D. There will be no coffee hour and gatherings/conversations should take place outside using social distance and masks.

5. Communication with the Congregation. These guidelines will be published in a variety of church publications including Facebook, the FUMC website, the FUMC newsletter, and upcoming bulletins. Signs will also be posted.

Use of Church Facilities:

Groups are welcome and encouraged to meet outside the Church building (Prayer Garden, Parking Lot, and South side grass area). Please use social distancing at all times.

1. Inside Meetings

A. Meetings shall be scheduled in advance through the church office.

B. Chairperson(s) and/or scheduler must be present to permit entry and to assure that participants follow guidelines.

C. Entry to the building includes tracking of all individuals that enter the building by using the sign-in system located at the west door (Door G). Information will only be used for purposes of COVID-19 contact tracing.

D. Meetings shall only be held on the main level of the building. (This will avoid the use of stairs and handrails/elevators and buttons.)

E. Water fountains have been turned off based on the recommendations of the CDC. Only one person or family members in a restroom at one time.

2. Main Meeting Rooms

A. Lounge - Occupancy of 1-15 people maintaining social distancing. (Chairs only)

B. Room 53 – Occupancy of 1-6 people.

C. Library – Occupancy 1-3 people.

D. Chapel - Occupancy of 1-6 people.

E. Fellowship Hall - Occupancy of 1-50 people. If a group needs tables, there are 16 round tables and could seat 2 people at each table resulting in capacity for 32.

F. Choir Room – Occupancy of 10 people.

3. Guidelines During Meeting

A. Masks are to be worn at all times during meetings and participants should maintain social distancing.

B. No food may be served during meetings.

C. Day meetings should be spaced out to allow for proper cleaning of the meeting area, hallways, doors, and bathrooms. (1-2 Hours between meetings).

D. No groups will be scheduled to meet during School Street Food Pantry Friday pick up. (3-6:30PM).

E. No meetings should be scheduled before noon on Monday.

 Caveats

  • Our Region may move back to other Phases or Tiers if mitigation efforts are unsuccessful. That will require changes in our Plan, perhaps on short notice.
  • Any reopening must be in stages in order to provide maximum experience of both staff and congregation with new procedures and limitations. We may need to experiment a little or begin with smaller numbers or different styles of worship, at least for a while.

LOOKING FORWARD

We will continue to maintain electronic delivery of worship services in some form for the foreseeable future.
As vaccines and treatments become widely available, Regions in the State of Illinois may return to Phase 5, Illinois Restored. At that point, in the words of the Conference Guidelines, "We recommend a really big party. With Music. And really loud singing. And cake. And casseroles."

Amen.