First Presbyterian’s Plan to Re-Open for Public Worship
As Presbyterians, we know that the chief end of man is to “Glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” (See Opening Question of Westminster Shorter Catechism). Of course, we can glorify God anywhere, but there is nothing quite like worshipping God together in our sanctuary. The author of Hebrews exhorts us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is good for us to gather together in corporate worship, but the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a season for everything under heaven (see Ecclesiastes 3).
Unfortunately, over the last few months it has not been the season for corporate worship in our sanctuary as the President, the Governor, and our Mayor ordered Amarillo to shelter in place in March and to avoid large group gatherings. As you know many of those restrictions have been lifted. Legally we are free to gather for corporate worship. But unfortunately, we have seen a recent surge in active COVID 19 cases in Amarillo. We are reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul who writes, “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). Because COVID 19 is so highly contagious and many have died from the disease, the best thing we can do for our neighbor according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) is maintain safe social distancing practices and avoid large crowds.
Therefore, before we open our sanctuary for corporate worship, we would like to see a consistent decline in the number of active cases of COVID 19 in Amarillo.
When we gather for corporate worship we would like to ensure everyone’s safety by adhering as best we can to the guidelines that the Governor has provided for Houses of Worship. We want to worship God together in a way that supports our city leaders and public health officials; that demonstrates concern and takes responsibility for our community; and that expresses Christian love for our neighbors. Of course, we encourage those who are in High-Risk Categories to continue to worship with us from home through our online offerings that can be found here .
According to our Governor, those who are at risk (the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) and those who may pose a risk to others (showing symptoms within the past 72-hours or have been exposed to those showing symptoms) are encouraged to remain in their homes and participate in the worship services online. Anyone who has had close contact with a person with COVID 19 should self-quarantine for 14 days before coming to our church campus.
For those who choose to join us for worship in our sanctuary on Sundays we ask that everyone adhere to the following guidelines to maintain safe social distancing practices as provided by the Governor:
o Knowing how saliva can travel further when we speak or sing, everyone who attends worship will be required to wear a mask that they bring, or one will be provided in adherence to the Governor’s guidelines.
o Knowing how difficult it is for young children to social distance all the time and wear a face mask through an entire service, children 5 years old and younger will need to worship with their families online at home.
o Children who are 6 and older will need to sit with their parents or legal guardians at all times maintaining six feet of distance from non-household members as we practice parenting in the pew.
o This initial start up is for Sunday morning worship in the sanctuary only, so therewon’t be any Sunday school or childcare.
o Hand Sanitizing Stations will be located at the entrance to the sanctuary so thatpeople can wash their hands as they enter and leave the sanctuary.
o Doors to the Great Hall will remain open so that people do not have to touch door handles when they enter.
o Handrails, door handles, pews, bathrooms, and highly touched surfaces will be cleane and sanitized before and after each service by multiple staff members.
o The first few pews in the sanctuary will remain open so that when the worship
leaders sing in the chancel without masks into microphones, there is very little risk that their saliva will hit anyone.
o Worshippers will be escorted to designated pews ensuring that there is at leastsix feet of distance between worshipping households. At least every other pew will remain open to ensure social distancing.
o Congregants from different households will seek to maintain at least six feet of distance between each other at all times.
o No communion trays will be passed. Instead communion kits will be provided.
o No offering plate will be passed. Instead collection boxes wil be located in the Narthex.
o The friendship pad will not be passed.
o There won’t be any Hymnals or Bibles in the pew racks.The words to the songswill be projected, and people will be encouraged to bring their own Bible.
o To help avoid congestion in the aisles, worshipers will be dismissed one row orhousehold at a time.
o To avoid congestion in the Great Hall people will be encouraged to exit the
building after worship is ove so that the staff can clean and sanitize the building, swapping out pew cushions that people just sat on.
o To ensure social distancing we will ask that there only be one household in a bathroom at a time and hands are washed thoroughly as one leaves the restroom using paper towels to open the door with trash cans located right by the door to avoid the need to touch the door handle. There will be an attendant at each bathroom to ensure there is only one household in one of our four open bathrooms at a time.
o To help avoid people drinking after one another all water fountains will be
turned off, but an individual water bottle will be made available on request.
o No coffee or refreshments will be served.
o During the summer months of June and July we will provide two worship
services each Sunday in our sanctuary at 8:30 and 11:00. These services will be identical. We will rotate music styles each week.
o We would encourage people to come to worship 30 minutes early so that
ushers will have plenty of time to help people find their seats before worship begins.
o We would ask households to maintain six feet of social distance guided by the
blue tape in the GreatHall as people wait to be seated.
o The north and south doors to the Great Hall will be open as entrances.The
north, south, and east doors willbe open as exits. The children’s wing will be closed. The west door will only be used as an emergency exit.
~ These are temporary arrangements for an initial phase in re-opening First Presbyterian Church for public gatherings. Everything is framed in the context of protecting the vulnerable and showing love to our community with a posture of humility and grace.
~ We will continue to monitor local and regional Covid-19 developments and follow the guidance of our city leaders and public health officials.
~ People who want to come to our campus for worship on Sundays, but do not want to wear a face mask can worship in their cars through their online devices in the west parking lot where we have set up WIFI extenders. They can log on to “fpcguest” and the password is “fpcguest.”
We continue to pray for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are lifting up to our Lord in faith all those who are sick, those who are experiencing loss in a variety of settings, our public leaders and health care providers, and all congregations of God’s people in our city. We intend to continue communicating and sharing best practices so we can be faithful to our calling in Christ and faithful to our neighbors in Amarillo and beyond.