I hope this correspondence finds you healthy in body and well in your spirit. It has been ten Sundays since we worshipped in person together last–hard to believe! My family has missed getting to see you and enjoy “life together” with you so much, And yet we, too, have enjoyed finding other ways to connect with you–through virtual worship and Zoom meetings, through Facebook and distanced conversations. Know that you continue to be, and will always be, in my prayers.
Many of you have called to ask about our plan for re-opening our in-person worship services. There are many communities of faith making various decisions about this in SWLA, and we will all come to varying determinations on what is wise and safe to do for the sake of all. After much discernment, the Leadership Council and I have determined that our first day of in-person worship will be Sunday, June 14th. Please read the document below to find out about how details of our time together will change, and what you must do to prepare and participate.
Be kind to yourselves, friends. These continue to be trying days that need the very best from us. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com or by calling the church office at 337.477.2003.
With Great Hope,
Proposed Protocols for UUMC
University United Methodist Church, Lake Charles
Strategy for Re-Opening/COVID-19 Guidelines
The physical gathering of God’s people feeds our souls and strengthens us for the journey of life in a unique way. It is our desire and intention to return to in-person gatherings as soon as it is safe to do so. The following guidelines are offered as a roadmap for our return to in-person worship and other gatherings. (Please note: these guidelines are subject to change as the situation unfolds at the direction of our staff and Leadership Council.)
1. General— We will continue to monitor recommendations from the CDC, the Governor’s Office, and will follow the guidelines for reopening outlined by the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church: https://www.la-umc.org/newsproof/13932320
Rationale: Although there is an ongoing debate about the severity of COVID-19 and the best path forward, we support the guidance of our leaders as a good-faith effort to “Do No Harm” and safeguard the public health.
- Sunday Worship–We will continue to offer Sunday worship online for all that are in high-risk categories, or for those who feel it is not safe to go out in public yet. We will begin to offer in-person worship services once again starting June 14th. We will return to our regular schedule of weekly worship inside the Sanctuary (8:30am), and in Safe Harbor (11am) with overflow capacity in the Choir Room. In overflow room, service would be “piped in” through a flatscreen TV from the other worship space.
Rationale: Though there is still considerable risk in these early stages of re-opening in our community, this gets us in a rhythm of weekly worship and learning sustainable practices in a “new normal” that may need to be upheld long term during this pandemic time. A June 14th date also gives extra time for us to see how the amount of community spread grows or maintains after initial opening of businesses in our community during Phase 1.
Other aspects of re-opening worship to be aware of at UUMC as you attend:
- Safe distancing must be practiced in all seating. Our UUMC Sanctuary (with official occupancy of 298) is now with an official occupancy under new guidelines of 74, including all staff and volunteers working in the service. Safe Harbor, with its flexible seating, can have about a 50-60 person occupancy. A six-foot distance must be maintained at all times. Additional worship services may need to be added if/when the number of worshipers exceeds the gathering limitations.
- Following the guidelines for safe distancing, we must greet one another in ways that acknowledge each other without physically touching. We will avoid the tradition of passing the peace as a part of worship. This means that as the pastor greets those in attendance, they should do so while maintaining safe distances and without physically touching the person they are greeting. Greeters should be deployed only when they are able to maintain safe distancing and must always wear masks.
- Washable cloth masks will be available for adults and children 3 and over. Masks will be required for all who seek to attend worship in our facilities. If one does not bring a mask for personal use, one will be provided. If a person refuses to wear a mask, they choose also not to attend our worship service.
- Because viruses can survive on paper and hard surfaces for hours, all hymnals, Bibles, and papers will be removed from the pews. Digital bulletins will be created weekly by our office staff for use on personal devices (phones, iPads, etc.), and we will use projection systems during worship, and social media, websites, and other media for announcements and communications. Congregational singing and choir practices should be suspended until we move beyond Phase 1.
- Holy Communion will be practiced in this way—sealed cups containing bread and juice will be available for pickup at the beginning of each service at the entryway where members and guests are initially welcomed. Participants in worship are invited to receive communion when the pastor consecrates the communion cups from the chancel area in the participants’ hands, and all will partake from the pew. No altar rail or common cup will be used for the foreseeable future.
- Offering plates will not be passed from person to person. We will create a place for members to drop their offering into a container that will allow them to follow social distancing guidelines. Those collecting and counting the offering must follow guidelines for safe social distancing and wearing gloves.
- Worship services will be shortened in duration to reduce the exposure to a crowd during Phase 1 and 2. All Children and Youth activities, including Sunday School and Children’s Church, as well as other on-site large group gatherings should be suspended during the Sunday morning hour.
- Restroom capacities that allow safe distancing must be thought through and posted. For example, if the restroom has four stalls, the capacity should be reduced to two people in the restroom at a time. Restrooms must be cleaned after each use.
- There will be no coffee hour or fellowship times before or after worship. Eating and drinking socially make physical distancing more difficult. We will be alert to the guidelines to know when it is best to reintroduce these activities.
- Services during the week—Starting Wednesday June 10th, we will offer a weekly prayer service throughout the summer in the sanctuary. A simple reservation system will be used, prioritizing those who are 65 and older to be able to attend.
Rationale: Public worship is a means of grace. We are committed to providing other opportunities for our people to gather in worship and prayer. These gatherings will provide a more intimate setting to enjoy, and may be a smaller, safer environment for those who are high-risk to attend an experience of worship in smaller crowds.
- Classes and Groups— Sunday School classes and small groups will maintain virtual options currently used, but will also be able to meet outside of Sunday morning hour during the week in 3 of the largest spaces—the Sanctuary, Safe Harbor Worship Center, and University-East. If a class wishes to meet in person, they must observe social distancing and wear a mask if inside the building. Classes and groups must also be scheduled with the front office or the website portal so proper sanitation can be maintained in meeting spaces and bathrooms after each formation gathering. This also includes Administrative meetings of any kind—these meetings of Church Leadership must be held in the larger spaces of our facility.
Rationale: Our Sunday School classrooms are too small to facilitate classes oir meetings and maintain ample social distancing. We will close those classrooms during Sunday morning hour and for the forseeable future until distancing recommendations are lifted.
- Ministry to Young People–When Calcasieu public schools resume normal activities, we will resume nursery and in-person children’s programs. Until then, we will continue to offer opportunities for children and youth online, with a select few in-person opportunities for youth in person (while observing social distancing.)
Rationale: It is difficult to maintain distancing and sanitation guidelines with children. While adults and older youth are capable of self-regulation, managing multiple groups at our facility presents a considerable sanitation challenge. Children are also found to be more at risk than first thought, so an overabundance of caution should be taken to protect our smallest disciples.
- Facility Use and Office Coverage—The church office and facility will be open by appointment only. Employees are are able will continue to work from home and connect virtually for meetings on plans for ministry and staff checkins. Employees who need to be on site will adhere to proper social distancing guidelines. Facility use for community groups and weddings/funerals over 10 people in attendance will be suspended until further notice. We will, however, remain open for AA and other addiction support communities as scheduled with our church office.
Rationale: Including the Day School staff, our church employs over 30 people. Many of our employees are at high-risk or over the age of 65. Protecting staff, their families and reducing exposure to COVID-19 from those that we come in contact with through daily walk-ins is a high priority.
- Day School Opening– Like the rest of the state, the day school will take a phased approach to reopening. Department of Education COVID19 guidelines for child care centers require reduced student/teacher ratios and additional sanitation and screening procedures. We have decided to open six rooms three days per week, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, beginning Tuesday, May 19th, for Phase I, currently scheduled to last 3 weeks. Further plans will be revisited for Phase II and summer camp options.
Rationale: We have Day School staff who are in vulnerable populations because of age or other risk categories. Because of reduced teacher to student ratios required, we can’t open at full capacity. We polled parents and have 45 who say they would come, which is the maximum we can accommodate at this time.
Approved by UUMC Leadership Council on May 15, 2020. These guidelines will continue to be revisited as new developments emerge.
Connecting People to Christ,
Caring for ALL,
Changing the World Around Us
University United Methodist Church is a growing and dynamic congregation located in the heart of the city of Lake Charles, LA. Located just south of I-210, we are in easy driving distance to residents throughout Southwest Louisiana. We invite you to join us for one of our weekend services, watch live online or explore our website to learn more about who we are.
May 24, 2020
Your Legacy Matters Here.