Re-gathering at Central

We are looking forward to re-gathering this Sunday, October 18. We will be meeting for in-person worship starting at 10:30am. The Board has approved the plan of the staff, and we wanted to let you know all of the details of the plan, what we are thinking about re-gathering, and what a typical Sunday will look like. We want to start by saying that the safety of the Central congregation is foremost on our mind. As we have talked about the various options since the outbreak of COVID, health and safety has always been our top priority. We have followed closely the situation in Minnesota, and we have done our best to be aware of the guidelines provided by health and government experts. We want to protect our congregation, and we also want to love our neighbors by being responsible in our actions. We are also aware of the current trends in Minnesota, in neighboring states, and in the country in regards to increases in COVID. We will continue to monitor the trends very closely. While safety is foremost on our mind, we also are aware that gathering to worship the Lord is one of the core activities of being a Christian and of being a part of a church community. We know that so many of our congregation have really missed gathering together as a church family. Because of that, we have tried to balance the realities of a pandemic, especially one that is particularly dangerous for the demographics of our church, with a desire to gather and fellowship. Over the past 6 months we have prioritized pastoral care for the congregation, and we have provided some safer options, including online studies, as well as providing outdoor worship services in the church parking lot. Now that we are approaching the middle of October, we are aware that outdoor gatherings will no longer be an option going forward. While much was unknown when we first shut down the church, we do believe that there have been advancements is knowledge that more clearly show what the highest risk behaviors are, and what protocols can be put in place to mitigate that risk when we do gather. It is now believed by health experts that extended gatherings indoors, close proximity to others, and loud talking and/or singing are activities that are high risk. Obviously, all three of these activities are core activities of a church gathering. To mitigate against these risks, we have made the following adjustments to our Sunday gathering. -First, and most importantly, we ask that anyone who is sick or shows symptoms of COVID (fever, cough, shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell) to stay home and not come to church. -For those who do come, we will require masks to be worn over the mouth and nose the entire time they are in the building. -We ask all who are in the building to practice responsible social distancing. This means limited gathering in the lobby area, and to keep at least 3 chairs between households while sitting in the sanctuary. We will have no greeting time during the worship service. -We ask those who come to arrive no earlier than 10:10. The coffee area will not be open and we will not have a fellowship time before the worship service. You are free to bring your own beverage to church, but we do ask you keep your mask on when not drinking the beverage. -There will be no Sunday school and no youth/kids ministry before the worship service. -When you arrive at Central, there will be a one way entrance in to and exit out of the sanctuary. You will be asked to enter the sanctuary through the main entrance and exit out of the side entrance. There will be signs and ushers to guide the traffic flow. -We ask that, if possible, you refrain from using the restroom while in the building. If you do need to use the restroom, we ask that you use the main restroom near the church office. We ask that you enter and exit out of the designated doors. -During the worship service, we ask that you worship within your hearts and limit singing. -When you arrive at your chair, you will notice cards that are placed on the seat. We ask that each household fill out a card and list all members of the household that are in attendance. Filling out the card is required and is extremely important for the church to engage in proper tracking and tracing if we were to have a positive COVID case in the church. At the conclusion of the service, you will be asked to drop the card in a box that will be located at the exit door. -We will not be collecting offerings during the service. You may place your offering in the box where you drop the card as you are exiting. -Worship services will be shorter than they have been in the past, with a targeted time of 45 minutes. This is primarily to limit the amount of time that we are gathered together. -If you attend a Sunday service and find out later that you are COVID positive and would have been positive while attending the service, we ask that you contact the church immediately. We will contact everyone who submitted a card. If we have a confirmed case of COVID from someone who attended on a Sunday, we will not have in person attendance the following Sunday, with a plan to re-open the Sunday after. However, if we discover that we have COVID spread during a worship service, we will indefinitely close the church to in person gatherings. -We will continue to monitor then guidance from health and public officials. We will honor all directives from national, state and local officials regarding opening and protocols. While believe that these protocols will help mitigate the risk to spreading COVID as much as possible, but it is important to note that these protocols are not perfect. There is risk in anyone who attends the in person service and there is a possibility to contract COVID. We ask that everyone in the congregation carefully consider the risks when deciding whether or not they will attend in person. On that note, we do want to make clear that there will be no change to our online service. We will continue to have livestream offerings on both Facebook and Youtube, and we will have the call in option for those who want to use it. We will also continue to have the online Zoom meeting following the worship service. This information will be available in the Saturday email. We want to thank you for your patience during these most unusual circumstances. While we are looking forward to gathering again, we want everyone to act in a way in which they are most comfortable. For those who will continue to worship from home, we want that experience to be as similar as good as possible. We are continuing to upgrade our technology to make it even better. Blessings to all of you, and please keep praying for guidance and wisdom as we make this transition.