What to Expect: Experiencing In-Person Worship Again

Please read ALL of this. Thank you!

Introduction by Pastor Rusty

Welcome Back (…soon)!

Your church’s physical home is opening again for in-person worship beginning on July 5th, and will also include expanded virtual worship options at the same time. Even though we have been physically separated, we never really left. God, through Old Bethel, has continued to be present and minister to both our sisters and brothers of Old Bethel and our neighbors too. God has kept busy through the pandemic lockdown.

Beginning July 5th and THROUGH all July and August, and possibly beyond, we will be in a transition phase. During this time, we will have two worship services which are exactly the same. Both services will include a combination of traditional and contemporary musical elements. These Sunday morning worship services will be offered at 9:00 am (note time change) and 11:00 am. You will need a reservation which will be very easy to make. These services will also be live-streamed/recorded and available through our Facebook account and our YouTube channel.

After more than four weeks of planning meetings which included the Administrative Chair, our Parish Nurse, three Lay Leaders, and the Trustee Chair, your staff has prepared this guide to help you manage expectations upon returning to our Church Campus for in-person worship, once again. We want you to know what to expect so you can be aware and supportive of our necessary goals of first, honoring and worshiping God, and second, keeping everyone as safe as humanly possible in the process.

Please know THERE ARE MANY CHANGES we are required to make, at least in the short term, in order to comply with the latest safety standards for in-person worship. Many of these short-term changes I think you simply will not like (as I don’t), but we must do them to keep everyone safe. As it is dictated to us, we are all required to comply with the few “must do’s” for everyone’s sake. But the inconvenience of these new safety precautions will pale by comparison to the powerful joy of being together again in the same physical space, worshiping our Living Lord Jesus!

Let me say two things very clearly: First, as cumbersome as this process is, we are all taking these many measures to make certain that we, as a church, are doing everything possible to help every person feel safe to return to in-person worship. An example is that we will wear face coverings not necessary for our own benefit (although there is a self-benefit), but for the benefit of others—which, when you think about it, is exactly why we wear names tags! Second, if you are NOT READY to return to in-person worship, DO NOT WORRY about that decision. We have greatly expanded our virtual worship ministry and this will continue into the future! So, do not feel pressured to physically return to worship until you are ready to do so! God is with us in all our worship experiences! We are working hard to help every person feel comfortable, no matter how you “experience” Old Bethel.

From all those planning sessions with church leadership, what follows are different sections written by staff members outlining what you can expect in a number of scenarios. One is taking you from exiting your car in the parking lot and entry to the building, ending with you safely back in your car following worship. Another section explain what to expect if you have children with you. There’s even a short piece regarding Sunday School Classes for each age group.

There are sections that discuss singing, fellowship time, and how we will receive the Offering, as well as explanations regarding what to expect when we conclude worship. There is even one paragraph dedicated to knowing what to expect when you need to use the restroom. (Yes, that’s an important paragraph!) There is a part that explains the “why” and “how” of making reservations so we know how many people to expect and then manage our systems accordingly. There is a section on the GREATLY expanded responsibilities and functions of Greeters and Ushers. There’s even a section detailing expanded cleaning and sanitizing before and between worship services, as well as our responsibility to sanitize, sanitize, and sanitize our hands. Your Leadership and Staff in particular have fervently prayed over this work and know it is long and contains many seemingly tedious details, however our hope and prayer is that it is of real value to you as we come back together in a God-honoring and respectful way, all centered in Jesus’ love for each of us.

(So...) READ (this), (so we can) RELAX, (and be able to) REJOICE (together)!

Why we are doing this? by Marge Ohl, OBUMC Parish Nurse

Many plans have been made so we can safely and comfortably return to worship at Old Bethel soon. Virtual worship will continue to be available. Things will be different for a while so we are all safe and cared for. Each of us should feel loved and comfortable with the choice we make, whether it is to worship in person or to worship virtually for a while longer. If you have fever or a cough, or if you have had exposure to someone with Covid-19, we ask that you stay home. Because we have respect for each other and to stop the spread of the virus, masks will be required and social distancing will be practiced. Wear you own mask if you have one – if not, one will be provided at the door, along with hand sanitizer. Because we cannot have close physical contact with each other, feel free to wave across the room and depend on your phones at home to talk to each other.

What to consider as you make your decision to worship in-person

Seriously consider these 4 health points before coming to worship:

  1. Do you, or have you, recently had a fever?

  2. Do you have a cough?

  3. Are you experiencing any shortness of breath?

  4. Have you been exposed to the virus?

If you said “YES” to any one of these questions, please STAY HOME and enjoy the livestream worship online.

What to expect from when you exit your to car to when you return your car.

As previously stated we will have two identical worship services. They will take place at 9:00 am (again, note the time change) and 11:00 am. Each service will last about an hour. So, decide which service you would like to attend and then MAKE A RESERVATION. (More on that later.) Oh, and be sure to give yourself extra time to get into the sanctuary because navigating the few changes necessary to keep us all safe and healthy will take a little extra time to start…and don’t forget your patience!

As soon as you park, please grab your face mask before getting out of the car. Everyone will have to wear a mask while at church. This will be required for building entry. (Quick Note: the pastor, liturgist, organist, and vocalists will remove their masks while leading us in worship. Much planning has gone into assuring proper placement and distancing for this.)

Making your way to the entry doors, be certain to keep a minimum social distance of six feet away from anyone not in your household unit.

Our congregation loves deeply; we’re huggers, hand shakers, and we like to give each other a hearty pat on the back. That will be difficult to do, when we are staying six feet away from each other. And we must maintain this distance. There will be no meet and greet time. Waving and “air hugs” will be welcome and should be encouraged! We know this is extremely hard because we’ll all be so excited to see our friends and church family, but it is vital for the health of our congregation.

Please enter through the main doors under the portico or the doors on the South end of the building. While in line to enter the building please stand on the marked spots, they will help us keep our social distance. There will be greeters at each entrance. Be prepared to tell them your name so they can check your reservation. If you do not have a mask, the greeters will give you one. They will also be placing a squirt of hand sanitizer into your palm.

After entering the building, please make your way directly to the sanctuary. We will have distance markers on the hallway and lobby carpet to help remind us all of social distance. We will NOT use name tags during this transition phase. If you have a jacket, please carry it to your seat. If you have an umbrella, there will be umbrella sleeves for you to use, as you take it to your seat as well. You will see several Hand Sanitizer stations in the lobby, please use Hand Sanitizer often!

Once you get to the doors to the sanctuary you will be greeted by an usher. We will not hand out bulletins. Everything you will need to know for service will be on the large screens at the front of the sanctuary. The usher will escort you to the next designated seat. (It likely will not be your “usual” seat, so please extend some grace to the kind usher serving you.) Each household unit will sit together, and each space is 6 feet away from the next. We are also skipping every other row. And since there is no childcare, please anticipate children in service.

Once seated keep your mask on for the entire service, and as you exit the building. You will notice there will be no Bibles or Hymnals in your pew, everything will be posted on the screens. If you want to use a Bible App on your phone, feel free! We will not celebrate Communion for the time being.

Once service is concluded, please remain at your seat until an usher dismisses you. We will not have Coffee Fellowship Hour so please follow the ushers’ directions and guidance as you leave the sanctuary to the exit doors in the Narthex. Once you are back in the parking lot, keep your mask on until you are in your car. We encourage you to wave to all of your friends (but please do not hug or shake hands). Again, please be kind to your ushers as they do their best to serve God by serving you.

What to expect if you have children

It’s no secret that children pick up germs faster than the speed of light. For this reason we will not be having Kids Church or a Nursery for now.

Children over the age of 3 will be required to wear a mask while in the church. Child-size masks will be available. If you are not comfortable with your child wearing a mask or you don’t think your child will want to wear a mask, we ask that you continue to worship with us from the comfort of your home.

We need to make sure that we are keeping our hands clean. When you think to use hand sanitizer or wash your hands please remember to do the same for your children. With us all being in quarantine for so long, children are going to be excited to see their friends, but we have to remember to social distance. Please encourage your child to give out air high fives, air fist pumps and air hugs. Soon enough we will be able to embrace one another again!

With there being no Nursery or Kids Church, we are excited that the children will be joining us for the entire church service. We will have busy bags for the children which will be put together by volunteers wearing a mask and gloves. These will be available for you to grab. (AND these busy bags go home with you!) If you bring things from home for your children, please remember to take everything you bring in with you when you leave.

To our parents, we know that this will be new for your children. They might talk a little loud, get restless and giggle. It is okay, and we are ready to hear their voice talking and singing in service. We expect this. It is normal. There is no need to feel embarrassed by it! The Pastor, Liturgist, and Singers will be just fine with your little one adding their “voice” during worship!

To all, we need to remember these are different times for everyone. We as a church family need to make sure we are supporting parents and letting them know their children are welcome. A thumbs up, a smile or encouraging words will let our parents know their family is welcome and encourage them to relax and worship.

How to make a reservation for worship

Social distancing will be practiced as we come back together, which means the sanctuary capacity is greatly reduced. For this reason worship reservations will be required. Note: you will not be reserving a specific seat. These reservations will also enable contact tracing in the event of virus exposure.

Our Administrative Assistant Lynda Preston will be coordinating all reservations. To make you/your household’s reservation you may call her at 317-359-9651 or send an email to info@oldbethel.org. All reservations must be made by 10am the Thursday prior to the Sunday you will be attending.

Whether you make your reservation by phone or email, please provide the following information:

  • Your name

  • Your phone number

  • Number of people from your household who will be attending

  • Which service you prefer – 9am or 11am

Reservations will be filled in the order received. You will receive a confirmation phone call or email so there will be no doubt that your reservation was received.

In the case of an unusual number of guests, we may have to utilize an overflow section in Fellowship Hall AB. We don’t anticipate this, but it is one the many contingencies built into this plan.

What to expect regarding Restrooms

We all know restrooms are smaller spaces which present particular challenges to social distancing, therefore here are a couple new guidelines to continue to keep you and your family safe. An attendant will be outside the restrooms to make sure only two people are in each bathroom at a time. The attendant will also make sure every person who leaves the restroom is given a squirt of hand sanitizer. Note: Worship leaders for the day’s service will use the restroom next to the nursery.

What to expect regarding all Sunday School Classes.

Since children have no concept of space or germs, we will keep the Nursery closed for the time being. Also, there will be no Kids Church or Children’s Choir for now. The Youth Group will continues to meet in the virtual world to stay connected.

It is up to the leaders of the adult classes to determine if and when (and how) to return. The leader/facilitator of any class which wants to meet must communicate this directly to Pastor Rusty IN ADVANCE so we may best coordinate everyone’s plans and room use. (Your class may need to meet in a different location during this transition time.)

If your class returns, you MUST adhere to the “Everybody must wear a mask” mandate. Once everyone is seated, and IF every household unit is seated AT LEAST six feet apart, masks may be removed AT THE DISCRETION OF THE CLASS LEADER/FACILITATOR.

What to expect regarding Coffee Fellowship Hour

For the time being, due to the possibility of spreading germs, we will not gather for coffee, tea and doughnuts between services. Everyone’s safety is our number one priority. When worship has concluded, the ushers will dismiss each pew and guide worshipers to exit directly outside through the rear narthex doors.

What to expect regarding offering

Worship will look different for a little while. The choir will not be singing, as they cannot distance themselves far enough away from each other. We will not have bulletins for now. The collection of tithes and offerings will look different also. How would you feel if you were the 100th person to touch the offering plate after 99 other people had just touched it? Would you be concerned about transmission of COVID-19?

In order to put you all at ease, we will have a clearly marked collection container in the Narthex to place your envelopes, cash, or checks in. They can be placed in the container on the way out of the sanctuary at the end of the service.

Contributions may also be mailed or dropped off at the church, or you can go to our website: www.oldbethel.org and click on the gold box at the top of the page marked Give. Then click on area marked Tithe Online. You can give to any of the categories listed, or check the box marked Other/Misc.; and then specify in the box how you want your contributions distributed. (Step by step instructions are available as you go).

Through your ongoing generosity, Old Bethel continues to stand as a beacon of light and hope, changing lives and sharing the love of Jesus Christ to a hurting world in need of a Savior.

What to expect regarding singing.

Singing is one of the most important parts of worship because it is a way to glorify God and join our voices as one. The words to the songs are meaningful and draw us closer to God. They also reinforce our relationship with God and sometimes tell a story or remind us of scripture.

In this difficult time of Corona Virus it has become more challenging for us to do the things we love. Singing in worship comes naturally to us. It is a part of who we are as worshipers. However, singers are known as “super spreaders” because when we breathe out and sing, the droplets we emit can travel well beyond a distance of six feet. The louder you are, (speaking or singing), the more particles you emit and the greater risk there is to infect the people near you. This is why it is important to keep your masks on even while singing. It is also why we’re asking everyone to sing a little softer than normal. It will still be meaningful, but safe. Reading the words to the hymns and songs will still bring us closer to God. We don’t have to be loud when we do it. God will still hear us singing.

What to expect if I am an Usher.

Our Ushers will have a big responsibility when we reopen for in-person worship. Besides directing us all as we enter and exit, you will be setting the tone for how to act in worship. Make sure you are wearing a mask properly. There will be no bulletins to hand out and we will not be taking up the offering.

Please greet each person and explain that you will need to escort them to a seat to make sure there is plenty of distance between family units. The pews will be marked off in six foot sections to allow appropriate distance between family units. Every other row will be blocked off as well to allow proper distancing.

It is important to know that the middle seats should be filled first in a row and then the outside seats. If someone is not able to sit in the middle of the row, we are recommending that people who are able to sit in the center be seated before putting anyone on the ends of that row. Those that have difficulty moving or need to leave worship for health reasons or may need to use the restroom during the service should sit on an aisle. Once people are seated, no one should get up to move around to socialize. Please gently remind people to keep their masks on at all times and to remain seated.

At the end of the service, the ushers will dismiss the rows, beginning in the back. All persons are to exit straight out the back doors of the narthex--not through the lobby. Also, as you dismiss, please allow for space in between rows so that people can stay six feet apart. Of course though, if someone needs to use the restroom, they may do so.

Once everyone has left the sanctuary at the end of the service, you will be asked to clean anything that someone may have touched, such as the pews (backs, ends and racks), door handles or any hard surface.

Once the sanctuary has been cleaned, then you may begin seating people for the next service. After the second service, please clean again for the next week. And THANK YOU for serving in such strange time.

Additional notes on cleaning…

Our Building Manager will clean all restrooms during services. All counters, toilet seats, urinal rims, flushing handles, sink control knobs, stall handles, grab bars and door handles will be wiped down with disinfectant.

After the congregation leaves the sanctuary through the outer narthex doors the ushers will…

  • Wipe the backs of the pews NOT used with disinfectant

  • Lightly spray the pews that are used with disinfectant. (no wiping, just a walk by spraying on the cloth seats).

  • Disinfectant and rags will be located inside the cabinet with upper rooms within the narthex.

Once all congregants are out of the narthex the ushers will wipe the following with disinfectant

  • all door push bars and door handles

  • lucifers

  • collection plates/baskets

  • the outer wood railing to the audio-visual booth

  • the railing leading to the chancel

Your efforts are appreciated, and they are most definitely essential to keeping the congregation healthy and safe.

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