First Baptist Church of Anderson Guidelines and Logistics for Resuming Worship in the Sanctuary
First Baptist’s Coronavirus Response Advisory Team: Joe Drennon, Chair; Steve Hand, Vice Chair; Ann Self, Secretary; Becky Campbell; Carlie Campbell; Kelly Neal; Elana Roach
Since March 15, 2020, the First Baptist Church of Anderson has pre-recorded worship services on Wednesday evening, done video-editing, audio mixing, on-screen graphics work, and other post-production work on the service during the remainder of the week, and made the finished service available on Sunday morning online, by Facebook and radio.
Dr. Josh Hunt has stated that First Baptist Church seeks to make decisions that are considerate of the entire Body of Christ. Decisions are motivated first and foremost by our love for each other. That ideal—which we believe honors Jesus—helps us think through the question of when to open the sanctuary for worshipers to return in person to First Baptist. Being able to continue live streaming on Sunday mornings as well as being able to assure a level of safety to those attending worship in person are paramount to decisions.
Although the number of new cases of COVID-19 remain a concern in our community, state, nation, and the world, we believe worship in the sanctuary can be resumed safely, provided attendees follow guidelines outlined in this document. The COVID-19 Team will daily monitor the trend of new cases in Anderson County and the hospital capacity to care for COVID-19 patients in the community. If either of these indicators show a significant concern or a significant improvement, changes will be made in the phase that we are using to resume church activities. These guidelines correspond to the Phase Yellow of the First Baptist Church of Anderson
Emergency Operations Plan for Infectious Disease Outbreaks.
II. General Requirements
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified the following adults who are at increased risk of severe illness associated with COVID-19. For this reason, individuals with these conditions are advised to continue worshipping in their home:
√ COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
√ Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
√ Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
√ Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
√ Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
- Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been exposed to a known positive case in the previous fourteen days should not attend worship in the sanctuary.
- Anyone who has any of the following signs and symptoms of COVID-19 identified by the CDC should not attend worship in the sanctuary: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Attendees will be asked to observe the universal precaution rule: “Treat all contacts as a potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus.”
- As a means of caring for others, those who choose to attend worship in person will covenant to wear a mask while in the sanctuary. CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield has stated, “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting.” Disposable masks will be available at the check-in desk if needed.
- As a means of caring for others, those who choose to attend worship in person will covenant to practice “physical distancing,” by staying at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people who are not from their household in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Congregating before and after the service is strongly discouraged.
Hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is encouraged after contact with any surface that may be contaminated. Whenever soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol will be made available in multiple locations.
- Restrooms will be available for use if needed. Cleaning supplies will be placed in the restrooms to be used before and after use.
- Anyone testing positive for the virus after attending a worship service in the sanctuary will be required to notify the church office. Contact tracing will be done and attendees will be notified of any potential exposure.
- Information about precautions and safety measures will be posted in the vestibule. Guidelines to follow will also be included in bulletins and newsletters.
III. Worship Service Format
- The doors to the sanctuary will be opened at 9:10 am.
- The length of the worship service will be limited to 45 minutes.
- No congregational hymns will be used. Music will be limited to solos, ensembles, and instrumental pieces.
- At the conclusion of the worship service, worshippers will be invited to share with the staff their personal decisions or need for prayer through their completion of the information sheet in the sanctuary pews. Church staff will be available to discuss baptism, church membership, or prayer requests by calling the church office.
- Sunday School classes will not meet inside the church facility. Sunday School classes that are currently meeting via Zoom or other virtual ways are asked to use alternate meeting times so as not to interfere with members’ ability to attend worship in person.
- Lockable boxes with open slots will be set up in the sanctuary for tithes and offerings to be dropped in as attendees enter or exit worship. No plates will be passed during the worship service.
- A nursery will be provided for children four years and under in a room near the sanctuary. Parents will be asked to make reservations for their children so that adequate paid staffing will be available and the room can be set up to accommodate children safely. Children of visitors will be allowed to stay in the nursery without reservations.
- Activity packets will be mailed to children who are five years and older. Parents will be asked to bring the packets with the children when attending worship in the sanctuary.
- The only entrance and exit for the worship service will be the front doors and chapel doors on Manning Street. Security details will be provided only for the entrance and exit. The lift off the front steps will be available for handicapped access.
- Maintaining physical distancing, attendees will enter through open doors. If an attendee does not have a mask, he or she may pick up one at a check-in station in the lobby. A volunteer will be available in the lobby to answer questions, to monitor observance of protocols, and to direct entry into service. Slips of paper and a pencil will be placed on seats with the bulletins for attendees to sign their family name, the number in their group and a phone number where they can be reached. Photographs of the congregation will be taken at the beginning of worship to identify where people sat. This information will be kept three weeks and will be used for contact tracing should an attendee test positive for the virus after attending a worship service.
- Two ushers at the front and two ushers at the back will be available to direct seating in order to decrease contact. Families will be seated together while those from different households will be seated 6 feet apart. Before the service, church bulletins will be placed in seats to mark where attendees can be seated. Hymnals and Bibles will be removed from pews.
- At the end of the service, attendees will be asked to remain in their pews until dismissed by ushers, by rows, from the back to the front.
V. Worship Follow-up
- The sanctuary, lobby, any supplies, nursery and open restrooms will be thoroughly cleaned according to CDC guidelines. A backpack sprayer will be used to insure hard to reach areas are sanitized.
- The COVID-19 Team will follow-up on reported positive tests and will notify attendees of exposure.
- These procedures and guidelines will be evaluated after each worship service to make any required adjustments to these protocols.