Bishop Elijah Hankerson, Myron Gray and Rev. Darryl Gray

Bishop Elijah Hankerson, president of the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, spoke with Myron Gray of God In Action and Reverend Darryl Gray, a member of the Clergy Coalition, at Lively Stone Church of God on May 26. The coalition distributed protective masks and this guidance from District Elder Ron Stephens to churches planning to reopen.

 

The First Church Of God In Christ Board of Directors has decided to implement a social distancing plan for Temple Church of Christ. This is Phase 1, which proposes to protect the health of our members, guests, and community and to play our part to slow the spread of this virus. 

The Phase 1 outlined below will go into effect starting Sunday, June 7 and will extend until Sunday, August 31. On or before August 1, the Board of Directors will evaluate whether or not to return to normal operations on August 31. 

What we have done in the past will be different from what we do now. Phase 1 clarifies how we enter the church, find our seat, use the restroom and make the church a safe place to worship.

All meetings (revivals, conferences, and special events) on our 2020 calendar have been cancelled or postponed until further notice. 

The weekly changes are as follows: Sunday School (online on Saturday at 10 a.m.), Sunday Morning Worship Service (10:30 a.m.), Children’s Church (cancelled for Sunday), Monday Night Prayer (online at 7 p.m.), Wednesday Bible Study (online at 7 p.m.), Choir Rehearsal (Sunday morning at 9 a.m.).

To reduce the spread of germs, masks will be distributed to all members and guests who enter the sanctuary. Sanitizers and hand wipes will be available in the church lobby. While in the lobby area, the Nurses Ministry will take temperatures with an infrared thermometer on a voluntary basis.

The church leadership team will clearly communicate the cleaning plan to the congregation. Communication is paramount for instilling confidence (in members and guests) that pews, doors and the building have been sanitized.

Each Sunday morning, men will be in the lobby area. During the first day of returning to church, only men will serve as ushers and greeters. They will continue to serve in this capacity until August 31. Ushers will escort members and guests to a designated seat in the sanctuary.

Everyone must wear a mask (which will be distributed to those without masks). Rubber gloves will be available (upon request for members). No shaking of hands of greeters and ushers. Sanitizer will be available in the lobby area). No hugging. No loitering in the lobby area.

Seating will be assigned to accommodate the latest recommendations for safe physical distancing. Seating will also be available in the balcony. Members and guests will be seated in a staggered fashion. Members will sit 6 feet apart from each other, and every other row will be closed. All seniors will be seated in a designated area on the lower level. 

While using every other pew will cut our seating capacity in half or more, making seating available in the churches’ balcony will increase the seating capacity. We anticipate seating 100 people on the lower level and 100 people on the balcony. 

The Counting Ministry will continue to count members. Knowing where members are assigned and their likely circulation paths throughout each Sunday can support a focused cleaning response if a member does exhibit symptoms. Using a seating chart, members will put names to seats to clearly communicate which pews are assigned to everyone.

Nurses Ministry is critical to the transitioning plan. We are implementing voluntary screening protocol for all members. Every Sunday before a member enters the sanctuary there will be an opportunity to be screened. Screening questions may be asked. Screening questions range from travel-related questions to health symptoms. An infrared thermometer may be used. The results of the screen will indicate whether the member should enter the sanctuary or remain home.  

While many members have transitioned to worshipping God from home, some members must come to church. They cannot work remotely due to the nature of their role at church. Some of these individuals are deacons, staff on audio/visual ministry, and janitorial staff. These essential individuals must be identified and scheduled to work at specific times and days. 

Church staff will post signs indicating symptoms and urging people to stay home and seek medical attention if they have symptoms. 

Cross-contamination from multiple people sharing pews is a key concern. The Men’s Ministry will wipe down pews and doors before and after worship service. Clean pews are key for a safe environment. The Men’s Ministry will clean the building regularly, paying extra attention to high-touch surfaces. The message of weekly cleaning will be paramount for instilling confidence that pews have been sanitized and the church is clean.

Staff will isolate anyone who is or becomes symptomatic while at church. The pastor will designate a location necessary for ensuring their well-being of people who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. 

Church should be a safe place to worship. I hope this plan will provide safety and success during these uncertain times.  

District Elder Ron Stephens is pastor of Temple Church Of Christ of the Apostolic Faith, assistant treasurer in the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition and 1st vice chairman of the Midwestern District Council of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World.

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