Reopening Working Document

Hello! 

Here is a WORKING document that outlines what we'll likely do when we're ready to return to the church building and Friendship Center. We'll adjust as necessary as new information is discovered about the COVID-19 virus and about reopening here in Athens, GA.

 


RE: Return to Public Worship Services Plan

 

Drafted: April 23, 2020
Voted by Church Board: May 6, 2020

 

We need to decide the next steps necessary to consider returning to our facilities for public worship and meetings. This document is to serve as a recommendation to the Church Board and exists as a working document as the public response to COVID-19 is changing daily.

In order for us to consider returning to a public worship service, we we will not consider reopening until a 15-day waiting period past the lapse of the current Local/State Declaration of Health Emergency, which is currently thru May 13. This would put the earliest date for the possibility of considering a return to the building on or around May 30th.

Once the State of Health Emergency has lapsed, the following conditions should be met and will be reviewed by the Board prior to any declaration of reopening:

  • National trend of COVID-19 infection has decreased
  • Local trend in Athens-Clarke County (and surrounding areas) of COVID-19 infection has decreased

Once we have determined that the threat of COVID-19 has been reduced in the greater Athens-Clarke County area and that it is safe to resume public worship services, we will look to reopen on a limited scale to abide by the CDC’s Social Distancing standards:

  • We will look to reopen with multiple, abbreviated services limited to 40 attendees at a time possibly 2 services each weekend.
    • Breaks will be taken between meetings to allow for sanitization of common areas using disinfecting wipes. This includes restrooms, seating areas, podium, AV room & equipment, etc.
    • We may have to consider scheduling families a time slot to attend to avoid exceeding capacity during high-demand time.
    • Service will be condensed to allow for multiple services. 
      • Condensed Sabbath Service will include:
        • Abbreviated Song Service – social distancing must be followed
        • Prayer
        • Sermon
        • We will determine a “main” service to live stream to allow members to continue to stay home and watch online.
      • No Children’s Story
        • Prerecorded stories could be shared on Facebook
      • No Offering Collection
        • Primary option is using Online Giving
        • Collection Boxes will be available for those that submit checks/cash in envelopes.
          • Note: Envelopes may not be opened right away to reduce the risk of potential infection to deacons and treasurer
          • Online giving is the safest option for everyone
      • No Sabbath School Classes (will instead be held via Zoom in the afternoon)
         
      • No Scheduled Meetings (will need to be held via Zoom)
        • Church Board
        • Bible Study Groups
        • Prayer Meeting
        • Women’s Prayer Group
  • If a member lives in a surrounding county that is still under a State of Health Emergency, we ask that you continue to stay home and worship with us online.
     
  • “At-Risk” members are encouraged to stay home and continue to enjoy our live stream services until they feel safe that they can return to public activities.
     
  • People will be on heightened alert, so if you are sick, think you might be getting sick, or show symptoms that are similar to COVID-19, Influenza, or other seasonal illnesses, please stay home or you may be asked to go home. These symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Watery Eyes
    • Runny Nose
    • Sneezing
    • Shortness of Breath
  • We know that some of our members suffer from seasonal allergies. To avoid creating a potential panic, if your allergies are causing you to frequently touch your eyes, nose, and mouth, you may want to consider staying home until your symptoms are better. Again, people will be on heightened alert and we do not want to cause embarrassment to any member.
     
  • Social Distancing Guidelines will be required to be followed by everyone.
  • Face masks that cover the mouth and nose will be required for all guests
    • Exceptions may be made for certain members participating on the platform, but with strict social distancing guidelines being followed.
  • We will be greeting at the entrances, but physical contact will be restricted until further notice.
    • No paper bulletins, everything available online and on digital screens
    • Online bulletins will be available at www.athensgasda.org/bulletin
    • No fellowship meals until further notice
  • We’ll use every other row of pews to account for CDC Social Distancing Guidelines
    • Families that live together will be allowed to sit together but should be separated from other families by at least 6 feet.
  • Restrooms will be restricted to use of 2 stalls at a time.
    • Parents with small children may utilize the same stall, if needed.
    • Hand washing is required and only one person is allowed at the sink at a time.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be placed at every entrance and restroom and use will be required by every member attending services.
    • Hand sanitizer will be required when exiting the restrooms (even if you just washed your hands) as an additional safeguard from touching the door.
    • Disinfecting wipes will be provided for sanitizing during and between services.

These guidelines, while seeming restrictive, are necessary actions required to continue to protect our members from potentially spreading viral infections to each other, such as COVID-19 and Influenza. The fact is, about half of our membership falls into the “at-risk” category by either age or physical ailments.

We want to make sure that we consider this as the public strives to return to public life. Our hopes are that some of these restrictions may one day be lifted, but some of the guidelines listed above may become a “new normal” for public worship services.