Since September, the Simply Grace Re-Opening Team has been monitoring the status of the pandemic. The group has been studying how other churches have been navigating this situation, taken their cues from the Annual Conference, as well as surveyed you for your input.
In addition, we have been mindful of the importance to keep the congregation as together as possible. While Zoom may not be the preferred choice, it has been nice to be able to chat before service and interact with one another in worship. And we have launched some wonderful mission and outreach projects, and small groups while not in our building. Additionally, we have had the wonderful experience of some folks worship with us from afar. We pray that our worship has been spiritually meaningful for those joining from Bloomsbury environs and beyond.
The challenge for Simply Grace is to balance the needs of the congregation as a whole, safely, while at the same time offer the best possible worship experience. We are concerned that splitting the congregation between in-person and Zoom could result in two small services, which would be disheartening. We are also mindful that for some, meeting on Zoom is not an engaging option, and we miss their presence.
Please know this team has prayed, researched and contemplated this matter. We have been encouraged by the downward trends in Covid positive cases and the death rate in New Jersey. With this in mind, we would like to launch a preliminary option to returning to in-person worship.
Beginning on May 16, we will hold two worship services weekly; our usual 9:30 Zoom worship and an outdoor service in the church garden at 11:30. Each service will be different. We see this as a holy experiment as it has been 14 months since we have been gathered in person. Time and space have become more flexible, and we will need to measure successes and challenges alike.
The 9:30 Zoom worship will remain the same with Children’s Time and Sunday School. The 11:30 outdoor worship has been specifically designed to be held outdoors. It will be shorter, about 45 minutes, and there will be no children’s programing. At this point we will schedule this for five weeks and then re-evaluate to determine how to proceed.
The Re-Opening Team has set the following standards for our in-person, outdoor worship. We recognize that all people have had different experiences, have different levels of vulnerability and different comfort levels concerning meeting in person. To make this a safe and hospitable atmosphere we ask that all are considerate and follow these directions:
Please do not come if you are not feeling well, or if you or any in your household have been exposed to Covid in the past 14 days.
The church parking lot will be limited to handicap parking or those that may have accessibility issues; all others shall park on the street.
Masks must be worn from the time you exit your car until you return to the car. We ask that you bring your own mask, however disposable masks will be supplied to anyone forgetting to bring one.
The number of chairs available will be extremely limited, therefore should you desire to ensure yourself a seat please bring a lawn chair. If this is a challenge, please call the church office (908) 940-1531and we will make arrangements for you. So that we continue to demonstrate hospitality the church will provide a very limited number of chairs for guests also. There will be a few benches at the church, please limit seating to your household or bubble.
Please use the hand sanitizer station that will be provided upon entering the garden.
A volunteer will take your name and phone number and keep this on file in case there is any incident of Covid exposure.
Please social distance from those outside your household or bubble. We recognize we all long to shake hands and hug; we look forward to the day that is possible, but for now we will be cautious.
There will be a basket as you enter for offering. We will not pass the collection plate. We are excited that we are continuing our ministry and mission work in the name of Jesus. Thank you for your generosity.
A handout will be provided for your worshipping convenience, please bring it home with you.
The church building will not be open; however we realize that bathrooms may need to be accessed. Please follow the protocol that will be detailed in your handout.
In the event of impending weather, a determination will be made on the Saturday by 5pm and posted on the church website. However, there is the possibility of unexpected storms, which could result in last minute cancellation.
We will assess these standards on an ongoing basis and adjust as the situation requires. The Re-Opening Team values your input but at the same time we ask for you patience as we navigate these new waters together. We welcome your questions and comments. Please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are grateful you choose Simply Grace as your church home. May God continue to bless each of you richly, particularly during these unprecedented times.
Simply Grace Re-Opening Team,
Pastor Gina Yeske Tena Anunson
Barry Smith Stephen Yeske
Judy Hoffman Tom Kinsman