Emmanuel Church’s COVID-19 Response Updates

5/28/20

Dear church family,

Today we wanted to announce our plans for re-opening our church facilities for indoor worship gatherings beginning this Sunday, May 31. In preparing this plan the leaders of the church have spent a great deal of time talking to one another, researching the underlying challenges related to re-opening, reading and processing guidelines from various health organizations, and interacting with a number of our members on various concerns. Know that the plan we’re presenting below has been prepared with a great deal of thought, prayer, input, and dialogue. We recognize that there are lots of opinions out there about how churches should handle this situation. We also acknowledge no one’s preferences will be perfectly met by this plan. However, we view this as a good opportunity for us to apply Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3-4,
 
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

We plan to begin holding indoor services this Sunday, May 31. We will gather together for worship at 10:30am. Below are some of the accommodations we will be making under phase 2 of our governor's plan (ending June 26):

  • We will not hold Equip or Sunday School classes
  • Entrance into the building will be exclusively through the doors under the carport
  • The 10:30am worship service will be a socially-distanced service. We have a plan for seating that will allow for a distance of roughly six feet between families. This will allow for a capacity of approximately 125 people in the sanctuary. When you are ready to enter the sanctuary, you will be greeted by an usher who will escort you and your family to your seat. For this first week, seating in the sanctuary will be on a first come first serve basis.
  • If we reach the 125 person capacity in the sanctuary, we will then make use of an overflow room downstairs in the fellowship hall. We will have chairs set up at a safe social distance and will have the audio of the service piped into the fellowship hall. We are exploring the possibility of making video of the service available as well, but it may take us a couple of weeks to set this up.
  • In the event that visitors arrive late to the service, we will make sure they are given seats in the sanctuary. 
  • We are requesting that members wear face-masks while indoors. We recognize that there are lots of different opinions about face-masks and their relative usefulness. We are not seeking to endorse any particular political or medical perspective by requesting the use of masks. The reason we're requesting that members wear face-masks is particularly to accommodate those who presently feel unsafe in the building if most people are not wearing masks. We believe this is a good way to communicate to others our regard for them and our desire to preserve the health and safety of the most vulnerable among us. We have good reason to believe that by requesting the use of masks under phase 2, this will make our church more hospitable to the elderly, those who are more vulnerable to the virus, and those who might visit our church during this time. We recognize some may have legitimate reasons for not wearing a face-mask, so we are not strictly requiring that you do so, but if you are not wearing a face-mask we do ask that you plan on sitting toward the back of the sanctuary during the service. If you don't have a face mask, a one-time use disposable face-mask can be provided for you by the ushers.
  • We will not be offering childcare during the service, but will instead make use of what we're calling "The Wiggle Room" in Room 201 upstairs just down the hall from the sanctuary. Use of this room is voluntary for parents with small children who would prefer to keep their little ones outside of the main service, though small children are more than welcome in the sanctuary. This Wiggle Room will be equipped with chairs, hand sanitizer, first aid, some toys, and other supplies to help occupy small children during the service. Emmanuel will not be providing volunteers for the Wiggle Room. This is for parents who would like to make use of a space to occupy their children during the service. Audio of the service will be piped into the Wiggle Room as well. We will also explore the possibility of setting up video in the weeks ahead.
  • All of the restrooms in the building are open, but please limit capacity in the restroom to no more than two people at a time.
  • After the service, people are free to mingle and fellowship, but we encourage basic social distancing protocols. Those who would prefer not to mingle indoors are encouraged to move their fellowshipping outdoors after the service.
  • When you are ready to exit the building, please plan on exiting outside the upstairs sanctuary doors on either side of the platform. Please do not exit the building from the main downstairs entrance under the carport.
Our plan is to keep these measures in place during all of Phase 2 which ends on June 26. We will continually be evaluating these measures over the next few weeks and will decide later in June if we will maintain some of these measures after Phase 2.
 
One final word about what we might call the "tone" of these restrictions. Please hear these guidelines as warm encouragements from the leaders of the church. We are not going to police the congregation. We are not going to hand out demerits for infractions. We're a family, and we want to create as comfortable an atmosphere as possible during our meetings. So please feel at ease as you seek to follow these guidelines. We are not going to judge one another nor will we divide over our differences. We'll work through this in a spirit of love, tenderness, and grace toward one another. 
 
We appreciate your prayers and your patience. Feel free to relate any concerns to us. We are always open to you. We will navigate this situation together with Christ's help!
 
Yours in the love of God,
The Pastors of Emmanuel Church


5/21/20

Dear brothers and sisters,

Weather permitting, we plan to hold another outdoor service this Sunday on the church grounds. All the same basic protocols will be in place. The only thing we're changing is we're moving the service up an hour to 9am. That way it won't be quite as warm.

Please bring your own chairs and feel free to bring umbrellas as well. We will have chairs available to those who don't have their own. Also please feel free to dress comfortably.

Our tentative plan is to move indoors on Sunday, May 31. We are not planning on holding Equip Class or Sunday School that Sunday. We will just have a worship service. We are presently exploring options for seating in the sanctuary that will allow for some degree of social distancing. We are also developing plans for extra cleaning, use of the restrooms, and entry and exit for the building. We appreciate your patience as we navigate the way forward for our church. We will announce future plans in as a timely a manner as possible.

We look forward to being with you this Sunday!

Yours in the love of Christ,
Pastor Alex

5/13/20

Dear church family,

We are looking forward to holding our first worship service in over two months this Sunday! Below is some important information related to how we plan to organize the service. Please read this email carefully as you prepare to come on Sunday. The success of this service depends upon the whole group observing these guidelines. We want to do everything we can to honor the guidance laid out by our Governor and to create the safest environment we can for our church family.

Our service will take place, weather permitting, at 10am in the parking lot behind the church building. We are working on a contingency plan in the event of inclement weather.

Before the service:

Please dress comfortably. Right now we're expecting temperatures in the low-to-mid 70s.

We have set up a plan to utilize our parking lot space to ensure proper social distancing. Volunteers will be stationed throughout the parking lot to direct parking and to help you get to where you need to sit for the service. You will be stopped at the top of the parking lot by an usher who will provide you with all the information you need.

Please plan on bringing your own chairs to use during the service. However, if you don't have enough chairs for your family, we will make black folding chairs available to you. We would just ask that you pick up the chairs yourself under the carport and return them to the carport after the service. We have volunteers ready to disinfect those chairs after the service.

We will have hand sanitizing stations posted in a few places throughout the parking lot for any to use throughout morning.

Parents with small children, please note that we will not be offering nursery for this service. We recognize trying to keep kids apart will be challenging. Please feel free to utilize the lawn behind the church building or even the playground during the service. Both of those spots will be in sight of the service. We're outside, and this is an unusual circumstance, so if children are making noise or being pushed in strollers, that is completely fine. If you don't think it will be possible to keep your children at a safe social distance from others, please consider staying home with the children. That said, we have lots of space in the parking lot and there are plenty of places you can sit with your children within earshot of the service if you would like to bring them.

During the Service:

Since this is an outdoor service, we plan to keep the service under an hour. There will be no offering plates passed during the service. We would still encourage members to give online for the time being.

Both the back entrance to the building and the entrance under the carport will be open during the service. The doors will be propped open to minimize use of the door handles. You are welcome to make use of the restrooms inside the building, but we are limiting restroom capacity to two people at a time. Please wash your hands thoroughly after using the restroom. Small children are not to use the restrooms unsupervised. Please do not linger or go anywhere else in the building other than the restrooms.

After the service:

Families may remain to fellowship after the service as long as social distancing measures are observed. If you make use of any church chairs, please return them to the carport after the service.

Special note on attending this service:

We recognize that some will not feel comfortable attending this outdoor service in the current climate. Please know that we completely understand. This service is for those who are willing and able to attend. Please don't feel that you must attend this service. This is particularly relevant to those who are elderly or especially vulnerable to this virus. Please feel the freedom to make an informed decision for your family. If you are at all symptomatic, please stay at home.

For those who can attend, we can't wait to see you! More than that, we can't wait to welcome the presence of our risen Savior as we gather in His Name to worship Him.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Alex

5/8/20

Dear church family,

We wanted to share with you information on our developing plan for re-opening the church. 

As I'm sure most of you are aware, Governor Roy Cooper has announced a three phase plan for re-opening the state of North Carolina. We won't recast his entire plan here, but will simply highlight how the Governor's plan affects our church's plan. It is our conviction as elders that we as a church ought to follow the Governor's general directives. In addition to guidelines laid out by state and local governments, we are also accessing information from SBC entities on the national, state, and local levels. We are also sharing and receiving information from other local area churches. Additionally, we are consulting medical professionals within our church to aid us in putting together the best possible plan for re-opening the church.

In this email, we will outline how we presently plan to approach Phase One and Phase Two of the Governor's plan.

Phase One:

Phase One begins on May 8 at 5pm. The Governor has stated that Phase One will last 2-3 weeks. However, the Governor has indicated that there may be conditions that would require him to extend Phase One beyond the 2-3 week horizon. We will just have to wait and see how things unfold.

Under Phase One churches may gather outdoors as long as they adhere to general social distancing protocols (i.e. six feet of distance from people outside immediate family). In accord with the Governor's guidance, and in line with a number of other churches in our state, we plan to hold an outdoor worship service on Sunday, May 17. The service will be held behind our church building in the church parking lot, and will be organized so as to allow for proper social distancing measures. More details related to this service will be announced early next week.

Phase Two:

Phase Two could begin as early as May 22, though its possible it could start later than that. The exact guidelines of Phase Two have not yet been announced. However, the Governor has stated that under Phase Two, churches may gather indoors at "reduced capacity." Presently, we don't have clarity on what "reduced capacity" will mean, but we are expecting it will mean that we can only operate at a certain percentage of our building capacity.

Our hope is that we will be able to hold a single worship gathering in our sanctuary under Phase Two. However, if the requirements demand that less people be in the building than the number that normally attends a typical service at Emmanuel, we will potentially hold two identical smaller worship gatherings. We will not hold Equip and Sunday school classes under Phase Two. We will announce the precise details of how we plan to execute these indoor worship services as we approach the start of Phase Two.

We recognize that you probably have lots of questions related to the details of these plans. Be assured, we will provide all the information you need in a timely manner and will gladly address any questions or concerns that you may have.

We are excited about the prospect of seeing many of you soon! More than that we are eager to be together for the purpose of worshipping God. We recognize this will be a process, and it may be some time before we get back to a state of normalcy, but we will work through this together with love for one another and with trust in Christ.

In our Father's sovereign care,
The Elders of Emmanuel Church

3/21/20

Dear church family,

As we continue to navigate the situation surrounding COVID-19, we wanted to make you aware of our plans going forward. The elders have communicated this week and have put together a plan for how we will proceed without regular gatherings for the foreseeable future. As of now, all of our regular gatherings and events are suspended, including all small groups and prayer meetings. We are expecting this to continue throughout most of April and potentially even into May. Of course, if the situation changes, we will resume our regular gatherings as soon possible. In the meantime, we intend to pursue the plan outlined below:

1) We will post a pastoral prayer and a sermon online every Sunday morning, including this Sunday, 3/22. We may begin to include other elements as well, but there will at least be a prayer from a pastor and a message.

2) Zack will send out a liturgy/order of service every Saturday night with songs, scripture readings, and creeds that you can use in your homes if you would like. These liturgies will be designed to fit the messages that are preached each Sunday.

3) We will send a pastoral email every week that will be devotional in nature, seeking to provide encouragement and help to members while we're apart from each other.

4) The small group leaders will call the members of their small groups every two weeks to check in, take any prayer requests, and gauge practical needs.

5) We may occasionally post podcasts or even short videos addressing various topics as another means of maintaining contact.

6) We now have a page on our website with updates on our church's response to COVID-19. You can access it from our homepage or from the following link: http://emmanuelws.com/coronavirus/

There are other conversations we're having about other ways we can stay connected during these unprecedented times. Please pray for us as we try to discern the best way forward for our church. We're confident that God is helping us!

We love you, and continue to trust God's hand in all of this. I was encouraged to think on the last line of the prayer of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:12b, "We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You."

In the love of God,
Pastor Alex

3/15/20

Dear church family,

We want to provide you with a little more thorough of an update on our COVID-19 response. We're calling this our 14-day plan. Unfortunately, as of right now, it's difficult to look beyond the 14-day horizon as things are constantly changing. We thank you for your continued patience as we seek to navigate how the coronavirus will affect life at Emmanuel. Know that we are in continued conversations with medical and health professionals both in and outside of our church, and also with other churches in our area in order to make the best and most informed decisions we can make for the good of our church family.

The Latest from the Governor

As of this afternoon, Governor Roy Cooper has, by executive order, placed a strict prohibition on all gatherings of 100 people or more (with very few exceptions). This means that it would actually be illegal for us to hold our normal worship gatherings at this point. Right now the term of the ban appears to be indefinite. This new measure brings increased clarity to some decisions we have to make as a church, at least in the near term.

Cancellations

For legal, medical, and practical reasons we have decided to cancel all official church activities through Saturday, March 28. This includes Abide, small groups, Sunday school/equip classes, gathered worship, and youth activities. 

For now we will take a 'wait and see' approach to our services for Sunday, 3/29.

Church Needs

We recognize that in light of the present situation, some challenges and needs may arise from within our church body such as lost wages, increased child-care needs, lack of access to certain resources, etc. The church officers (Ben Allen, Lai Chow Kok, Alex DiPrima, and Brad Kinnison) are seeking to give heightened attention to any practical needs facing our church body. If this situation is impacting you practically, we would like to know about possible ways we can help as leaders and as a church family. Please reach out to us with any needs so that we can pray and strategize as to how best to meet the needs of the church body during this time.

Giving

Though we are not gathering today and on Sunday, 3/22 you can still give online by clicking here.

Please feel free to share any questions or concerns that you have with us. We are praying for you, and are eager to serve you in any way we can during this challenging time.

Trusting in Christ,
The Officers of Emmanuel Church