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An update from pastor Joel (June 26)

Our tentative plan for gradual reintegration of in-person gatherings of worship, small groups, student programming, etc.

Goals of this roadmap to in-person community gatherings include: To have a strategy that encourages us to continue to fulfill our mission of being Christ-Centered & Christ Sent Together—a strategy that includes following God’s gift of wisdom to ensure the safety and flourishing of our neighbors and city.

Minimize the possibility of COVID-19 transmission taking place during church activity.

Have clearly defined, flexible phases of church activity that allow us the ability to appropriately adjust our plans to potential changes in CDC recommendations/State Government guidelines in the case of multiple COVID-19 “waves.”

During this time, we must balance our good desire to be all together again with our calling to love, and not harm, our neighbors.

We do not want anyone to feel pressured to participate in-person until they feel fully comfortable doing so. We recognize that everyone has different concerns, and will honor the decisions each person makes with regard to their health and well-being.

Phase 1: Online Church

Sunday morning worship will be offered exclusively online for people to participate with at home. Community groups and small groups are encouraged to continue video conference meetings and other forms of digital communication together.

Student & children’s ministry programming will continue offering online resources and video meeting opportunities.

This is the phase we have been in from mid-March, 2020 to the current release date of this,document.

Phase 2: Small Groups/Community Groups

Sunday morning worship will continue to be offered online for people to participate in at home. Small groups and community groups are invited to begin meeting together in person. Groups may choose to worship together with our online service or to consider meeting for fellowship.

Those who are not yet connected in a small group or community group can sign up online in order to get connected.

For all groups who will be meeting during this time, First Free offers the following recommendations in accordance with CDC guidelines:

  • Gather in and outdoor space such as a backyard or park whenever possible. The less confined the gathering space, the better.
  • When indoors, wear face masks and practice proper social distancing
  • Meet consistently with the same group each week in order to help limit any potential outbreak and to allow us to make progress toward our goal of meeting again as a full church.
  • Personal greetings should not include physical contact.
  • Groups should not prepare or share any meals or snacks together.

Phase 3: Limited Building Use

At this phase, we will continue to offer online worship services as in Phase 1 and our small group/community group option in Phase 2, but we will also open the church building during the week for groups who wish to reserve a room for meetings. This may include Bible study, student ministry events, Men’s and Women’s groups, etc.

Classrooms will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected both before and after the event.

Antibacterial hand sanitizer and face masks will also be available at the main entrance and in the reserved classroom.

During Phase 3, we First Free offers the following recommendations:

  • Gathers in the church during Phase 3 should not involve sharing meals or snacks together.
  • Personal greetings should still not include physical contact.
  • Masks should be worn.

Phase 4: In-Person Sunday Worship

In this phase, we will reintegrate a two-service Sunday morning worship schedule along with an online service for those who feel more comfortable worshiping from home.

Adult community group classes will also resume. Other in-person gatherings, such as Wednesday Women’s Bible Study, MOPS, Creekside Clubs, etc. may resume at the discretion of its leaders and with the necessary level of volunteer staffing.

Some potential differences about Sunday mornings until we reach a point where publichealth officials have indicated we’re likely past any final “waves” of the virus:

  • Paper bulletins or announcements will not be disseminated.
  • We will not have our coffee & donut fellowship passing time in the gym.
  • Services may be shortened to allow for proper passing time between services to disinfect common surfaces and to minimize mass congregating in our narrow hallways as people come and go.
  • We will not be “passing the plate” for giving. There will be an offering box in the back of the sanctuary where donations can be received. Online giving is encouraged.
  • Our practice of Communion will be modified to promote the health of our community.
  • For those who wish to wear masks, we will still provide complimentary masks at the entrance.
  • Our greeters and hospitality team will not initiate physical greetings such as handshakes, hugs, etc. They are not intending to be unfriendly or cold, but to reduce the possibility of transmission. All in the community are encouraged to consider alternate greetings in large gatherings besides handshakes.
  • Student and children’s programming may be limited due to numbers of volunteer leaders, especially among our older volunteers.
  • Person demonstrating any symptoms within 72 hours of a service (or other meeting, small group, etc.), even if those symptoms simply resemble the common cold, are asked to worship at home for the care and well-being of others in the community.