Re-Gathering In-Person at FBC Martinsville
Reopening our buildings for in-person gatherings will be a process, not a one-time event. We are still learning best practices every day, though by waiting a little longer to reopen our buildings for in-person gatherings, we do have more information to go on than those who opened sooner. We also have unique needs and priorities in every congregation, and that too has driven our delay and considerations.
Unique Needs & Priorities
We are a church with a large population of at-risk and elderly members. Knowing this, our first priority is to loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. To that end, we have minimized risk by providing worship, study, and meeting opportunities completely virtually since March 15, 2020. We will continue to provide these for the foreseeable future.
We are a church seeking to be creative with the space we have. With this in mind, we opened our Front Plaza on July 12, 2020 for a new, casual service open to the public called “The Open Church.” With plenty of space to practice social distancing, and being outdoors, this has been both a great outreach opportunity as well a safer alternative for gathering in-person for our own church members.
We are a church with quite a number of members without internet access. Because of this, our online worship, study, and meeting experiences have had a toll-free call-in option for anyone without a computer at home. We fully expect to continue to need this availability for some time, and we are making plans to be sure this option is available long-term. We also continue to make DVDs of the service for King’s Grant residents to watch on their in-house TV station, and we are happy to drop off or mail DVDs to those at home as well.
We are a church that cares for families and children. For families who attend FBC’s worship services, we want to be inclusive and helpful. Though providing in-person child care during worship is not possible during the pandemic, we want families to know they are supported and give them avenues to worship, study, and receive childcare. To that end, we have provided virtual options for worship & study at reasonable hours for parents. We have also provided children’s activities for The Open Church outdoor worship service so children can learn through play while parents participate in worship. And, we continue to offer high-quality childcare through our Early Learning Center ministry on weekdays for parents who need to work.
Our Protocols & Procedures to Re-Gather Indoors
With all the information available, and focusing on the needs of our faith community, the church staff and Coordinating Council has recommended the following protocols and procedures for our in-person gatherings indoors at First Baptist Church of Martinsville:
1. Because we have quite a few at-risk church members, we will be REQUIRING the following:
- Mandatory mask-wearing at ALL times. If you cannot safely wear a mask while you are in the building, we ask that you continue to worship virtually with us, either online or by phone. Disposable masks will be provided at the door if you do not already have one.
- Practicing physical distancing of 6ft while indoors. All seating will be separated by a minimum of 6ft for those not living in the same household. We have a large sanctuary and should be able to accommodate our congregation safely 6ft or more apart. Please follow the lead of the ushers and signs that will direct you to the next open row.
2. The entrance for Sunday mornings and all other in-person activities will be the entrance under the drive-thru on the Mulberry side of the parking lot (only exception may be Sunday School in the Fellowship Hall – the back entrance may be used for that purpose). All entrances will be propped open or opened by a gloved usher to ensure no unnecessary touching of shared surfaces (like door handles). Let us be hospitable and open doors for you!
3. The church will be limiting access as much as possible to the Early Learning Center portions of the building to avoid any possibility of virus spread between the children/staff of the ELC and the church members. Signs will mark the locations where we suggest all in attendance avoid. Though the entire building will be cleaned before every service, we still hope to limit interaction between these spaces.
4. All entrances now have a touch-free hand sanitizing station. Please use this when you enter the building and any time you have touched shared surfaces.
5. The sanctuary will be disinfected each week by our cleaning crew, but still take needed precautions when touching surfaces.
6. All hymnals and Bibles have been removed from the pews so we aren’t sharing books – please BRING YOUR BIBLE TO CHURCH. We can’t loan you one (but if you don’t have one and want one, please call the church office during the week and we’ll get one ordered for you that you can keep!). Hymn lyrics will be printed in your bulletin.
7. A gloved usher will provide a copy of the bulletin to you that has not been touched glove-free for safety. You are asked to take this with you – both for your information, and to discard it later in a trash receptacle (please don’t leave your bulletin or inserts in the pews).
8. If you’re a visitor, a gloved usher will give you a connection card to fill out (and a free pen to fill it out with!) so we can get to know you better. That same usher will pick it up from you.
9. Singing will be done for you by a mini-choir or small groups. If you know the hymns, with your mask on, you may sing along quietly, but keep in mind the spacing between you and others. If you want to belt it out at the top of your lungs sans mask, please continue to worship virtually from home (and sing away!).
10. Nursery care will be unavailable; however, parents with children are always welcome in worship and welcome to stretch little legs in the Narthex and Parlor as needed during worship. (Worship can be heard from a speaker in this area). If a changing or nursing area is needed, the church nursery is open for use by parents with children (no childcare workers will be present).
11. Offering plates will not be passed during the service, but we will have them available at the entrance to the Sanctuary, and you may leave your offering in the plate as you enter for worship. The offering plates will be carried in at the appropriate time by a gloved usher as part of the worship experience.
12. Communion will also not be provided by passed plate. Instead, on Communion Sundays (first Sunday of each month), prepackaged communion will be provided at the entrance of the Sanctuary by a gloved usher. You can take this with you to your seat and partake of it when that part of the service occurs.
13. We will take a quick list of names as you enter – don’t worry, it’s not for checking your dutiful attendance! It’s for contact tracing if someone falls ill.
14. If you’d like to chit chat, please take a moment after worship to exit the building and keep your masks on and distance between you for safety. Outdoors there is much better ventilation, so we highly recommend any mingling outdoors to indoors.
15. When worship ends, everyone is asked to leave by the outer sides of the Sanctuary (not the center aisle), and to do so row by row with lots of extra space between attendees. (Think one-way shopping aisles). We will discourage any exiting through the side doors toward the ELC or the parking lot because of the opposite traffic flow to use different doors.
16. Small groups can begin meeting in-person for committees, Sunday School, etc. as groups would like to, but all groups will have a virtual option using online/call-in meeting software, and all groups that do choose to meet totally or partially in-person should be wearing masks and spread out in a larger room (such as the Fellowship Hall).
17. If any COVID-19 cases occur within the gathered congregation, the church will take immediate steps to notify the local health department and clean/disinfect the building, contacting anyone in attendance on the days someone with the virus was present. This will involve a quick pivot back to completely virtual worship and study for a period of time for everyone’s safety. We will rely on your integrity to share with health authorities where you have been if you do test positive for the virus – and let us know directly if you test positive and have attended any gatherings with us. Help us love our neighbors by keeping them safe and healthy!
18. Finally, IF YOU ARE SICK IN ANY WAY: STAY HOME!!! We earnestly desire your virtual attendance and worship with us if you are sick.
If you are planning to attend in-person worship and are willing to volunteer as an usher or with our sound/video/live streaming technology, please contact the church office!