Hi Forresters Beach Church,
It is with delight that I share the news that on Sabbath July 4 we will recommence meeting together in our new church. From July 1, there will be some further easing of restrictions and this will make it possible for us to provide both a Church Service and a Sabbath School program that everyone is able to enjoy. This means that we will be able to see one another again, and also, it means that we will finally be able to worship together in our new building. I praise God that he has looked after us during these difficult circumstances and I look forward to seeing what things he has in store for us as we come back together.
On Monday night, our Church Board put together a plan outlining how things will look when we recommence. We are still living in a COVID-19 world and this means that things are going to look and feel somewhat different. As you read the following changes that we’ve planned, please remember that they are temporary, being specifically designed to fit within the restrictions that remain in place. We are eager to come back together, but we need to ensure we do so safely.
Starting time of 10am and a shorter program
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading, we have decided to shorten the overall time that we meet together. To achieve this, we will have 45min services and 45min sabbath school classes. Also, since the overall time will be less, we have decided to start our program at 10am.
Less people will be allowed in each room
Over the last few months you would have heard a lot about physical distancing. This is a key strategy for reducing the spread of COVID-19. However, in order to do this, we need to have less people in each room.
There are two key rules that determine the number of people allowed in our rooms. The first is known as the “four square metre rule.” This means that we need to have four square metres of space for every person in a room. Below, you can see a map of our facility that shows the maximum capacity allowed in each room, as indicated by the orange number. These numbers will also be displayed by the entrances of each room.
The second rule is that we need to keep at least 1.5m distance from one another. Fortunately, this does not apply to people from the same household. To facilitate this, we have rearranged our chairs to have a 1.5m distance between each row. Also, we will require that each person/ household leaves a gap of at least three empty chairs between them and the next person. So please sit only with your family and leave space between you and others. An example is shown in the diagram below.
One service, two locations.
Due to the above restrictions, we are not going to fit everyone into our main worship space. We have, however, come up with a creative solution. Half of us are going to meet in the worship space and the other half will meet in the hall. One of the great blessings of our new building is that it includes a large hall. And, as you can see from the map above, we can have almost as many people in our hall as we can in our worship area. Also, our equipment has been designed in such a way as to allow a video link between the two spaces. Anything that takes place in our worship space can be live streamed into our hall with sound and audio. This means that we can have one service that is seen in two places, allowing us to all enjoy it together.
Adults and seniors will be directed towards the worship space for the main service
Families and young people will be directed towards the hall for the main service
One of the ways that COVID-19 can spread is when multiple people touch the same surface without it being washed in between. A way that we hope to reduce this is by minimising the sharing of chairs. To help achieve this, we have designed our plan to allow people to enjoy both the church service and Sabbath School in the same location. This will mean that in many cases, people will be able to use the same chair for both. Because the adults and seniors will be having Sabbath School in the worship space, they will also be there for the main service. Some of the kids Sabbath Schools will be in the hall and so families and young people will also go to the hall for the service. A simple way to work out which room to go to for the service is to think of which Sabbath School you intend to go to afterwards. If it’s the combined adults’ Sabbath School in the worship space, go there also the service. If it’s any of the other Sabbath School classes, go to the hall for the service.
Church service will be first, followed by Sabbath School
With the added complexities (and time) involved in setting everything up for a two-room church service, we have decided to have this part of our program first. This will then be followed by Sabbath School. This will help us by allowing us to set up the chairs in the hall in advance (before it is dismantled for a simpler Sabbath School arrangement). In addition, this will also allow us to reduce the time required between our main service and Sabbath School. It is simpler and quicker to make the transition in this order because there is less set up and everyone finishes the church service at the same time. Please note that this decision has been made as a temporary change.
Combined adults Sabbath School Lesson
For our adults and seniors, we will be having a combined Sabbath School lesson. As noted above, this will take place in our main worship area. Those who meet in this space will be able to remain in the same location and seat for both the church service and the Sabbath School lesson.
Different locations for Kids Sabbath School classes
Unfortunately, because of limited room capacity, some of our purpose-built Sabbath School rooms will not be big enough to house the Sabbath School classes they were built for. However, with the adults having a combined Sabbath School program in the main worship space, this opens up the hall to be used for kids Sabbath Schools where needed.
Youth Sabbath School will be lofted in the hall
One other change is that our youth Sabbath School will also take place in the hall Saturday morning. This is because this group regularly exceeds the 10 people currently allowed in the youth room.
Putting all of this together, here is an outline of our Sabbath schedule.
6:30pm – Youth Sabbath School
Note: we’re unable to serve food at the moment so eat before you come.
10:00-10:45am – Combined church service
Adults and seniors in the main worship space
Families and young people in the hall
11:00-11:45am – Sabbath School classes
Adults and seniors: combined lesson in main worship space
Kids Sabbath Schools: separate classes in hall and other rooms where possible
What to expect when you arrive
When you arrive, you will be required to provide your name and contact details at the door. This is a legal requirement and it will be used for contact tracing if needed. You will also be asked to sanitise your hands as you enter and exit the building. A reminder also that we are not yet able to shake hands or to hug one another. I know that this still feels strange, especially since we have not seen each other in person for a long time, but please refrain from doing this. Finally, if you are unwell, we ask that you stay home. This applies also if you are rostered on for something in the program, please look for a replacement or contact the pastor or relevant leader to let them know you can’t be there.
Online options still available
We recognise that not everyone will feel ready to come back to a worship service yet. Please know that we are supportive of anyone who wishes to stay at home for a bit longer. For those who are 70+ years old or who have other health conditions, please consider whether it is time yet for you to be mixing with larger crowds. For those wanting to remain home, we will still be making our church services available online. And, if there are enough people who are interested, we will continue providing a Zoom option for Sabbath School. We want every person in our church family to feel that there is something available for them.
Some other changes
Finally, there are a few other changes that will affect our worship services and make them feel a bit different to what we are used to. The first is that we are not yet able to have group singing. Special items will be possible, but we will only be able to listen at this stage. There are also going to be some changes around how offerings are collected. If you are currently giving through eGIVING please continue to do this. For those who would like to make a cash donation, we will also be providing a way for this to take place. But, we won’t be able to pass the bags around in the same way as we are used to. Finally, lunches and refreshments are not yet able to recommence. So, remember to bring a bottle of water along with you.
As we put this plan into action, let’s remember that church is not a building, nor is it a set program. Rather, it is a community of believers who worship and serve God together. I’m looking forward to being back together as a church family again.
If you have any questions about what has been described above, please give me a call on 0432166916.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21