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It has been several months since we have met physically and have worshipped “online”.  Every organization has had to change its procedures and has been impacted by covid-19.  There is not a handbook for churches instructing how to handle a global health pandemic, so we are monitoring the situation, talking with other church leaders about their responses, and trying to apply common sense.  We realize that opinions about the nature of the virus itself and the response to it have been varied.  
Our church family reflects a cross-section of those views.  On one hand, there are some who were ready to re-open as early as three weeks ago and are chomping at the bit to resume physical meeting as soon as possible.  Many in this group have continued to work their jobs with minimal disruption, and have gone to stores that are open, and see that there are lots of people there.  They cite the fact that restaurants, gyms, and retailers have re-opened or are re-opening today.  
On the other end of the spectrum are those who are taking every precaution to avoid contracting the virus.  Some in our church family have been in the homes, gone to the grocery store only when needed, and that is all the last two plus months of their lives have been.  This group would prefer to wait a while longer until the dust settles.  
Like with many other things, the moderate middle ground is sparsely populated.  The risk level of the person is often the determining factor on how members feel about this, although that is not always the case. 
My goals as a church family during this time:
1.    We are united.  How?  By each person having spirit of understanding, realizing we don’t have enough information now for either side to make a bold declarations, so we find ourselves simply having differences of opinion.  We can respect each other’s point of view without agreeing with it.  We need to have empathy for one another: some people we care about are really scared, while others are really frustrated by the disruption caused by the restrictions: both points of view are understandable.   We won’t judge anyone who decides to wait as long as they need to feel comfortable in returning to our building.  The church is the people, not the building.  Our connection is based on the blood of Jesus, not being in physical proximity to one another.  
2.    We serve everyone’s needs the best that we can.   That means as we re-open, we aren’t pulling the plug on online options like Facebook and YouTube.  Those will continue for the foreseeable future.  We don’t need to choose one or the other; “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”   There have been some real positives from expanding our digital footprint.  As we forge ahead beyond covid-19 in the months ahead, digital media will likely have a larger role.  
After several months of discontinuing physical meetings due to covid-19, we are aiming at resuming meeting together again on May 31st.   This dates means we will resume after some churches and before others.  What follows are the conditions for how we are going to meet for the time being.  The church leadership will continue to adjust as the situation evolves. 
Here is how we intend to reopen on May 31st:
Health.  If you are sick, running a fever, or have any of the other symptoms associated with covid-19 and we are all well versed in them at this point, please stay home.  
If you don’t feel comfortable attending May 31st, we understand.  We don’t want anyone to feel pressured to return, and walk into a building you don’t feel comfortable in. 
If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask on May 31st, please feel free to do so.   Not everyone will be wearing a mask, so factor that into your decision.
Cleaning.  All surfaces that someone may touch will be cleaned every week.
Distancing & Safety    We are going to practice social distancing.  Every second pew will be available to sit in.  We will have the areas marked.  Greeters will help assist this process.  To maximize space, consider who your social group who you have been within a six-foot radius of, or “tribe” is, and sit with them so that we can maximize available seating.  To open up the most available space, you may need to temporarily sit in a different spot in our sanctuary than your “regular spot”.  We appreciate your understanding during these special circumstances.  
Reserved seating will be utilized to maximize seating while social distancing.  Please text or call Brent at 937.708.1990 to let him know if you will be attending this Sunday,  how many will be in your group, and whether you are coming for both adult Sunday school and Sunday morning worship or just Sunday morning worship.  The sooner you can let him know, the better.  
If you have been within contact with friends and family during the last several months, please plan to sit with them so we can maximize the amount of seating.  
Changes in Programming.  Proper distancing makes children’s programming problematic.  During the initial phase of meeting together, we will not have children’s programming.  As valuable as teaching kid’s in age-appropriate ways is beneficial, families worshipping together is incredible silver lining.  Given kid’s shorter attention spans, we are going to adjust the worship service to abbreviate it.  We will sing less songs and include livelier kid’s song that will engage them directly.  The new format of communion will reduce the time it takes without diminishing its significance.  Offerings will not be collected during the service, and the sermon will be shortened.   
As I mentioned before, we will continue to stream on Facebook Live and are developing ways to continue to use YouTube.  
Communion.   Passing the trays with the juice and crackers is inconsistent with the more stringent distancing standards that are temporarily in place.   We will continue to use the prepackaged individual communion.  It will be located at the front and back entrances.  Pick one up on the way to your seat.  
Offering.  Much like the Communion, passing the offering plates in our traditional manner brings servers into close proximity to one another.  Multiple people also touch the surfaces of the plates.  There will be a wooden box with a slot at the front entrance to place tithes and offerings in.  For those who aren’t planning to physically attend, there will be two options: 1) online giving, which will be available soon, and 2) mailing a check to the church, marked to the attention of the treasurer.  The address is PO Box 337, Bowersville, OH, 45307.  
If you have questions about these things, I encourage you to call or text me at 937.708.1990
Brent Smith                    Bowersville Church of Christ 

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