In Person Worship Plan

Greetings in the name of Christ! I hope this letter finds you well.  I have missed seeing you over the last few weeks as we have suspended in-person activities at the request of civic and church leaders as we seek to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus.  I trust you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during these most unusual times.

I write to you today to outline our plan for resuming Sunday morning worship at First United Methodist Church.  Please know that our primary concern is for your health and well-being.  The plans we have developed are based on the latest directions as given to us by governmental authorities.  These plans are in compliance with the recommended guidelines for groups to safely assemble.  These plans require us to make changes to our format, so please read this letter in its entirety as it contains important information that you will need to know as you prepare to attend worship here at the church.
Following the protocols established by The White House and the Center for Disease Control in the document “Opening Up America Again”, places of worship can reopen under phase 1 of the guidelines following strict social distancing practices.  Additionally, phase 2 indicates that settings of more than 50 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.

These two parts of the document have served as the basis for the plan developed by the clergy and staff, and approved by the Executive Committee of the Administrative Board, to enable us to safely resume worship here at the church.  Our plan reopens the church, follows appropriate social distancing, and limits gatherings to no more than 50 people.   As guidelines become more flexible, we will make adjustments to these limits, so long as we can ensure your safety when you are on campus.
Please note the various aspects of the plan as outlined below and read it in its entirety.
-Our in-person worship services will resume on Sunday, May 31st.  We will celebrate Pentecost that day, so we want everyone to wear red.  Pentecost recalls the day the Holy Spirit fell upon the believers in Jerusalem years ago and it is considered the birthday of the church.  Pentecost completes the “Great Reversal” of God, as the ashes of Ash Wednesday give way to the fire of the Holy Spirit.
-We are increasing the number of worship services each Sunday so as to ensure appropriate social distancing and to limit crowd sizes to 50 persons.  
-Worship times are as follows:  8:15 am, 9:30 am, and 10:45 am.  -Traditional Worship will take place in the Community Life Center-Contemporary Worship will take place in the Trinity Center-For those 65 and older (and spouses under 65 or a caregiver under 65), you have the option of attending a Traditional Worship service in the chapel at 8:15 or 10:45 should you desire.  (This is only an option; it is not required).  
-You will need to register you and your family to reserve your place in worship each week through SignUpGenius.com or by contacting the church office. Starting May 24th, you will receive an email each Sunday afternoon at noon to sign for the service you will attend the following week. For your safety, and to ensure adherence to the guidelines outlined by civil authorities, we are limited to only 50 persons in worship, so attendance will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Should your circumstances change, you will need to cancel your reservation by Thursday afternoon so as to allow others who would like to attend to be able to register to do so.
-If you are attending the Traditional Worship service, please park on the US 98 side of the Community Life Center.  If you are attending the Contemporary Worship service or the service in the Chapel, please park in the Trinity Center parking lot.
-We will be screening all worshippers for fever using non-contact thermal scanners.  Masks are not required to attend worship.  They are recommended and certainly welcomed if you desire to wear one.
-Worship services will be 45 minutes in length so as to allow for cleaning of the worship spaces between services.  Doors will open for each worship service 15 minutes prior to the start of worship.
-Children are welcome at all of our worship experiences.  However, Children’s Church will NOT be held during the worship services so that we can ensure proper social distancing.  Children will remain with their families throughout the service.  We are unable to provide a nursery at this time.  
-Offering plates will be placed at the entrances to the Community Life Center, the Trinity Center, and the Chapel.
-Existing Sunday School classes (Asbury, Men’s Bible, Si Mathison, Amazing Grace, Sisters in Christ, and Agape) will meet at 9:30 am.
-Additional small group opportunities will be offered each Sunday at 8:15, 9:30, and 10:45.  If you are not in a Sunday School class, you are invited to take part in these groups.  More information about the various classes will be announced in the upcoming days.

We had approximately 400 persons in two services on an average Sunday before we suspended worship because of the Coronavirus outbreak.  Our plan of offering more worship opportunities will enable us to engage close to this number, while adhering to the social distancing guidelines.  As guidelines relax, we hope each service will grow, enabling us to reach even more persons through this format.

These shifts in our worship format will require additional volunteers to serve as greeters, ushers, parking attendants, technical support, and to help with the maintenance and cleanliness of our worship spaces.  If you are able to help with any of these areas, please contact Cynthia Finucane at the church office or at cynthia@fumc-pc.org.

We will send information about the resumption of church programming in the upcoming days.  Please check your email and social media for updates regarding various ministry areas.

Thank you for your faithfulness to Christ and to First United Methodist Church of Panama City.  We are excited at the prospects of being back together in worship, even as we work to ensure your safety while you are on campus.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at jeremy@fumc-pc.org.  I believe our best days are still ahead of us and I feel we will emerge from this time even stronger as a church family.  I look forward to seeing all of you on May 31st as we celebrate Pentecost and our return to in-person worship.

Here is a link to a video where we talked about many of these plans and guidelines.

Blessings and peace,
Jeremy