In consultation with congregational leaders, our staff and community leaders, we are pleased to announce plans to reopen FUMC Graham beginning Sunday, July 5th. The safety and well being of our people is the primary focus. All of us have missed church and look forward to the time we can come back together.
The challenge for most churches is not to wait too long or start up too early. People on both sides of the spectrum feel strongly about when and how to reopen. Those that think we should already be up and running and those expressing appreciation for the cautious approach we have taken. As a church, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to care for those who come to be with us. People are sacred. That is why we have taken a more cautious approach.
Based on Governor Abbott’s recommendation we will reopen with worship only on July 5th as part of our Phase One initiative. Other programs and ministries will reopen as part of Phase Two as we determine appropriate.
Information regarding the spread of Covid19 is continually changing and evolving. We based our decision on the latest information available. Here are some frequently asked questions as we prepare to reopen:
Q. What triggered the plans to reopen?
A. Governor Abbott announced loosening of church restrictions on May 18th. We wanted to wait until the guidelines came out to finalize a plan.
Q. Are SS classes and other ministries and programs also opening up immediately?
A. No. Phase One involves opening worship services only following the guidelines and protocols established for churches. We will resume with all three worship services 8:45 a.m., 10:50 a.m., and 6:30 p.m. on July 5th. Sunday School classes, nursery, other programs, Bible studies, small groups will be a part of the Phase Two plans to reopen. Leaders of the SS classes and small groups will be contacted by the staff to help work out details.
Q. What kinds of precautions are included in the plans to reopen?
A. Ushers and Greeters will be trained to help us comply with the recommended precautions and rules for social distancing. We will comply with the 50% capacity limit in the sanctuary for all three services. We can accommodate 150 people in the sanctuary at one time while observing all the necessary precautions. As we move closer to July 5th, we will offer more details regarding what you can expect and what measures we will implement for the safety of our congregation.
Q. What if I do not feel comfortable coming back to church in person, at least for the time being?
A. We completely understand those who have reservations about coming back until there is further assurance that the virus is no longer a threat. We encourage anyone who is hesitant about returning to church please stay home. Your safety and well-being is most important. If you have a fever, symptoms, compromised immune system or medical issues please stay home and be safe.
Q. Why wait until July 5th? Why not start immediately?
- By waiting until July 5th we will be able to see if there is a resurgence of confirmed cases in Young County before we reopen. If there is a resurgence, we will reassess the situation.
- Churches are particularly vulnerable to spreading Covid19 if guidelines are not adhered to as evidenced by recent outbreaks in Arkansas, Houston and other faith communities.
- We have a higher demographic of people in a high-risk category based on age and compromised medical issues. There is a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure the safety of our people in worship.
- The announcement of July 5th gives us ample time to make the necessary preparations and decisions to ensure the health and safety of our people. We cannot simply open our doors. We will have to implement policies to adhere to social distancing requirements, abiding by 50% occupancy rules, training ushers, greeters and staff and making gloves and masks available for those who choose to use them. All this takes preparation.
- The choir is normally off for the month of July. There are concerns with some of the evidence surrounding choir and congregational singing and the spread of the virus. This will give us more time to address how we worship and how we utilize music.
- The worst-case scenario is to start up too soon and then later have to shut things down again. Waiting a few extra weeks to get it right as much as possible is worth the delay in reopening.
Remember, our goal and prayer is to emerge from this experience a stronger, more faithful and more grateful church than we have ever been. The adage is true, “You don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone”. This challenge has only reinforced how much we need God, how important the work of the church is and how much we need and depend on each other.
I am so proud of our congregation. While the building is closed temporarily, the church has always remained wide open. We never stopped feeding the hungry, offering comfort and support to those who struggled, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and being God’s light and love to the people of our community.
When we return to the church again, it will be a visible and tangible reminder of God’s promise and our unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ. Years from now, we will not remember the difficulty and challenges of the pandemic, as much as we will remember the moment we came back together. Our collective memory will be, "In the worst of times the people of FUMC Graham did the best of things." God bless you! We will see you soon!
Rev. Ben Disney