Updated March 12, 2020
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has raised concerns around the world and in every community, including ours. As of this morning, Northern Virginia has ten recorded cases of the virus. With that in mind, I want to take a minute and remind everyone that the spiritual and physical well-being of our church family is our top priority. In light of the public concerns about the virus, your pastors and staff have instituted a three-phase protocol to ensure that our time together, in worship and other activities, is safe and comfortable.
PHASE ONE PROTOCOL - Goes into immediate effect
- We encourage everyone to wash his or her hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds upon entering the building. Bathrooms are located on the first, second, and third floors.
- There will be hand sanitizer, while supplies last, in the following areas:
- On the Welcome Table in the Narthex
- At the small tables at the front of the Sanctuary prior to receiving communion
Should we be unable to purchase pre-made hand sanitizer, we have begun gathering supplies to make our own. If you have an extra bottle of hand sanitizer and would like to donate one to the church we would be grateful!
- We will encourage everyone to forego handshaking. We will greet one another with fist-bumps, elbow bumps, and good old-fashioned waves.
- We will cease passing the offering plate. Baskets will be available at the front of the center aisle in the Sanctuary and by the doors as you exit. Of course, I encourage you right now to begin giving online. Go to our online giving platform, at stthomasumc.org/resources/giving.html to set up a safe and recurring offering.
- When we gather for communion, all communion servers will wear gloves as they prepare the sacrament. We will serve the wine by using individual cups. Those serving the bread will place it in your hands.
PHASE TWO PROTOCOL – Goes into effect if there are 10 or more active cases in NOVA
All exercises from Phase One will still be in effect as well as the following:
- Door handles into the building and into the bathrooms will be sanitized before, during and after worship by our usher and greeting teams, and anyone else who would like to volunteer to help us with this.
- Each church staff member will be responsible for sanitizing his/her ministry space every day. Doors, counters, computers, toys, tables, chairs - everything will be sanitized daily.
PHASE THREE PROTOCOL – Now if Effect: Goes into effect when the Bi-District Office of the UMC requests all churches on the district to stop gathering in groups of 50 or more people.
- We will close our worship services to the public. Instead, the Praise Band and Pastor Abi will provide live streaming of our 9:40 worship service through our Facebook Page on Sunday mornings and we hope you and your family will gather with us from the safety of your own home.
- The audio of the sermon will also be recorded and available immediately following the 11:00 AM worship service for those who are not able to join the live stream.
Now, here is how you can help:
- If you or a family member are not feeling well or having respiratory difficulty, please stay home and worship with us online. We will be testing the live stream beginning this Sunday during the 9:40 worship service.
- If you’re not displaying symptoms or having respiratory difficulty, please come to church. In times of fear and anxiety, I think coming together as a church family is more important than ever.
- Pray. It’s not a cliché. It’s a clarion call to do what we do as people of faith. For thousands of years, the local church has been the bedrock of support for communities grappling with fear about public disease. That starts with prayer: for the cessation of the spread of the virus; individuals and caregivers directly impacted by the illness; and all of us as we remember that God is our strength, and our ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46).
- Act. We embrace service and preparation alongside our prayer. As always, St. Thomas UMC will seek our ways to help those in need, from making our own worship environments safe to caring for those in need. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. We are followers of Jesus. We are St. Thomas.
We will continue to assess and share information in a timely manner. Thank you for being the church that you are.