Updated: May 19, 2020
Announcing the resumption of public worship services while observing the Governor's safety protocols.
This upcoming Sunday, May 24, 2020, will mark the tenth consecutive week without a public gathering for worship at North Johnson City Baptist Church. Such a reality would have been unfathomable a mere six months ago. While we are thankful to God for the technology that has allowed us to continue meeting online, it is an inadequate substitute for the gathering of the saints in person. Still, in the midst of a global pandemic, it was a necessary alternative.
When we made the decision to suspend in-person worship services, it was made in reverence to the Scriptural command to obey the civil magistrates. Even so, the closing was always seen as a temporary necessity and that church services would resume once it was deemed safe to do so.
Therefore, we are pleased to announce that, given the Governor's announced guidelines for churches, North Johnson City Baptist Church will resume its public worship services on Sunday morning, June 7, 2020!
For more discussion on the Biblical basis for closing, and now reopening, the church in the face of government guidelines, listen to our upcoming podcast; the link will be posted here once available later this week.
The Governor's Guidelines
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has issued guidelines for the safe reopening of Tennessee churches. The full release from the Governor's office can be read here. The basic guidelines are as follows:
A phased approach to resuming in-person gatherings is recommended. Vulnerable populations (everyone 65 years and older, people with disabilities, people with serious respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, people who are immuno-compromised, and others) and children’s activities/nursery programs should not gather in person until a later time.
Consider solutions to minimize close personal contact that may be part of your services, such as handshakes or sharing food and drink.
As the phased approach begins, limit the size of attendance in your sanctuary and other confined spaces to create seating arrangements that provide at least 6-foot distancing between families. It is recommended not to exceed 50% of maximum capacity of the room and should enable full compliance with CDC recommendations for social distancing and hygiene.
Wear face coverings.
Encourage members of the community to stay at home if they are symptomatic, have a fever, have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, or have traveled internationally or to a domestic hot spot in the past two weeks.
If a member of the congregation has tested positive for COVID-19, consult CDC guidelines and local health department recommendations to determine whether in-person gatherings should cease immediately, the building should close for additional cleaning, or other protocol changes are required.
In response to the Governor's guidelines, we will make the following adjustments:
First, in observance of the Governor’s “phased” approach, we will only be resuming our Sunday morning worship service. All other “in-person” meetings will await a later phased resumption.
Second, we will not be serving any refreshments during this time (I know...I will miss the donuts and coffee too).
Third, we are asking our church members to socially distance themselves, by household, within the church before, during, and after the service.
Fourth, at the recommendation of the Governor, there will be no nursery or children’s church during this phase.
Fifth, we are to continue following the state guidelines on personal contact (limiting activities like handshaking).
Sixth, we are advising individuals considered at high risk to follow the advice of their medical professionals when deciding the wisdom of attending. Our online service options will continue to offer a way of worshiping with us in the meantime.
Seventh, we are currently looking into procuring a supply of facial masks and hand sanitizer for the safety of our worship meetings.
Eighth, and finally, the Governor’s office is reminding everyone of their duty to protect our congregations by staying home if you show any of the symptoms of a Covid-19 infection.
We feel that these steps are both reasonable and practical, allowing us to safely reopen while showing proper respect to those in government.
What a joy it is that we shall soon be meeting in person again! While the Covid-19 pandemic has been a unique challenge; it has also given us the opportunity to minister in new ways. While I know that we will not all be meeting together at first, it is our prayer that the pandemic will soon subside and all of God's people will reunite in public worship. In the meantime, let us thank God for His grace as we take steps to return to public worship.
Again, I say, what a joy!