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FLUMC churches move ahead with re-opening plans

FLUMC churches move ahead with re-opening plans

Church Vitality COVID-19 Worship



Churches of the Florida Conference now have the option to begin in-person worship. Such services were suspended in late March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To be clear, we recommend outside worship but are allowing for inside worship with the proper restrictions,” Assistant to the Bishop Alex Shanks said.

We invited several churches from around the state to respond to questions about reopening. Their responses are listed below.

WILL YOU BE REOPENING RIGHT AFTER JUNE 15?

Poinciana Springs UMC

Rev. Ginger Medley, Poinciana UMC, Miami Springs: No, we will begin Phase 1 of reopening in July.  We will allow about 30 people to attend the pre-recording of our worship on a week-day evening.  This will give us a chance to test out our new systems and procedures with a small group.  People would be able to sign up to attend the pre-recording.  In August we will be fully open for in-person worship on Sunday mornings.

Rev. Ruben Velasco, Kendall UMC: We do not plan to reopen June 15.  We are working on opening July 12, because we want to make sure we have everything in place and are ready to safely hold services.  The date may change as we learn more form churches that are opening early.

Rev. Steve Rasmussen, First Palmetto UMC: No, we are scheduled to reopen July 12

Rev. Sheron Willson, Grace UMC, Lawtey: Not immediately. We will have our door worship first and take small steps.

Rev. Kim Uchimura, Emmanuel UMC, Bradenton: No, we are aiming for July 5.

Rev. David Charlton, First Port St. John UMC, Cocoa: We will open June 21. 

First Port St. John UMC

Rev. Daphne Johnson, First UMC, Clearwater: Our church will open on June 28 for a 9:45 contemporary service and an 11:00 traditional service.

Rev. John Legg, Temple Terrace UMC: TTUMC will reopen July 5.

WHAT STEPS HAVE YOU TAKEN FOR THAT FIRST IN-PERSON SUNDAY?

Rev. Ginger Medley, Poinciana UMC, Miami Springs: We have established a Re-opening Task Force to give leadership to our preparations.  They are reviewing and implementing the Conference Policy Guide.  We've also created a survey to get feedback from the congregation.

Rev. Ruben Velasco, Kendall UMC: We will have enough masks for 500 guests. 1,000 gloves for ushers and staff. More hand-sanitizers throughout the church. We also are buying additional fans for air flow.  Ask people who have symptoms to stay home and post signs with recommendations. Double the number of ushers, ushers will politely ask

Kendall UMC

worshipers to wear masks and will provide them to those who do not have one. Ushers will help worshipers find seats with adequate space between others. There will be no bulletins; everything will be on the screen. No passing of the peace or hugging. Offering baskets will be in the front and back of the church. There will be cleaning between services.

Rev. Steve Rasmussen, First Palmetto UMC: We are going to follow all CDC guidelines, including taking temperatures, hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks.  No corporate prayer or singing, social distancing and social distance seating.

Grace UMC

Rev. Sheron Willson, Grace UMC, Lawtey:  We have sanitized everything in the sanctuary, children’s areas, and fellowship hall. We will purchase disinfectant to stay on top of this. We have sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer at each place of entry. Signage will be in place and a team has volunteered to make sure we follow the safety precautions. We have masks available for those who may forget and everyone in the building will wear masks. Seating will be assigned, and distancing adhered to. We are still working on a few things and expect to be ready even though we will not go in right away.  We may have more than our normal number of services we are still looking at that option.

Rev. Kim Uchimura, Emmanuel UMC, Bradenton: I have created a team of people to work on new processes to ensure that people are as safe as humanly possible as I have an older congregation that is at greater risk.
Rev. David Charlton, First Port St. John UMC, Cocoa: We will have one service on Sunday morning, with no Sunday School, weddings, or baptisms. During the offering, ushers will place the plates at the entrances to the Sanctuary for people to drop their tithes. About 30 minutes before the service, ushers will wipe down all door handles, and disinfect pews and any other surfaces where people might have touched.

Rev. Daphne Johnson, First UMC, Clearwater: We have taken many steps in both worship areas.  We have moved

First UMC Clearwater

seating or blocked off pews to keep social distancing.  We have closed off all gathering places.  Canceled all coffee and donuts and all water fountains are covered.  We have one entrance and exit door for each worship service and designated bathrooms for each service.  We have recommended masks and have them to hand out if anyone comes without.  We will be taking reservations for attendance.  We will have greeters and ushers to help.  Offering will be placed in basket as people enter.  All hymnals and bibles have been taken up.  We will use projection only and no bulletins. 

Rev. John Legg, Temple Terrace UMC: Plan to prepare a video of a dry run service in the sanctuary Sunday June 21 that can be shown Sunday, June 28. This will include all aspects of the service including serving elements for communion. Celebration cups have been purchased – includes juice and wafer. Everyone needs to understand the logistics involved and receive the appropriate training.


WILL YOU CONTINUE TO LIVE-STREAM SERVICES?

Rev. Ginger Medley, Poinciana UMC, Miami Springs:
Yes. We will live stream our in-person worship experience and we are looking at starting an online only worship experience tailored to our virtual community.  For our members who are not tech savvy and do not feel comfortable coming to in-person worship experience, we will continue our telephone worship time.

Rev. Ruben Velasco, Kendall UMC: We will continue to film the services live and make them available on Facebook Live. Once downloaded, they will be available on YouTube.

Rev. Steve Rasmussen, First Palmetto UMC: Yes. 

First UMC Palmetto

Rev. Sheron Willson, Grace UMC, Lawtey: Yes. And transmit on radio transmitter.

Rev. Kim Uchimura, Emmanuel UMC, Bradenton:  We have not been live streaming, but we are planning to begin doing so when we return.

Rev. David Charlton, First Port St. John UMC, Cocoa: Yes.

Rev. Daphne Johnson, First UMC, Clearwater: Yes we will continue to live stream and have encouraged people who are not comfortable or who have underlying conditions to continue to join us in that way.

Rev. John Legg, Temple Terrace UMC: Yes.


WHAT FEEDBACK HAVE YOU RECEIVED FROM THE CONGREGATION?

Rev. Ginger Medley, Poinciana UMC, Miami Springs: Most people seem eager to return to in-person worship.  Some are cautious about coming back before there is a vaccine and/or before the number of cases/deaths begin to drop.  Still a few have noted that they prefer the online worship format, because they can spend the entire morning worshiping with various ministries.

Rev. Ruben Velasco, Kendall UMC: It is mostly positive.  Our people are supportive and are willing to be patient.  Most are enjoying worshiping online and doing small groups on Zoom. Even though they do miss being in person.  Giving has been positive.  We try to communicate weekly via, by one or more forms of communication: phone calls, text, mail, email and E=blast. 

Rev. Steve Rasmussen, First Palmetto UMC: The comments have been very positive.  Our online presence has greatly increased our summer attendance.

Rev. Sheron Willson, Grace UMC, Lawtey: Cooperation from most. Pushback from some and at least one is daring us to tell him he can’t come in without a mask. We will deal with this before we go inside.

Emmanuel UMC

Rev. Kim Uchimura, Emmanuel UMC, Bradenton:  I am sending out a survey this week to assess how many are planning to return in person, what will make them comfortable enough to return and what they are hoping we do to prepare to return.

Rev. David Charlton, First Port St. John UMC, Cocoa: Many are excited to get back to in person worship. Many are also nervous. It will likely be small numbers for in-person worship.

Rev. Daphne Johnson, First UMC, Clearwater: Many of our folks are not ready to return but are supportive of what we have set up.  Most are happy with the details we have put into place.


WHAT CHANGES WILL YOU MAKE TO YOUR IN-PERSON SERVICES?

Rev. Ginger Medley, Poinciana UMC, Miami Springs: We have decided to only offer 1 in-person worship experience on Sundays for the rest of the year; normally we have 2 services each week.  This means that our worship style will become blended instead of exclusively traditional or contemporary.  Our sanctuary is big enough to accommodate this transition.  This will allow us to utilize our volunteers more efficiently and reduce the number of times we have to sanitize the church.  We will adjust several things temporarily such as: communion, designated places to enter and exit the church, no chairs or coffee in the lobby, no monthly fellowship meals, and taking temperatures and providing mask before entering the building.

Rev. Ruben Velasco, Kendall UMC: We will remove hymnals and Bibles from pews. Restroom use will not be encouraged but if someone does need to use the restroom, we will provide wipes.  We will have a choir of no more than 2-to-4 people. Hand bells will perform more often with masks, and we will spread out the praise band. The key for us is safety, adaptability, and communication. That is how we love God and neighbor.  

Rev. Sheron Willson, Grace UMC, Lawtey: We will not have a choir, or congregational singing. Communion will change. Offering by fishnet rather than passing plates.

Rev. Kim Uchimura, Emmanuel UMC, Bradenton: Everyone wears masks except when speaking from the Chancel; no one will be seated in the front row. We mark places to sit to maintain social distancing and potentially making reservations for seats. We also may screen temperature and limit entrance to one door. There will be no congregational singing and no choir, only small ensembles that can be 6’ from each other while singing and greater than 12’ from first row.  Shorten the service to no more than 35 minutes so that if anyone is sick, they will be together for a limited time that can help reduce likelihood of spread. Phase one will not include Holy Communion unless we find a viable option before 7-5-20. We will dismiss by rows and disinfect between services.
 

Temple Terrace UMC

Rev. David Charlton, First Port St. John UMC, Cocoa: Communion will be done in pews with personalized cups and wafers), offering (drop money off in box while exiting sanctuary), no meet & greets, pews marked off to maintain 6 feet distance between families, and face masks are required.

Rev. John Legg, Temple Terrace UMC: Bibles, hymnals, and prayer cards will be removed from the pews. Prayer and Connection Cards will be available in racks at the Information Center. No bulletins will be handed out at this time. Announcements will be available in racks at the Information Center and online at ttumc.org. Offering plates will not be passed. There will be secured collection boxes at the back of the church for the side entrances and the Information Center. Upper Rooms will be available All parts of entry will be used including side entrances. Masks will be mandatory. Disposable masks will be available upon request.

-- Joe Henderson is the News Content Editor for flumc.org


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