After prayerful deliberation at its meeting on Tuesday evening, October 13, 2020, the Session of First Presbyterian Church voted unanimously to resume in-person gatherings at the church on Sunday, October 25, 2020.
For the safety of our members and our visitors, the Session also adopted certain COVID-19 Pandemic Public Health and Safety Protocols (the “Safety Protocols”) that must be followed on church premises. The Safety Protocols appear below.
Several other important points should be noted:
- Barring unforeseen technical difficulties, Sunday morning worship services will now be “streamed” lived on our Facebook page, beginning promptly at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday. Services will, as in the past, be available for subsequent viewing on both our Facebook page and our website.
- Individuals whose health may be compromised, and who are thus especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, should continue to worship with us from their homes. If we were to adopt a slogan about this, it would be “When in doubt, don’t go out!” As noted in our Safety Protocols, below, you will be remembered in our hearts and prayers as we return to the Sanctuary for worship.
- Although it may detract from the beauty of our Sanctuary, the aisles and pews will be marked to assist everyone with social distancing. Alternating pews will be closed off, and each open pew will be marked to allow for six-foot separation between family groups.
- Please also continue to pray for the safety of our congregation, our community and, indeed, all of God’s children as the coronavirus continues to disrupt lives and threaten illness.
- While inside the church, everyone will be asked to observe the following Safety Protocols, no exceptions. Please read them carefully:
Public Health and Safety Protocols
for In-Person Gatherings at
First Presbyterian Church
Before We Come, Check To Be Sure…
In the past two weeks:
- No foreign travel and no travel outside Victoria to any COVID “hotspots.”
- No exposure to anyone who has tested positive for COVID.
- No participation in large group activities, such as parties, weddings, funerals, demonstrations, or similar events.
Before departing home:
- No fever (temperature above 100.4).
- No sore throat.
- No shortness of breath.
- No cough or flu-like symptoms.
- For your own safety and those around you, remember: “If in doubt, don’t go out!”
As We Enter:
- Facemasks must be worn at all times while in the church. Maintain social distancing. Wash hands frequently.
- Tables with facemasks, hand-sanitizer, and Kleenex boxes will be located (a) inside the front door to the Narthex and (b) inside the door under the porte cochere. A
greeter will be at each of these entrances to welcome you and answer any questions.
- Do not be offended if the greeter asks you whether you have complied with all the “Before We Come” criteria listed above. If you are uncertain about your
temperature, the greeter will have a “touchless” thermometer to help you check it.
- Due to fire-code regulations, all of the exits from the Sanctuary will be unlocked. Entry to the church, however, will be exclusively through the front door to the
Narthex or the back door under the porte cochere.
- At separate tables located in the Narthex and at the entrance to the front of the
Sanctuary (at the end of the hall that runs past the Church Office), we will set out
offering plates and Bulletins. Please place your offering in the plate (either before or after the service), and please take a Bulletin. In order to reduce person-to-person
contact, Bulletins will not be handed out by the greeters. Take your Bulletin home with you or discard it in the receptacles provided.
While We Are Gathered:
- Certain pews, which will be clearly marked, will be closed to seating. The cushions of open pews will be marked to facilitate social distancing. Family groups may sit together, of course, but otherwise congregants are asked to separate themselves by a minimum of six feet. The aisles will also be marked in six-foot intervals to facilitate social distancing.
- Because the Sanctuary will be closed to the public and to PDS during the week, we will not remove the Bibles or the hymnals from the pew racks, although everyone is discouraged from touching them. The liturgy, the prayers, and the lyrics to all hymns will be printed in the Bulletin, making the use of the books in the pew racks unnecessary. We will, however, remove the shawls and the attendance pads from the Sanctuary until the pandemic has passed.
- Wear facemasks (securely covering nose and mouth) throughout the service, and always maintain social distancing. If you notice anyone failing to abide by these requirements, graciously remind them to comply so that we may all remain safe.
- Passing of the Peace: There will be no “Passing of the Peace:” no hugging, shaking hands, or other personal contact. Despite the temptation, we must avoid all person-to-person contact with one another. We will, however, pause in the service to call out “Howdy” (or say, “peace be with you”), point or wave at our neighbors, and recognize our joy in being together in God’s house.
- Singing: Based on the best medical advice available, we have decided: (a) the choir will not yet resume rehearsals; (b) familiar hymns will be played, but not sung aloud, during the worship service; and (c) our worship ministry will focus on brief ‘special presentations’ such as solos, duets, organ anthems, and invited instrumentalists.
- Liturgy: When indicated in the Bulletin, parts of our liturgy (such as the Lord’s Prayer) will be recited in unison, but facemasks will continue to be worn.
- Communion: When served, communion will be voluntary. Those wishing to be served will come forward down the center aisle while maintaining a distance of six feet (based on the separation lines placed on the carpet). The Elders, wearing clean gloves, will place the host (the bread) into each communicant’s cupped hands (please do not reach into the plate to take the bread yourself). The juice will be served in small plastic cups. Each congregant will take his or her own cup. There will be a separate receptacle in which to deposit each cup once it is used (please do not return the cup to the serving dish).
As We Depart:
- As much as it grieves us to say this, do not linger after the service. Of course, we should wave at visitors, as well as each other, but it is simply unwise to gather or mingle in any public venue. Conversations, if any, must be brief and conducted outside the church building while remaining at least six feet apart, with all participants wearing facemasks.
- The best practice, however, is to leave the church property promptly, giving thanks to God for our time together, and vowing to stay safe and cautious during the week so that we may return to worship the One upon whom we depend to guide us, protect us, and sustain us not only now in the midst of this pandemic but throughout our lives.
- Tell friends and neighbors who were unable to attend that our worship services will continue to be streamed on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/fpcofvictoria) and on our website (www.fpcofvictoria.com). While each service will be streamed live on Sunday morning, it will also be “archived” so that it can be played anytime afterwards.
- If, after you attend a worship service, you or a family member or friend with whom you have been in contact tests positive for COVID (even if the family member or friend did not attend the same worship service as you did), you must alert the Church Office IMMEDIATELY. Just as the Presbyterian Day School does, we have in place a contingency plan to notify our members to have themselves tested if appropriate. Also, do not be alarmed. Such circumstances do not involve anyone’s fault, but they do require everyone to take precautions when possibly exposed to the virus.
A Final Note:
These protocols were prepared after a great amount of research and prayerful deliberation by Worship Committee of our Session. The protocols remain flexible and subject to change, and thus we welcome input from members and visitors alike about their worship experience while these precautions are in place.
As we made hard decisions (such as not to sing hymns out loud), we were guided by the advice of a pastor in one of our sister churches in Corpus Christi who said, “You will never know if you have been too cautious, but your failure to be cautious enough will become readily apparent.” If we must err, we have chosen to err on the side of caution.
We acknowledge, also, that many in our midst are not ready to return to public worship. We understand. The preparation of these protocols does not mean that we believe you should return to worship. Each of our members should also err on the side of caution. If you have even the slightest concern, we encourage you to stay home, join us on Facebook or our website, and stay isolated until this plague has passed. You will not be forgotten or overlooked, for we shall continue to carry everyone in our hearts and prayers. May God be with us all as we try to cope during these uncertain times.