Opening Observations

We are so excited to reopen our sanctuary for live worship on June 27-28!  As we’ve developed our reopening plans, we’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the latest COVID-19 information, examples of outbreaks, and how other churches are reopening.  We live in a world saturated with information and misinformation, but the following points are agreed upon by the vast majority of people, and have been some of the guiding information in our approach to reopening:


  • It is possible for someone to have COVID-19 and be contagious, while not having any symptoms.
  • There have been situations where a large number of people in an enclosed room for a period of time were infected together (9 in a restaurant, 52 in a choir rehearsal, 94 in a call center, 127 in a nursing home), which indicates that the virus can spread through the air. 
  • According to the CDC, out of all the known COVID-19 cases in America since March 1st, there has been a 0.2% rate of hospitalization for people over the age of 65, meaning at most only 1 out of every 500 people 65 and older who get COVID-19 end up in the hospital.
  • However, people with underlying health conditions, such as severe asthma, serious heart conditions, liver disease, kidney disease, obesity, diabetes, and weakened immune systems are at higher risk for having a severe illness with COVID-19.
  • To the best of our knowledge, it is likely that few people in our congregation have immunity for COVID-19 (i.e. they have not already been infected with COVID-19).

 

We are always learning more about COVID-19, but for now this information calls for caution, but not panic.  We do not need to act out of fear, but we do want to act out of considerate love for others.  

 

We cannot eliminate all risk when we gather for worship (if you attend, you are assuming the risk).  This is why we strongly encourage those who are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 to stay home, at least during the initial steps of our reopening.  But what we can do is take steps to mitigate the risk, while still enabling our congregation to gather together relatively safely to worship our wonderful Savior.  With this in mind, our reopening plans are largely geared toward keeping people spatially distanced from others.  


Please keep in mind as you read through the details of our plans that this is a constantly evolving situation, and these procedures may change at any time.  This is simply the first step of our reopening for worship.

RSVP System

In order to have people be at least 6 feet apart in our sanctuary, we will have assigned seating at all of our worship services: 5:00pm on Saturdays, 8:00am & 10:30am on Sundays.  This will limit our capacity to around 100 people in a worship service (about 20% room capacity).  We believe we will be able to accommodate most people for worship each weekend, although sometimes people may have to wait for the next weekend.

 

In developing our RSVP system, we wanted to prioritize people who have not been in a worship service a long time.  In other words, if weeks into our reopening, someone has not been to a worship service yet, they will be able to get to “the front of the line.”  We think this is an important aspect of ministering to those who are in greatest need of gathering for worship.

 

So, we are asking you to RSVP for a worship service you want to attend (you can make a standing reservation for each week if you’d like).  This can be done by either filling out the form at www.stlukemesa.com/RSVP or calling our church office at 480-969-4414.  

 

IMPORTANT: Each week on Thursday afternoon, we will be contacting people to inform them if we have a seat available for them in the upcoming weekend services.  This will happen through an e-mail or phone call, and you will be given a seat assignment (section and row).  We ask that you confirm your plans to join us for worship by Friday afternoon.  Confirming your reservation can be done by e-mail or phone.

 

Please only show up for a worship service if you have made an RSVP and have received a seat assignment the Thursday before the worship service. 

sanitization

Over the past month, we have had professional cleaning companies complete a detailed and deep-clean of our worship center, including our pew upholstery.  Our worship center lobby has also received a fresh coat of paint.

 

We have also contracted with a professional cleaning company to wipe down and disinfect our pews, bathrooms, and family areas before our 8:00 service, between our 8:00 & 10:30 service, and after our 10:30 service on Sunday mornings.  We also have purchased motion-activated hand-sanitizer dispensers which will be placed in key areas (lobby entrance, bathroom entrance, etc.).  Finally, we have installed motion-activated hand soap dispensers and motion-activated paper towel dispensers in our worship center bathrooms.

families with young children

We have removed our children’s play-bags from the lobby and will not be distributing children’s bulletins.  We encourage families to bring their own items for their children to use during the services, but our staff has also prepared one-time use bags in case this is helpful.  These will be in clear Ziplock bags and available in the info center of our lobby.

 

We will not offer children’s church during our services.  For families who desire to remove themselves temporarily from a worship service because of their children, the nursery and toddler room (across the hall from the nursery) will be available for use, one family at a time.  These rooms have TVs with a live feed of the service in them, but they will not be professionally staffed, so parents will need to stay in these rooms together with their children.  The lobby can also be used.

pew materials

During our initial steps of reopening, we will remove all hymnals, Bibles, and pew cards from the pews.  We will have a text-in option, where you will be able to essentially fill out a blue CONNECT card with a simple text on your phone.  In the future, we will develop an app that will allow people to check-in, view the weekly readings, see previous sermons, and access our weekly bulletin, among other things.

service elements

Our services will be a little different.  During our initial steps of reopening, we will not have communion during our worship services, but continue to provide drive-through opportunities for communion on various Saturday mornings.  

 

We will not be passing offering baskets, however, we have installed wall-mounted offering boxes in our worship center on each side of the three exits.  Donations can be dropped in these boxes on your way in or out of worship.

 

At the end of the worship service, we will dismiss people sitting in the back first, so as to avoid a bottleneck at our exits.  Our goal is that people who want to will be able to walk into worship, experience our service, and walk back to their car without spending significant time within 6 feet of other people.  For those who do wish to visit with friends (we know it’s important!), we strongly encourage this to be done outside, and for people to remain 6 feet apart as they socialize.  We will not be providing coffee and doughnuts in our courtyard in our initial reopening steps.

masks

Due to the basic COVID-19 realities outlined in our opening section, and because we will be singing in our worship services, we strongly ask all people over the age of 10 to wear masks in our services.  This is purely out of concern for others who will be nearby in the service, because the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through the air.  We earnestly want to avoid a “breakout” of COVID-19 at St. Luke’s, and wearing a mask significantly lowers how far the air travels out of your mouth, especially when singing.  

 

We know it is not comfortable to wear a mask while singing, but in our initial steps of reopening, we cannot stress enough how urgently we ask people to wear a mask out of consideration for those around you, some of whom may be at high-risk.  Our worship gatherings are unique events, in that they involve a large number of people in the same indoor space for an extended period of time, all singing together, with a significant percentage of elderly people.  

 

Wearing masks is one of the many procedures we hope to change as soon as possible, and thank you for your patience during our initial phase of reopening.  Masks will be available as you enter the worship center lobby.

 

We are requiring our volunteers to wear masks.  This is because they will be interacting with most of the people in attendance.  Because Pastor Luke and our worship leaders need to use microphones, and because they will be positioned significantly more than 6 ft. away from others, they will not be wearing a mask as they lead portions of the service, but this is only because of practical needs.

contingency plans

We have set up a dedicated room (room 409) with basic medical supplies in case anyone becomes sick or symptomatic during a worship service.  

 

We have also created communication protocols, backup plans, redundancy efforts, and further policies in preparation for the event that an attendee or a staff person is found to have been contagious with COVID-19.  If circumstances arise that require us to cancel our weekend services, we will communicate that expediently through all of our communication methods.

bible studies

This is During our initial steps of reopening, we will not be holding Bible studies or children’s classes on campus during the 9:30 hour.  In order to allow people to join us both for worship on campus and Bible study at home, our online classes (for all ages) will be shortened to run from 9:30-10:00 in order to provide time to travel to/from worship.  It is likely that our services will be a little shorter as well, which may provide more travel time for people attending the 8:00 service.


in conclusion

We’d like to stress again that these procedures are not created out of fear or panic, but love for others.  We know some of these policies are inconvenient, but we believe it will be encouraging to gather together again for worship.  We have taken steps to make it easy to follow these procedures (such as adding signage), and have tried to follow these guidelines ourselves (for instance, we have not asked volunteers to serve if they are at high risk).

 

We urgently pray (and ask you to join us in this) that God would provide medical breakthroughs and solutions very soon and bring us through this time quickly.  We truly look forward to when we can all look back and say, “That was an unusual time.”  But for now, these are our initial plans, formed out of a loving concern for all of God’s people.

 

If you have any questions or comments, please call our church office at (480) 969-4414.