First Presbyterian Church to Public Worship
When confronted by COVID-19, a highly contagious airborne virus which posed a significant threat to the health and safety of the members and friends of First Presbyterian Church of Winter Haven, the Session suspended the gathering for public worship, initiating virtual worship services exclusively beginning March 22, 2020.
With a continued concern for the health and welfare our church family, seeking to maintain robust virtual worship while also providing the safe opportunity for those who wish to again assemble in God’s house for praise and prayer, the Session appointed a Task Force on the Re-Opening of First Presbyterian Church for Worship, and re-entry in public gatherings.
Moving toward opening the doors of God’s house once again for services of public worship, the Task Force met for prayerful research and refection on two questions:
1) What criteria should be used for allowing the return to public worship?
2) What will public worship look like as we first return?
On June 2, 2020, the Session met for discussion on the Task Force recommendations and adopted the following Plan for Re-opening:
1) Guided by Polk County statistics on the efforts to combat the COVID-19 virus, as evidenced in a steady or downward trend in the number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations and in the percentage of positive cases (as compared to total tested) reported, the church has re-opened our doors to those who wish to attend in-person worship. (We have also continued our vibrant virtual on-line worship experience on FaceBook Live)
2) As we return to public worship in our church facility, we will implement the following measures to provide for the health and safety of our sisters and brothers in Christ.
a) Our worship schedule includes 2 Sunday worship services in our sanctuary – Heart of Worship at 9:00 am and Traditional Worship at 11:00 am. (This time change for Heart of Worship service allows for thorough cleaning between services.)
b) The second-floor exterior doors leading to the walkway to the CE building will remain open to increase the flow our fresh air into our ventilation system.
c) All worshipers will be greeted under the porte-cochere at the west entrance with a brief health questionnaire.
d) All worshippers will be asked to complete or bring a daily attendance card.
e) Out of concern and care for all who gather for worship, all worshipers ages three and older will be required to wear a face covering (covering mouth and nose) while inside the church buildings.
f) Hand sanitation stations will be located throughout the church facility with all encouraged to use upon entrance and exiting facility and other designated area (water fountains, restrooms, elevator buttons, stair rails, etc.)
g) All paths leading to the worship space will be marked with six-foot separation stripes.
h) The sanctuary will be marked with “worship sites for family units” (a single person, couple, or family grouping) with 8-foot separation in all directions for safe social distancing. (The first row of the balcony will be left vacant)
i) Ushers (observing a six-foot separation) will escort worshipers to the next available worship site, filling the sanctuary from front to back, to minimize contact in passing by other worshipers.
j) The worship services will be shown by livestream video in McLeod Hall, which will have worship site seating in 8-foot separation for over-flow or late-arriving worshipers.
k) Worship will be modified by restricting singing and choir, in accordance with best practices, to reduce the threat of airborne virus spread.
l) Following worship, ushers will dismiss the congregation starting at the back of the sanctuary and proceeding to the front, encouraging those who need to use the elevator to proceed to that location with safe distancing and asking those who can traverse the stairs to proceed to the north or south side stairwells.
m) Immediately after the sanctuary is vacated following the Heart of Worship service, sanitation teams (our custodian, Tonia, and trained volunteers – all of whom will wear protective eye wear, masks, and gloves) will disinfect all surfaces which have been touched in preparation for the arrival of the next worshipers.
n) The pastors will have exited immediately following the benediction via the front doors and proceeded to the porte-cochere for socially distanced farewells to worshipers.
o) Children will be asked to worship with their parents, and childcare will not be provided.
The Session will continue to monitor the progression of the COVID-19 virus in our community, and will meet regularly to discuss any modifications to our public worship plan. The Session will also be making decisions on the resumption of other in-person activities here in our church facilities. We look forward to our continued life together as Christ’s body.