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COVID-19 Updates
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Safety Procedures & Policies updated 4/8/2022

When our church’s Covid Team was first formed, we decided to follow CDC and Florida Conference UMC guidelines as resources for our decisions. Moreover, we have sought to follow the UMC’s general rules (Do No Harm, Do Good, and Stay in love with God) and biblical guidance which encourages us to put the needs of others first, seek the peace of all, and to avoid decisions which would cause others to stumble. This posture continues to form our decisions. 


With vaccines on the rise and current case numbers at a celebratory low, our covid team finds our church in a BOTH/AND posture: "we want to relax safety measures for those who can safely do so" AND ALSO “we want to offer safe space and welcome to those who need to observe greater caution” 

  • Sanctuary seating. We will no longer rope off pews for social distancing in the large front section of the sanctuary—–AND also—–the ‘mask required’ section will remain in the back of the sanctuary (every/other pew is blocked off and masks will be available to those who need them). This allows for more seating AND accommodates those who aren’t yet comfortable sitting close to others.  
  • Water fountains are again open. We have properly flushed the lines—–AND also—–we will continue offering bottles of water at the sanctuary welcome table. 
  • Church Nursery is now open for Palm Sunday and Easter. Nursery volunteers are vaccinated, children will wash hands often, and we safely separate any toys that make their way into a child's mouth (a sanitary policy we were following anyways) —–AND also— children are welcome to remain in the sanctuary with their families. We value the gift of generations. 
  • We will not 'pass the plates' or utilize common touch items until we sense greater communal comfort and also have an organized rotation of volunteers in place. We DO want to return to this tradition at some point, so the worship team will continue to discuss these needs. In the meantime, 'connect cards' will be available in the pews for attendance and offering plates will remain on stands in the sanctuary aisle.
  • We will revisit the above decisions if the Jacksonville daily case numbers return to ‘critical’  or ‘red’ levels.

Our covid team makes these decisions with prayer and guidance from our faith principles:

  • Do No Harm: We have a responsibility to minimize harm and keep one another safe ("Do not cause each other to stumble." Romans 14:13) 
  • Do Good: We have a responsibility to serve God and minister to the needs of our neighbors. ("Let us not become weary in doing good." Galatians 6:9) 
  • Stay in Love with God: We want to offer space for everyone to worship and serve God in peace ("Encourage one another and build up one another." 1 Thessalonians 5:11) 
  • Also: We are not alone. We also seek wisdom from the CDC and leadership in the Florida Annual Conference



Previous Updates (archived) 

Covid Policy Updated 8/6/2021

When our church’s Covid Team was first formed, we decided to follow CDC and Florida Conference UMC guidelines as resources for our decisions. Moreover, we have sought to follow the UMC’s general rules (Do No Harm, Do Good, and Stay in love with God) and biblical guidance which encourages us to put the needs of others first, seek the peace of all, and to avoid decisions which would cause others to stumble.

 

Dear RPUMC Church Family, 

Grace and peace to you amid this continuing pandemic! Our church’s covid team met last night to pray and review our protocols in light of Jacksonville’s current rise in covid cases, hospitalizations, and new virus variants. 

 

We all agree that our faith in Jesus Christ means:

  • We have a responsibility to love our neighbors. (Do Good) 
  • We have a responsibility to do whatever we can to minimize hospital overload. (Do No Harm) 
  • We want the church to stay open and be as safe as possible for as many people as possible (giving space for people to worship in peace). (Stay in Love with God)

 

Therefore—as we continue to follow guidance from the cdc and our UMC conference—

We ask and strongly recommend that everyone wear masks during indoor gatherings (like the sanctuary). 

For peace of mind, the entire back of the sanctuary will be designated as a masks required seating area. 

We also ask for continued caution and vigilance about social distancing measures. 

 

Personally, I am not excited about wearing my mask again, but I keep thinking of Galatians 6:9 that says “Do not grow weary of doing good.”

 

Our team also discussed the importance of vaccines and we urge everyone to follow guidance from your doctor and medical professionals. This vaccine finder can help you find locations close to you: https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.cloversites.com/7f/7f42f79c-54f3-48ea-9deb-e2d89b7bbe49/documents/COVID19_Vaccine_-_FLDept_of_Health_-_05-19_26-21_copy.pdf

 

Let us continue to pray and seek peace for one another and our community. I long for the day when a little more normalcy will return!! 

 

Peace and love to you in the name of Jesus!

—Pastor Emily 


Updated Plan/Protocols as of 5/23/20:

  • Per CDC guidance: For those who have been vaccinated: masks will be optional. We gently ask if you have not been vaccinated, you continue to wear a mask indoors.
  • We will continue to respect social distancing boundaries (i.e. the every/other pew seating will remain in the sanctuary, but flexibility is given for smaller groups where everyone has been vaccinated)
  • We will designate a few back pews for the peace of mind of anyone who needs or wishes to sit in an area where everyone remains masked. (this area will be close to the breezeway doors where there is good cross-ventilation)
  • We HAVE returned to congregational singing (Alleluia!!) and the traditional choir has returned to the front of the sanctuary
  • Wiping pews between services: We still feel this is a necessary action. We will have wipes available and ask people to help sanitize common surfaces after the 9am service.
  • Coming soon: Church-wide survey. More information is needed for future decisions, so we will compile a church-wide survey (less than 5 questions) to explore vaccination rates and comfort levels specific to the Rpumc congregation.

As a church family, our greatest priority is loving one another well and not causing harm to one another. As such, we will trust each other to follow these guidelines accordingly. We will not check vaccine cards or add unnecessary labels. 


We understand some people who are vaccinated may still desire to wear a mask and that is ok. The whole Chancel Choir, for example, has chosen to continue wearing masks.


What we do not want to do is create division between those who are vaccinated and those who are not. Let us not add to the voice of judgement on either side of the aisle, but rather work for the peace of all. 

 

I do hope to see you in worship this Sunday (5/23) as we confirm and bless our confirmation students—and celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost!!

Thank you and bless you!

Your fellow servant in Christ,

  ~Pastor Emily

 

Do No Harm (We will work to reduce chances for possible exposure)

  • Worship is livestreamed online (via facebook live) for folks who need or wish to stay home.
  • In-person worship (sanctuary services) are altered to allow for social distancing:
    • We measured the pews and marked some for sitting and some ‘skipping’ so that everyone is guaranteed to sit at least six feet apart
    • Nothing is passed or commonly touched. Each person will pick up individual communion cups and bulletins on their way in to worship. Offering plates are placed in the aisle.
    • Hand sanitizer is available at all doors

Do Good (We will continue to serve God and love our neigbors)

  • Offering free meals for the Community. When the pandemic started, we had food purchased for our church’s Wednesday night meal. Instead of freezing it, we chose to cook it and share it with folks who’ve been hit by the additional financial burdens of the season. We now offer free take-home meals for anyone who needs or wants one. (to support this ministry and sponor a meal)
  • Our mission projects will continue (like hosting homeless families through Family Promise, assembling grief and memory boxes for Margaret’s Memories, August backpack and school supplies for the community)—and all missions will be restructured to follow cdc guidelines. 
  • We DO want to remain sensitive to the needs of those who are vulnerable, immuno-compromised, and not yet vaccinated (especially families with children)
  • We DO want to be sensitive to those who have been vaccinated, but find that masks limit their participation in worship
  • We DO want to create space for everyone to worship Christ in peace.

Stay in Love with God (We will trust God and grow in faith)

  • We continue to gather for worship in three ways: online, in-person, and for folks who stay home but cannot access the online services, we are sending weekly at-home worship packets
  • We are praying—sharing prayer requests and praying together. If you would like someone to help pray with (or for) you, access our online prayer submission button: https://riversideparkumc.com/prayer
  • At the beginning of the Pandemic, Pastor Emily posted short daily “Pass the Peace” devotionals (scriptures and prayers to keep us centered)
  • Several of our smallgroups and Sunday school classes continue to meet and study together online and/or a hybrid model