Rev. Mark Jardine, Senior Pastor
It seems that everyone is facing difficult choices about when and how to re-engage in public life. The coronavirus has changed many aspects of life. However, we still worship every week. Classes meet. Volunteers nurture our community. And over 160 households took time to answer questions and provide guidance for church leaders about how we can safely open the building and return to in-person worship.
A Chapel Hill Re-Launch Committee to work alongside me has been formed to formulate a phased plan that will help us begin to use our building again, for community groups and for our congregation. The Re-Launch Committee includes representatives of the medical community, our administrative committee heads and staff: Barb Barrett as chairperson, Pam Lane as secretary, Rich Rudebach, John Hinman, Dick Wegener, Julie Raney, staff are Shari Detwiler and Alan Murphy-Crouso, primary medical consultant is Jim Barrett.
The Re-Launch Committee reviewed the survey responses in detail, Oklahoma United Methodist conference guidelines, medical information and followed by extensive discussion determined that Chapel Hill will work toward an 8:30am in-person worship service beginning Sunday, July 19, as the first phase. Our service, and how we use the building will be an adjustment. The Re-Launch Committee will be using your comments and the experiences of others to create a comprehensive plan to ensure a safe environment which will be shared weekly as we move toward that date and beyond that date into future phases of the relaunch.
So what did we learn from your responses?
About the Congregational Respondents
*66% of the respondents self-identified as “high-risk” or as living with high-risk individuals
*46% have maintained strict stay-at-home orders, leaving home only when necessary. And 44% complied with these orders most of the time.
*90% said that the online worship exceeded or met expectations.
A Return to In-Person Worship
*35% said a treatment or vaccine might be necessary for them to attend an in-person worship service.
*71% said they would feel comfortable returning to in-person worship after July: 26.3% in July, roughly 45% said they would wait to return for even longer, into the fall or winter.
*Of the 28.7% who said they wanted to return in June 11% said they felt cautious to uncomfortable to return
*87% are willing to attend a service time different than their usual service.
What Safety Precautions are Important to You
*A vast majority plan to return and follow safe social distancing and public safety protocols:
*77% will wear a mask
*96% will avoid shaking hands
*82% will observe social distance of 6 feet apart
The Worst and the Best
The best and the worst things noted by respondents are the same: technology.
*We know that many of you have been frustrated by the technical issues as we upgrade our equipment and improve the on-line services. Of course, we cannot control the overarching demands on Cox Cable in our area, but we are taking steps constantly to improve.
*But many of you lifted up the rapid movement into technology from congregational members and teachers as one of the things that helped you feel connected to Chapel Hill during the Covid-19 outbreak. Sunday schools and classes, social media, Things That Matter and special worship services during Holy Week and through May all seemed to help someone. Your appreciation is uplifting and helpful as we continue to press forward.
We will continue to keep you advised as the Re-Launch Committee makes their plans. Thanks to your generosity and your input we have the resources to expand our abilities and to lean into an evangelistic effort that is new to Chapel Hill but offers us a way to reach the next generation.