Church Response to Johnson County Health Services Regulations
(Updated July 5, 2020)
Previously, we were able to comply with our County’s April 1 “Stay at Home” order even though we were exempted from most of its requirements.
Tomorrow, July 6, new regulations from our County Health Services will go into effect, requiring persons to wear masks inside of public places, forcing us to confront some awkward issues.
First, we would dispute that a “place of worship” is in fact a “place of public accommodation or public indoor space.” Historically, churches in the United States have always been viewed as “private” places and property. As a private facility, this new regulation would not apply to our church.
Second, we believe the First Amendment guaranteeing a “separation of church and state” would this case, prevent our county government from requiring masks that would alter our worship environment and experience.
Third, the new regulation specifically exempts pastors from wearing a face mask when “speaking to a group” while maintaining “social distancing.” Section 1d reads “including but not limited to pastor of a church” and would surely include our theology of congregational singing in worship of “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs….” (Ephesians 5:19).
However, while we could circumvent this new regulation regarding “the letter of the law” it would be unwise to skirt “the spirit of the law.” Our county is attempting to keep our citizens safe and has issued this new regulation based in its understanding of scientific and medical information. There is no need for our church to give a belligerent or rigid response to this new regulation.
We continue to embrace opposite viewpoints within our church body on the topic of the Coronavirus. No other issue comes close to threatening our unity and single-mindedness. We ask that you exercise the utmost grace and deference to your brothers and sisters in Christ on this matter.
The following policy will be effective as of Monday, July 6 until further notice. Compliance with these practices is voluntary. Members should understand there are several exemptions to wearing masks in the guidelines. We do ask for your cooperation as we seek to move forward as united as possible with our diverse viewpoints on the severity of this disease and what responses are most appropriate. We wish to protect the health of our members, particularly those who feel vulnerable to this disease; and to comply with our county government’s guideline of increased protection against COVID-19.
Members should wear masks when entering and exiting our facility.
Members who wish to remove their masks once seated inside the sanctuary should sit in appropriate areas of social distancing (these areas will be marked).
Protracted conversations and personal interactions (fellowshipping) should be done outdoors where masks are not required when social distancing is practiced. If extended conversations are necessary indoors, use the side room off the foyer or the north side of the lobby and do not clog traffic flow.
The drinking fountain will be closed. If water is necessary, please bring your own water from home or use bottled water provided.
Bathrooms should be used for necessity only, not for convenience or cosmetic purposes.
Will I be stopped from coming into church if I don’t have a mask?
No one will be prevented from entering our church or participating in worship if they forgot a mask, choose not to wear a mask, or exercise their exemption from the requirement of wearing a mask.
Will the pastor wear a mask when preaching?
Neither the pastor nor others involved in worship will be wearing masks during the worship service. When entering and exiting during our corporate gatherings, he will wear a mask.
Should I wear my mask during the worship service and while singing?
Members are not asked to wear masks during the worship service, but may choose to do so. We encourage safe spacing (social distancing) when sitting in the sanctuary. It will be difficult to sing with clarity, reverence, and enthusiasm while masked.
What is the safest area in our church?
The back door will be maintained rigidly as a safe space. Masks are required for entering and exiting from that location. For anyone not wearing a mask for whatever reason, please use the front entrance.
Resumption of In-Person Services
(Updated May 9, 2020)
In accordance with the state of Missouri's most recent COVID-19 guidelines, we are resuming our normally-scheduled services as of May 10, 2020. We recognize that the threat of the virus has not disappeared, and we will continue to practice good citizenship by maintaining a six-foot distance between family units throughout our services to the maximum extent practical and by practicing good hygiene. In addition, if you self-identify as a member of a high-risk demographic and don't feel comfortable joining us in person, we will continue live-streaming our services on Facebook. Finally, if you feel sick, stay home! We want to see you and worship with you, but following these guidelines is the best way for us to love one another and stay as physically healthy as possible.