Out of concern for the safety of all people participating in in-person gatherings at Grace, your Congregation Council held a called meeting on Saturday, July 31. This meeting was held in consultation with four of our Reopening Task Force members (Amparo Acosta-Oviedo, Stephanie Winkel, Ken Ring, and Greg Dodd - three of whom have public health experience).
The conversation was long and thorough. We learned and discussed local data and public health concerns due to the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus with implications for our Grace family. The local positivity rate has ballooned from only 1.2% on July 11 to 8.4% on July 29. This puts Henderson County in the “severe” category for CoVid19 infections. We have blown past our previous marker of 5% for reconsideration of these guidelines.
The Council recognizes that as knowledge is accumulated and public health policies are changed in response to this novel virus, that whatever precautions we take at Grace will not please everyone - as much as we wish it could. Our recommendations are our best attempt to be safe while minimizing the risk for all who choose to gather for in-person activities. With the ten items listed below we seek to accomplish two key goals:
1. We continue to show love for our neighbors. Grace has many members in the more vulnerable risk category due to age and/or complicating health factors, whether they are vaccinated or not.
2. We want to continue to be able to gather as a community. CoVid has wearied us in multiple ways. One significant way is the increased loneliness that isolation and being apart from family and friends has created.
With a unanimous vote of those present (11), the Council adopted the following guidelines for in-person activities at Grace beginning Aug. 2.
1. Masks are required for all people - vaccinated & not vaccinated - during all indoor activities at Grace.
2. Meetings and classes will only be held in Fellowship Hall, Stull Hall, or the sanctuary to allow for ample air flow and spacing (3-6 feet) between people.
3. Alternating pews will be blocked off to aid in creating safe spacing between worshipers.
4. Choir will spread out more (10-12 feet spacing) to prevent possible spread.
5. Temperature checks at the door will be reinstated. This will allow for temperature checkers to ask health questions.
6. Preschool and children/youth ministries will follow NCDHHS preschool guidelines.
7. Outside groups using the church will be expected to follow these guidelines.
8. Church staff will work on a two-step process to create a database of members’ vaccination status.
9. Once the positivity rate for Henderson County goes below 5%, Council will re-evaluate these guidelines.
10. Indoor fellowship, with food and drink, including memorial service receptions, will not be allowed currently. Outdoor fellowship with food and drink is allowed.
We thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation by abiding by these guidelines so that we can continue to gather for meaningful activities as safely as possible.
Terrell West, Council President
Pastor Greg Williams, Sr. Pastor
Religious activities, including worship services, bible studies and youth group meetings, are the third leading source of COVID-19 clusters in North Carolina, The News & Observer reported.
At least 1,180 coronavirus cases in the state are linked to 88 clusters at religious events, and at least 18 people have died.
Meat and poultry processing plants are responsible for the most cases attributable to a cluster, followed by colleges and universities, according to Department of Health and Human Services data.
The state defines a cluster as five or more cases with positive test results or illness onset within a 14-day period.
The recent spread comes as more churches opt to return to in-person services. A federal judge in May said churches should be allowed to gather after several sued the governor.
One of the largest clusters traced to a religious gathering is at United House of Prayer for All People in Mecklenburg County, which has been the source of 121 COVID-19 cases and at least three deaths. The church held convocation events from Oct. 4-11 that attracted up to 1,000 people.
Mecklenburg health officials say 68 COVID-19 cases are connected to the United House of Prayer for All People church in Charlotte NC. Two people have died. The county said it will host a no-cost, drive-thru testing event Thursday and Friday.
Finally, THANK YOU to everyone who shared their time and skills to safely record and assemble the various segments of worship for Reformation Sunday - especially Dave Carver, our Producer/Director for Video & Streaming Ministry, who assembled the service that you viewed as it was streamed.