As most of you know, Trinity resumed public gathering for worship on Sunday, May 10. We resumed offering Holy Communion as part of our services on May 31. The following includes a review of most of the initial guidelines which were put out prior to “reopening” along with the procedures to maintain safety during Communion.
This update also comes with slight revision to our procedures. First a little background. On Tuesday, June 2, the Elders and I held a Zoom conference/meeting that included Doug and Angela Campbell, both of whom as most of you know are MDs. In that meeting they shared with us research they have done regarding Covid-19 risks and precautions. They gave us their informed and professional medical opinions on several items which pertain to gathering for worship. Their opinions, along with most recent CDC guidelines, included the following:
1. If you are concerned about the potential of catching Covid-19, the recommended mask would be an N95 mask (initially these were not readily available but have now become more so it would seem). 2. The purpose of cloth or other simple masks is not necessarily to protect the person wearing it but to minimize the risk of inadvertently passing on the virus to others should you have it without symptoms. 3. The Covid-19 virus is a “heavy” virus that is transmitted in droplet form. Research has shown that during regular activity such as talking, it can be transmitted up to 6 feet (thus the recommendation of at least 6 feet for social distancing). No studies have detected infectious particles more than 6 feet from its source. 4. For regular activity the primary recommended precaution (along, of course, with vigorous handwashing using soap and water) is to maintain adequate social distance. This impacts the situations mask wearing is recommended or not. 5. The use of masks: the most recent recommendations for the wearing of masks is that it is advised in situations when social distancing recommendations of 6 or more feet cannot be observed (from the CDC document Doug and Angela quoted which can be found on the CDC website: “In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. [my italics]). The Shelby County Health Department echoed this on May 18, 2020 in its FORMAL ISSUANCE OF HEALTH DIRECTIVE NO. 4. After mandating, if you will, social distancing, it says this: “Individuals should wear cloth face coverings that cover the nose and mouth in public settings where being in close proximity to others is anticipated and particularly where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain at all times.” In discussing this particular issue, Doug and Angela pointed out that the Phase 2 recommendation for Memphis’ plan for reopening (we are currently in Phase 2) does not require a mask for patrons dining at a restaurant, going to a gym, playing at a trampoline park, etc., though it does require employees to wear masks. There is some proprietary discretion regarding masking based on location. For example, masks are recommended at most YMCAs but are required at Crosstown YMCA. 6. It was noted from their research that there is a potential that the act of singing could propel droplets farther than 6 feet, but study is still ongoing. To quote Doug and Angela on singing and droplet spread: “One study (my italics) of peak exhalation speeds indicated a (droplet) cloud up to 27 feet. However, WHO, CDC, and virologist consensus continues to be that Coronavirus probably won’t travel more than 6 feet.” They also reported that transmission by aerosol emission from the lungs while singing has not been scientifically shown to occur but is still being studied. 7. Wearing of gloves to prevent the spread of the virus during food handling is not necessary when handwashing of 20 or more seconds immediately before is available. They discussed this in the context of Communion. 8. The virus can live on surfaces indoors for about 72 hours.
Based on all of this information, as well as other guidelines consulted by the Elders, the following aforementioned minor updates to our procedures are being put in place (in bold).
To comply with safety guidelines, we continue to ask that everyone closely observe the minimum 6-foot social distancing guidelines. We continue to limit the number of people per service to around 50 to help with this. In order to accommodate everyone, we have been holding 2 Sunday services – the first service at 9:15 a.m., the second at 10:30. We will continue to have 2 services for now. For the time being, we will continue not to hold in-person Sunday School/Bible class, choir, small groups, etc.
In order that we not exceed the number of people in either service who can be safely accommodated with adequate social distancing, we ask that you sign up for the service you intend to attend. A weekly email will continue to be sent out with a link to sign up. If you prefer, you may call the church office to sign up. If we reach maximum capacity for a given service, we will be asking anyone wishing to sign up for that service to attend the other.
A few important further notes. First, and this is a change, we still encourage/recommend worshipers to wear masks. As noted above, wearing a cloth or other simple mask does not necessarily protect the person from catching Covid-19 or any other illness-producing germs. It does, however, minimize the risk of passing on the virus to others should you have it without symptoms, especially when adequate social distancing cannot be consistently maintained. For some who struggle with the idea of wearing a mask (besides health reasons), it may at times, nonetheless, involve making a sacrifice to wear a mask out of love for others, if for no other reason than wearing a mask helps assure peace of mind for your brothers and sisters in Christ. As St. Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians, sometimes we forego freedoms rightly ours for the sake of others’ faith and well-being. If you do not have one, we have masks available. With all of the above in mind, for the first, or 9:15, service wearing a mask continues to be required. For the second, or 10:30, service we still strongly encourage wearing a mask during service but are not requiring it, that is as long as 6-plus feet of social distancing is maintained at all times during the service. There are two caveats to this. One is that we still request that everyone wear a mask into and out of service until seated in the sanctuary, as entering and exiting present more difficulty with maintaining adequate social distancing. The second caveat is with singing. We are blessed to still have a vocalist singing at this time. For all worshipers we encourage allowing her to be the primary voice in singing for all of us while we most certainly make a joyful noise in our hearts! If you choose to sing in either service, we ask that you continue to do it “softly.” In the second service we are requesting that you please do wear a mask if you are singing; or, if you choose not to wear a mask during the whole service, please do not sing. (Mouthing along with the words without voice would not be considered singing). … Second, we will continue to livestream the service during the 10:30 time for those who are unable to attend worship or are not comfortable attending yet. This obviously does not replace being gathered with the body of Christ in Church, but it does allow anyone to participate in worship who is not able to come for health or other reasons. As a reminder, you can go to our Facebook page – TrinityMemphis – to access the service. Also, we will continue to post the worship bulletin and Trinity Today on our website if you would like to use them to follow along with the service. … Third, for Holy Communion see the procedure we will be following below. … Fourth, if you have any symptoms of illness (coughing, trouble breathing, fever, etc.), out of respect for the health of others, we respectfully request that you not attend worship until you are well. … Fifth, if you are a person who is at higher risk to contract Covid-19, such as being immunocompromised, having other respiratory or heart conditions, etc., we encourage you to consider staying home and watching the livestream for your own health and well-being. … Sixth, we request that you maintain the minimum 6-foot distance with others at all times, avoiding shaking hands, hugs, etc. … Seventh, to ensure proper sanitization, the elders will be wiping down pews that are used between services, as well as doorknobs at entry points and the like. … Eighth, we ask that you take your bulletin home with you after the service and dispose of it yourself or place it in the recycle basket on the floor just outside the sanctuary in the narthex. We will not be reusing bulletins for different services. Our goal is to also avoid elders or ushers having to handle them after you. … Ninth, for the time being the nursery will remain closed during services. If you need to take a young child out for a few moments, we suggest the fellowship hall. We will also not be making the “busy bags” for young children available for now until we can get a safe and quick disinfecting plan in place for between services. …
Here are a few other requests / considerations.
Before Worship Services:
1. Handwashing – We request that everyone be diligent in handwashing, washing hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. This is one of the greatest defenses against the spread of this virus or any other illness. Please wash before and after the service. This obviously includes those who are serving at a given service. Please wash before, during (as necessary), and after the service, and regularly use hand sanitizer when washing is not an option.
2. Again, if you are sick or are someone who is at higher risk if you contract the virus (immunocompromised, respiratory or heart issues, other underlying health issues, elderly, etc.), please do not feel guilty about staying home for now. For your own well-being and that of others, we encourage it, especially if health issues are a concern for you already.
3. Greeters – We have requested that our greeters not shake hands or have other physical contact with worshipers as they enter or exit the building.
4. Ushers – Ushers will continue to pass out worship bulletins to people as they enter worship. They will be regularly using hand sanitizer as they do.
During Worship Services:
1. “Social Distancing” – See above.
2. As attendance increases, it may be necessary that an elder usher you to a seat if space is not being maximized or used safely. Please do not be surprised if this happens. We will only be using every other pew. Also, we can safely seat 3 individuals per pew when properly spaced out. This does not include families who have already been around one another and do not necessarily need to maintain the 6-foot social distance.
3. Use of Hymnals and Bibles – Handling of hymnals will not be necessary. All hymns will be printed in the worship bulletin for the time being.
4. Offering – Rather than passing the offering plates through the pews during the service, the offering plates will be sitting at the front of the sanctuary, one on the lectern side and one on the pulpit side. You may place your offering in one of the plates prior to the service or after the service. We do also offer an online giving option. This can be accessed through the church’s website at trinitymemphis.org. This is very secure. You may schedule automatic withdrawal or make a one-time offering. You may make donations through a banking account or using a credit or debit card. We ask that people consider giving online, especially during this time when we hadn’t been meeting for several weeks and giving may continue to be lower as attendance is likely decreased.
5. Sharing of the Peace – Sharing of the peace is on hold indefinitely.
6. Holy Communion – We will have the Sacrament at both services. We have made several procedural changes for the foreseeable future:
a. The procedure for Communion will be “Continuous.” Rather than coming to the rail where distance and no contact are impossible to maintain, communicants will line up and receive the Sacrament from the front of the chancel area one by one. We ask that as you wait in line, please observe the appropriate recommended distance from the person in front of you.
b. For now, we will only offer individual cups. If you regularly receive the Lord’s blood from the common cup, we encourage you to receive from an individual cup and not forego it. We are aware that there are some churches which only offer the bread/body of our Lord at this time, with the reasoning that if you receive the body, the blood must logically be present in it. This is not what our Lord has given and commanded us, however. He clearly commands and invites that we receive both His body and blood with the words, “Take, eat …. Take, drink.”
c. For your safety, the pastor and assisting elder will wear mask and gloves. They will sanitize their hands immediately prior to gloving for distribution.
d. The pastor will place the bread/body of our Lord in your hands. During this time, he will not place the Sacrament on people’s tongues.
e. If you normally need assistance by an usher, we invite you to commune at your seat. Please let one of the ushers know so the pastor can be made aware. If you choose to come up and need an usher’s assistance in any way, please do not take the hand of the usher assisting you. He or she will assist you by taking you by the elbow to help you.
f. There will not be an acolyte holding the tray for used cups. In place of the trays will be baskets of some sort. We ask that you discard your cup into one of the baskets.
7. Tissues are supplied in the sanctuary should you need them. Hand sanitizer is available for your use in at least one of the windowsills on each side of the sanctuary and also in the transept area.
1. The pastor will be in his normal place to greet worshipers. If you normally stand in the “receiving line” to greet and be greeted by the pastor, please do not feel obligated during this time. Until the risk is lower, the pastor will greet you verbally but not shake hands or have other contact. He will be wearing a mask for greeting.
2. Fellowship – We will not provide food for fellowship during this time and ask that before and after services we have limited numbers of people in the fellowship hall at a time to maintain safe distancing.
3. If you attend the 9:15 service, we ask that you exit the building fairly quickly after the service. Worshipers for the 10:30 service will soon be coming in, and we want to try to adhere to capacity guidelines as best as we are able.
4. Again, please take your bulletin home with you or properly dispose of it. Please do not set it with unused bulletins for someone else to possibly use, and don’t leave it in the pew or elsewhere in the sanctuary or building that would cause someone else to have to handle it.
We sincerely appreciate your help in observing these precautions in order to keep you safe and well, as well as your brothers and sisters in Christ around you!