COVID-19 Update: Returning to Campus

COVID-19 Update: Returning to Campus

Returning to Campus: A Phased Approach

In mid-May, FUMC Allen staff and leadership began planning for public worship, hoping to shift to a livestream/public worship hybrid on June 7.

A Directive from Our Bishop

As United Methodists, we are part of the North Central District of the North Texas Conference and under the authority of Bishop Michael McKee. On May 15, Bishop McKee sent a letter to all churches in the North Texas Conference with this directive:

At this time, it is not in the best interest of community health for the churches in the Metro and North Central Districts to gather for public worship. The White House and the Centers for Disease Control say that Phase I reopening of states and regions can begin after 14 days of downward trajectory. Currently, the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to increase in the Greater Dallas area. It is not possible to predict a date when churches will open for public worship in the Greater Dallas area, but I will be watching the data carefully and will communicate again in June.

You can read the full text of Bishop McKee’s letter here

While we are all eager to be together in the same room for the act of worshiping, we will continue to livestream our worship services on Sunday mornings. We’ll continue with this plan at least until the end of June or when Bishop McKee gives us permission to hold public worship in our building.

A Three-Phased Plan

Staff and leadership have pivoted and have imagined new ways for the people of FUMC Allen to be together that do not entail public worship. Below is a three-phased plan that will enable us to be together in ways that follow CDC guidelines and enable all who are ready to gather in-person to feel safe as we take every precaution to keep our community healthy.

Please note: Phases 2 and 3 are still in development and will be adjusted based on the most current information available at the time of release.

Phase 1

Phase 1 goes into effect on Monday, June 1. This phase will impact the following areas: worship, small groups, missions, and administration/facilities:

Worship

  • Move livestream worship time to 11:00am, beginning Sunday, June 7.
  • Encourage households to join with other households with the same “risk tolerance” (see COVID Risk Tolerance guide below) to participate in livestream worship together (see In-Home Worship and Guidelines below).
  • Continue pre-recording music remotely for use in livestream worship services.

Small groups

Through their staff liaison, small groups may reserve the courtyard, other outdoor spaces, and large indoor spaces (see chart below) any morning, afternoon, or  evening, except as specified below:

  • Spaces will not be available for small group meetings on Sunday mornings.
  • Reserve space and preset chairs for 25 percent capacity or less.
  • Groups must observe social distancing. Masks strongly encouraged.
  • The youth wing and gym is reserved for our Youth Ministry programs on Sunday and Wednesday evenings.
  • Elementary grade-specific groups may meet in children’s large gathering area by invitation only.
  • Children’s Ministry will continue to provide digital Sunday School resources for families.

Room NumberRoom Name50% capacity
S125Sanctuary400
W250Chapel49
N198Fellowship Hall68
S124Gym185 for events
40 for sports
C170Children's Large Gathering Area55
W257Youth Large Group75
S207/211Classroom24

Missions

  • Continue to offer modified opportunities to serve through Change the World Allen by way of at-home projects, drive- through collection drop offs, home repair/yard work micro-projects, and more.
  • Promote modified opportunities to serve with partner organizations, such as Project Transformation and Allen Community Outreach (ACO)

Administration/Facilities

  • Open church offices Monday through Friday from 9:100am to 1:00pm. Guests may access the building through the south entrance only and will need to use the buzzer/call button to gain entry.
  • Provide abundant hand sanitizer and hygiene/wellness notifications near church entrances.
  • Provide masks at reception desk, if needed.
  • Decline requests for outside rentals.
  • Clean/sanitize each area after use. Our housekeeping staff will follow CDC protocols.
  • Limit capacity in all restrooms.

In-home worship

In the spirit of the early church in Acts, we invite you to consider inviting others to worship with you in your house.

Throughout the course of Christian history into modern day, house-churches and home groups have been some of the biggest catalysts for spiritual renewal and deeper discipleship. From the catacombs and backrooms of the Roman world to the hidden churches in China today, the idea of your home as a sanctuary and base camp for Christian mission is one necessary even when we deem it safe to come back for public worship.

guidelines to consider

  • Limit the number to 10-15 people or less. You can invite people from your small group as well as your friends, neighbors, and people who you know have the same “risk tolerance” as you and your household.
  • Consider your environment. If you have a usable screen on an outdoor patio, worship there. If this isn’t an option, make sure you have enough seats to where people aren’t consistently breathing each other’s exhalation. The ability to open airways, such as windows or doors, is a good idea for ventilation when singing, as the force of your breath when singing is one of the more powerful ways to spread the virus. Consider lighting a candle or other simple ways of setting apart this time as sacred.
  • Maintain common sense. If you feel ill or are showing signs of illness, don’t take anyone’s invitation and do not invite anyone over. If you are someone at high risk or someone with high exposure, please do not participate in home worship at this time.
  • Actually worship. Sing together without embarrassment and pray/respond out loud. You can be sure that no one will care what your voice sounds like. On the contrary, they will be so grateful to hear your voice in person. Have worship materials ready to use from our website or make sure that everyone can see the lyrics/words on the screen.
  • Continue to register. Complete the Google form found on our livestream worship page and use the churches Facebook  feed to interact with the rest of the congregation through your comments. Tune in on time. Don’t use this worship time as simply a social time; remember that we are one in God’s Spirit, and we need you to be whole.
  •  If children are present, ensure they are following common sense safety guidelines. If you are comfortable, let them do Sunday School together.

Risk Tolerance

Be aware that not everyone has the same “risk-tolerance.” The staff and church leaders have found the following chart to be very helpful as we seek to be sensitive to one another. We encourage you to consider where you are on this chart at this time and let it inform the way that you interact with sensitivity to others.

Phase 2

Phase 2 goes into effect when Bishop McKee allows us to come together for public worship.

Please note that this phase is still under development.

  • Continue offering livestream worship at 11:00am.
  • Offer in-person worship at 11:00am, respecting the sanctuary capacity of 200 people. Make overflow space available
  • Provide offering baskets at the exits for those who desire to make their offering on Sunday morning. Bulletins and hymnals will not be available.
  • Mark pews to indicate physical distancing. We will remain in our pews and greet each other from a distance.
  • Due to the increased risk associated with singing, invite the congregation to participate in other ways, such as humming or clapping.
  • Continue to keep Missions Café closed. We will not provide coffee service.
  • Refrain from congregating in the atrium. Invite those who would like to continue their fellowship to do so in the courtyard or other outdoor space.
  • Provide take-home worship activity bags. Children will remain with their families during worship. Children’s Sunday school will not meet.
  • Provide childcare for children four and under.
  • Offer a “Wiggles and Giggles” room for children and their families who need to move during worship.
  • Continue to pre-record the children’s message and invite children to remain with their families in their pews
  • Encourage vulnerable population to worship through livestream.
  • Continue small group guidance as in Phase 1

Phase 3

Phase 3 is still in development.

  • Invite vulnerable populations to meet in person.
  • Allow congregational singing.
  • Resume children’s Sunday school–nursery through sixth grade.
  • Consider lifting group size restrictions.

While we hope to move through these phases in a linear manner, we realize infections may increase again and physical distancing recommendations may be tightened temporarily.