Along with his plans for reopening Indiana’s economy and travel, Governor Holcomb issued new suggestions for churches. It is very clear in the document that he is not dictating anything to us about how we worship or whether or not we are allowed to worship. He seems to take great pains to be clear that his document is only advisory and in no way mandatory.
He is, however, asking us to take precautions to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and he has some suggestions. Some of his suggestions require almost no effort for us to follow. As long as we can get it or make it, we can put hand sanitizer out for people to use and we can put up notices encouraging hand washing and the like. Other things are less ideal but not difficult. Our building is plenty big enough to only use ¼ of our seating and have all family units remain 6 feet apart and we can easily marshal volunteers to clean thoroughly between services. Thus we will gladly do what we can, as we have been, to meet the current CDC guidelines for hygiene during the services.
The governor does not mandate a maximum number of people allowed for worship services but he does state repeatedly elsewhere that between now and May 4th social gatherings aren’t to be larger than 10 persons. Between May 4th and May 24th social gatherings are limited to 25. On the 24th the number goes up to 100.
It seems best to Pastor Frese and me to honor those limits for the time being out of respect for the governor and his requests. He says that gatherings indoors are one of the worst ways for the virus to spread and asks us to limit it as much as possible. We are neither endorsing nor judging his scientific or political opinions. The same goes for whether or not he is overstepping his bounds as given by the Indiana constitution and the like. We are simply recognizing that he is the governor over us and 1 Peter 2:13-20 is ringing in my ears.
Besides honoring his position and request, we also think that some of our members and some of our community would find it psychologically distressing to go straight back to full services. The question for us isn’t whether these measures are either guaranteed or required to slow down the virus; we don’t know. It is rather a question of how we obey God and proclaim the Gospel, guarding the hearts of the weak and also obeying the 4th commandment.
To this end, we think it best, for the time being, to keep our hygiene and social distancing procedures in place and to limit worship numbers for this weekend to nine plus the pastor and then to go to 24 plus the pastor on Monday. We will do this through SignUpGenius that we already have in place. We will also refrain from extra activities at church, including Bible class and Sunday School. We should, however, be able to have our council meeting on May 8. It looks like we should be able to have our Voters’ meeting in person in July.
Thank you for your prayers, support, and your contributions. It has been truly touching. You have impressed us. We hope to have a thorough report at the council meeting about our finances, attendance, etc. That week I will then make another video report about where we think we stand and where we are headed.