Palermo Christian Church,
Given the latest guidelines from the state, this is what the elders have come up with for services starting May 31. We will have two Sunday morning services starting this weekend. The 9am-10am service will be for people with last names starting A-K. The 11am-12pm service will be for people with last names starting L-Z. The Sunday evening service at 6pm and the Wednesday prayer meeting at 6:30pm will now be open to everyone since those meetings shouldn’t exceed 50 people.
Why are we doing this? Yesterday I got confirmation from the Christian Civic League of Maine that the person who wrote the Governor’s policy said only 50 in a building at a time regardless of the building size or the number of separate rooms. They were pushing for number of people allowed based on seating capacity, but didn’t get it. It seemed feasible and reasonable to divide our people between the sanctuary and the gym into two separate gatherings and keep one 9am-10am service, but that would be in violation of the current orders. So we opted for two services on Sunday morning. We have divided you up by last name in order to prevent us from exceeding the maximum capacity of 50 people per gathering. What do you do if you come with someone else and your last names are on conflicting services (e.g., Adams and Mahar)? If you’re in this position, pick the service of your choice. What if you’re assigned to 11am-12pm and that doesn’t work for you? Then contact someone scheduled for the 9am-10am service and agree to switch services. And make sure the numbers add up. Let the usher that greets you know that you switched when you arrive. This is inconvenient, but it is imperative that you keep to the service you’re assigned to so that we don’t have to turn people away because we’re at capacity.
What should you expect this Sunday morning? The only unlocked doors that you can enter through will be the sanctuary front door and the sanctuary side door by the entrance with the accessible ramp. You will be greeted by an usher who will guide you to your seat. Please do not walk immediately to your seat. The usher will show you where you will sit. In order to make sure that we can fit 50 in the sanctuary while maintaining appropriate physical distancing, people need to be seated strategically. If someone sits in the wrong place, it could throw off the whole arrangement and take away a good number of seats. So please let the ushers show you to your seats. When the service is over you will be dismissed by row in order to ensure social distancing is maintained. There will be no nursery, Junior Church, Sunday school, or fellowship time this weekend. These are currently on hold while we seek to get our worship gatherings in order. Don’t worry about following previous service schedules. There will be no greeting team. The ushers will be composed of elders and trustees. The current focus is getting Sunday morning services back up and running. We’ll reevaluate other ministries in the coming weeks.
What safety precautions are we taking? We will do our best to comply with the guidance we’ve received from the state. The pews will be sanitized before you’re seated. This includes in between morning services. Buddy Spaulding is overseeing this aspect and I assure you he is taking this seriously. Physical distancing will be maintained by keeping seating between different households at 6 feet apart. This is why it is critical you let your ushers determine your seating. Doors will be propped open to reduce common contact surfaces. Hand sanitizer will be provided as you enter. Paper bulletins will not be passed out. You can pick them up on your own. The offering plate will not be passed by row. It will be located somewhere near the sanctuary entrance at the determination of our ushers. They can help you locate the offering box. Cloth face coverings are encouraged, but not required. The ushers will be required to wear face masks. Please maintain physical distancing and refrain from hugging, hand shaking, etc.
What should I do if I’m at risk? Do not feel obligated or pressured to come. If you are concerned about your safety you are welcome to stay home. There is no pressure to attend. Use your best judgment. The live streaming will continue to be offered for the 9am-10am service. We can faithfully follow the guidelines given to us, but we cannot ensure there will be no risk if you gather with us. Please be advised that the guidance given to the churches encourages the following high-risk persons to make use of remote options like the live stream:
● People 65 or older
● People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled including:
▪ People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
▪ People who have serious heart conditions
▪ People who are immunocompromised: Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune system weakening medications
▪ People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
▪ People with diabetes
▪ People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
▪ People with liver disease
For the Governor’s guidance to the churches see:
For how to protect yourself see:
What’s next? Like you, we don’t know. Maybe we’ll have to wait for months to get back to one service? Maybe things will advance quicker than originally planned? Be prepared for either case. But let’s rejoice that we can gather this weekend and see people we haven’t been around for quite some time. That we can worship the Lord together in-person. And let’s look out for one another and do the best we can to protect one another. Before we regather on Sunday, I’d like us each to ask ourselves a question. How can I glorify God this Sunday given the present restrictions? Let’s ponder that as we prepare to gather. Thank you to those who’ve made the live stream work and thank you to those of you who are doing your best to ensure our safety and follow the guidelines we’ve been handed.
Palermo Christian Church,
Last night the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) issued a recommendation that gatherings of 50 or more people should not take place in the U.S. for the next 8 weeks. In the midst of national and local efforts to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, our church must respond. One difficulty we face is the fact that we are supposed to gather regularly:
Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
So fellowship must be maintained throughout Coronavirus protocols. Your contact with the people of God is essential to your spiritual and emotional well-being whereas amusements like sports are not.
How do we do this when we are advised to cancel our public meetings? How do we do this when gathering with others might put ourselves or those we love at risk? How do we do this when our employer is placing restrictions upon us so that we don’t bring the Coronavirus into our workplace?
First, we are working to set up online access to the worship service for this Sunday. Sunday morning gatherings will be temporarily suspended for now. In their place we will have a video recording of the sermon given over the internet (http://www.palermochristianchurch.org). Stay tuned for details concerning when videos will be put on the website. Likely the message and worship music (if possible) will be pre-recorded and put on the website for Sunday morning. I am working with Sandy and the worship team to make broadcasting worship music over the webpage legal as well. This means that use of the facilities for the public are temporarily suspended. This includes basketball, Tuesday walking, Boy Scouts, etc. Youth Group is temporarily suspended.
Gathering for worship through video is a temporary compromise because of necessity laid upon us, not an ongoing convenience we should desire. Convenience and ease should never replace the live gathering of God’s people (see https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/church-online-coronavirus-age).
Second, I have reached out to small group leaders and Sunday school teachers to continue to keep in contact with their group members and students. Hopefully we will continue to “gather” with one another through mediums like Skype, Google Hangouts, or Facetime.
Third, the only meeting we will continue is the Sunday evening service. For those regretting that prayer meeting is cancelled, Sunday evening functions much like a prayer meeting. Be advised that we are taking precautions for these meetings. The front door will be the only access. Door handles, doorknobs, hand rails, etc. will be sanitized. People coming out will be forced to use hand sanitizer upon entry. People will be required to sit a safe distance from one another. Here are some guidelines for those of you wishing to come out for Sunday night:
Do not come out if you are an at risk individual, those with existing health conditions and 60 years or older. The California governor has advised all those 65 and older to stay home.
Do not come out if you are sick.
Do not come out if you have been exposed to someone with the Coronavirus.
Do not come out of guilt or fear you are disobeying God. Be responsible and wise.
In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul said this:
Philippians 1:21-24 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
If you are at risk, please don’t reason that it is better for you to come out because death is beneficial for you. Instead, think about others. Think about how your departure will affect others. Who will be grieved if I perish because of carelessness? Who will I no longer be able to serve if I perish because of carelessness?
So for now we will continue Sunday night service, this is a fluid situation and we don’t know what restrictions will be added by Sunday, but we will do so with responsible precautions and strong suggestions for many of you not to attend. For your good and the good of others.
Fourth, I can be reached at my email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (207-480-9021). If you need pastoral assistance contact me. If you know of people who need pastoral assistance, contact me. I cannot abandon my post nor can I be reckless. Myself and Sandy will maintain office hours. Pastoral visits are available to those confined to their home. I will take the necessary safety precautions to ensure your safety as best possible.
Fifth, personally stay in touch with others in the body. Continue to encourage one another, to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep, to counsel one another, and to pray for one another. Use the means available at your disposal: phone calls, texting, Facebook, internet meetings. The body remains the body even as we practice social distancing. Let's keep in contact with one another, edify one another, and do what we can given the present circumstances.
I am about to recommend that most of you don't show up tomorrow for our 9am worship service. After careful research I want to advocate caution and wisdom for your protection. Don't worry if you are scheduled to teach Sunday school or perform worship or watch the nursery or serve for the fellowship time or whatever. The state guideline is no gatherings over 250. And sane church leaders have recommended no services over 100. But many of you fall under the at-risk category and I would hate to have you perish prematurely because you were not well-advised. Please serve the body by not coming if you are sick. And please serve the body by not coming if you are at risk. If that leaves 10 of us that is okay. Your well-being is what matters. Please, for your own well-being, read the following data and make an informed decision.
1) Nearly 5,000 dead
2) Over 130,000 confirmed cases
3) 3.4% mortality rate (common flu mortality rate is 0.1%)
4) 15% mortality rate for those 60 years or older (take existing health conditions into account here)
5) 22% mortality rate for those 80 years or older
6) 85-89% have minor conditions often unnoticed
7) High risk: those 60 and older or those suffering from chronic diseases
8) Virus enters through your mouth, nasal route, or eyes from droplets caused by coughs or sneezing
9) Six feet is safe distance
10) Incubation period is 2 to 14 days
11) Symptoms are same as the common flu for 85-89%
12) Severe and critical symptoms such as respiratory distress and pneumonia for 11-15%
13) Vaccine may take 12-18 months to develop
1) Frequent hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds
2) Don't touch your face
3) Minimize physical contact: shaking hands, hugging, kissing, etc.
4) Keep your distance from sneezing and coughing people
5) Stay home when you're sick for the safety of others
6) Don't travel where the virus is known to be
7) If you are elderly or chronically ill avoid crowds and close contact
Sources (both articles written by Christian medical doctors with sound theological convictions)
What are the motives behind preventing large crowds from gathering?
1) Protecting at risk people
2) Stopping the spread of the Coronavirus
3) Preventing our hospitals and health care system from being overwhelmed and unable to care for the sick
4) For the church our motive is love for the vulnerable, not fear or panic or self-protection