West Florida District Coronavirus Update, May 2:

Well here we are already on the month of May.  This week has brought some progress, but we are still not where we all wish we were.  As ministry leaders, you are all doing a great job leading and caring for your flock.  The challenges are real and so is the pressure on you to keep things moving forward in what seems like a time-warp. I look forward to meeting with you next week via Zoom to talk about how you are personally dealing with the stress of these tough times.

As of Monday, May 4, we will officially enter Phase 1 of Governor Ron DeSantis’ “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step / Plan For Florida’s Recovery.”  While some things are more rlaxed under his latest order, much remains the same.  There are numerous interpretations of where Churches actually fall in these new regulations. Here are a few things that we do know:

  • Governor DeSantis continues to be very careful to protect our religious liberties and personal freedoms.
  • Churches are not being treated more restrictively that other business and organizations in Florida.  (We know this is not the case in all states and are very appreciative of our leader’s position.)
  • The “All Clear” has not been sounded, nor will it be for some time to come.
  • While Governor DeSantis has repeated stated that he has not, nor does he have the constitutional authority to, close any churches.
  • Governor DeSantis does expect churches to abide by all C.D.C., state, and local government guidance.
  • The Church is expected to set a good example in their community.

We have asked for and hope to receive soon, further guidance from the Governor’s office as to his expectations for local churches.  Are we to operate as restaurants and other businesses with 25% capacity in our buildings or are we considered “social gatherings” where no more that 10 people can gather?  Some interpret the Governors directive as one that allows churches to meet with no regulations at all.  We do not believe that that was his intention.  I am sure that no local church wants to be the place where a spike in confirmed cases is traced back to.

The Executive Presbytery has determined that all District Council Affiliated Churches in West Florida will continue to operate under the same guidelines we are currently using.  Those can be found in detail in our previous updates, but in summary they will continue to hold online or drive-up services ONLY for until at least May 17.  We will give further guidance in two-week increments giving sufficient time for plans to be made from week to week

It is the District’s responsibility to set the guidelines for our District Council Affiliated Churches, however General Council Affiliated Churches are responsible to make these determinations on a church by church basis. We continue to encourage all General Council Affiliated Churches to be preparing for a staged and managed transition from where we are to the “new normal.”  This will impact every church differently based on their size.  We believe larger churches will be most impacted and will have to be more creative for a longer period of time.

Again, I would encourage you to only announce a definite plan when you know for sure what the federal, state, and local guidelines are going to be and what that timeline looks like.  It would be better to move a bit slower than to present a plan that cannot actually be carried out. All plans should be presented as being contingent on new federal, state, and local guidelines.

While working with your leaders to develop a plan, here are some questions you should consider:

  • What is driving us to resume in person services?
  • Do we have a good plan? (See the suggestions below)
  • Can our plan be effectively implemented? (Does it just look good on paper or can we actually make it work?)
  • Are we ready for the new challenges our plan will bring? (i.e. managing services with children in the sanctuary, Increased volunteers needed for sanitizing, enforcing social distancing that goes against what we are used to doing at church, etc.)
  • What are the expectations of our church family as they return to in person services?

Here are a few points to consider when putting your return plan together:

Individual Safety

  • Have clear signage to remind and instruct people about all precautions
  • Prop doors open
  • Observe strict social distancing (6 Ft)
  • Have hand sanitizer at all entrances
  • Masks are optional
  • No handshakes or hugs
  • No congregating in Lobbies
  • Provide intense cleaning of high touch points during and after each meeting
  • Use every other pew or row
  • Allow family groups of 10 or less to sit together
  • Sick individuals and individuals at high risk should remain at home

Ministries & Services

  • Do not offer coffee times
  • Do not offer nursery or children’s programs
  • Plan a 1 Hour family-friendly service
  • Provide children’s activity handout
  • Make pre-packaged communion available at pickup stations only
  • Limit contact during prayer time
  • Use a methodical exiting plan
  • Collected offerings at exits
  • Continue Live-Streaming

If Possible

  • Senior’s entrance / exit option
  • Senior’s seating – 25 feet from all others
  • Special service for Seniors

What is the Maximum Occupancy Allowed in Our Building Under Current Guidelines?

Our team is working to stay abreast of these developments and will keep you posted as we have new information.

Please avail yourself of all the resources that are on our website. These include many videos and articles to help you as you move to the next stage of this journey.  As always, our team is here for you.  Please let us know if there is anything you, your family, or your church needs.  We will be in touch soon.

Thomas L. Moore

District Superintendent

West Florida District Council of the Assemblies of God

4792 Highway 90  |   Marianna, Florida 32446  |  (850) 482- 2986