Kevin Shrum on One Church’s Coronavirus Story

NASHVILLE (BP) – Over the past several months I have been repeatedly asked, “Are you guys (the church) meeting in person? And, how are you guys doing?” My answer is always the same. Yes, we are meeting for in-person worship. And yes, by God’s grace, we are doing remarkably well. These questions caused me to rethink our story as we approach the one-year anniversary of what I call “the year of our discontent.” Here’s our story.

With the onset of COVID-19 our last in-person worship service was Sunday, March 8, 2020. We began online worship Sunday, March 15. The first three weeks had just preaching/teaching, with our able tech team assisting in broadcasting these sessions on our YouTube and Facebook pages. We added music on April 5, provided by our excellent worship team, who joined me in an empty room every Sunday morning for weeks of faithful leadership to an online church family. We held at this pattern for 12 weeks.

Then, beginning Sunday, May 31, 2020, we moved to two identical in-person worship services with music and preaching – 9:30 and 10:45. We remained at two services for 23 weeks. In the meantime, we added ministry to children on July 12, offered during the 10:45 worship time. We combined all children into one space and allowed for social distancing by clearing out the fellowship hall. It was a sort of “one room school house” for grades pre-K through sixth. This allowed us to control spacing and cleaning protocols. Nursery ministries were added as well. Later we divided the school-age children into two age-graded groups and have remained in this arrangement since.

To date we have remained simple and streamlined by offering Sunday morning worship only. We have yet to offer small group Bible studies or Wednesday night activities. We have intentionally avoided putting people into small groups in isolated class rooms where social distancing is a challenge. We believe this is why we have not had any super-spreader events. We have resisted creating the conditions for a super-spreader event.

We have always aired our Sunday morning worship services on our YouTube Channel and our Facebook page, so that aspect of ministry was not new. However, it became critically important to those who did not feel comfortable in returning for in-person worship. We made it clear from the outset that there was no pressure to attend when we relaunched in-person worship. We repeatedly encouraged people to stay home if they were sick or thought they may have been exposed to the virus, or if they simply were not comfortable coming. No harm, no foul, no guilt.

We remained at two services until Nov. 8, when we moved to one in-person worship service at 10:15. Ministry to students returned Jan. 1, 2021, with in-person Bible study at 9 a.m., made possible by their large, safe meeting place.

Each week, prior to in-person worship services, all surfaces, door handles, and pews are wiped down. We purchased a fogger and the entire building is fogged with an anti-virus mist on Saturdays just before our maintenance man leaves for the day. The church often smells like a hospital. This process is repeated on Monday morning after a weekend of in-person worship. From the very first in-person meeting after the shutdown, we provided baggies with masks and gloves at each entrance, along with hand sanitizer.

Did we have any members contract COVID-19? Yes. But though we can’t be certain, we believe that no one has caught it at church. Fewer than 20 of our members have contracted the virus thus far, most with mild cases. A few have had serious cases but are recovering.

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Source: Baptist Press