All of the Healthy at Church Guidelines are reviewed and approved by the Cabinet, the lay leaders of our church. Our guidelines strive to respect four main areas:
We are so grateful that our members have responded so positively to these less than ideal circumstances. We are grateful that our congregation has remained faithful, and so willing to make sure that all of our members remain protected. And we thank you for all you do to make South Elkhorn the wonderful, welcoming, and safe place it is!
As we move toward colder weather, we have received a number of questions regarding the recommendations and guidelines put forward by the Healthy at Church Task Force. We’d like to take an opportunity to address some of the most frequently encountered questions and explain where we think we go from here.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Who is on the Task Force? How Can I Talk to Them?
The Task Force is made up of Jacob Walbourn (Chair, legal professional), Morganne Brackney (medical professional), Aden Randles (Personnel Team Chair), Diana McKenzie (education professional), Phyl Wigglesworth (Worship Team representative), Michael Swartzentruber (Senior Minister), and Holly Fuqua (Associate Minister).
They can be contacted by emailing Healthy@southelkhorncc.org.
Other Churches are Meeting Indoors… Why Not Us?
- Worshiping indoors would change who could come to worship. The outdoor model allows individuals to engage in ways they feel comfortable – whether that be setting up a seat on the lawn, worshiping from their vehicle, or watching online. This has proven to be particularly beneficial to our members who are in at-risk groups. Returning indoors poses challenges for those members to be able to participate safely, and removes the possibility of worshiping in person, but from your vehicle, which is likely the most popular way our congregation has been worshiping.
- Worshiping indoors would change how we worship. To be in compliance with best practices and state requirements, our return indoors would not feel the way it did prior to the pandemic. We could not sing together. We could not have refreshments. We could not have a greeting time in the way we did before. And the number of people who could attend would be greatly reduced in order to comply with social distancing – far less than our “usual” Sunday service.
- Worshiping outdoors provides protection. The outdoors provides far better ventilation than our building ever can. While the risk of contracting COVID-19 cannot ever really be wholly mitigated, data suggests that outdoor gatherings are substantially lower risk than indoor ones.
But It’s About to Get Cold! Are We Really Doing This All Winter?
As above, we think the best course is to continue with outdoor/drive-in worship at this time. We have collaborated with our Worship Team, and are making preparations to continue outdoors for the time being. While we hope we can resume indoor worship soon, we only want to do so when we think it can be both safe and meaningful. At the present time, we don’t believe it is.
What About Sunday School and/or Small Groups? Can They Meet Inside?
Previously, small groups were permitted to use the building. When they are allowed to use the building again, there will be significant limiting factors, most especially capacity. We simply don’t have enough space to ensure appropriate social distancing for numerous groups to meet at one time.
We applaud our South Elkhorn groups that have found creative ways to continue to engage their members – whether that’s through virtual meetings, outdoor gatherings, or other creative ways that ensure the safety of everyone involved. We want to work with you to allow your group to engage meaningfully, but safely. And we ask you to consider everyone’s health when deciding whether, in the future, an indoor meeting is truly the best course of action.
What about external groups?
Previously, and perhaps at some point in the future, external groups will be permitted to submit proposals to use the building. If they can meet safely and abide by our guidelines, we will be happy to consider these requests.
Some of our external partners have been in touch about trying to resume meeting, like the Boy Scouts. We have provided them with information about how to meet safely and be in compliance with our guidelines. All external groups requesting to use the facility are required to be approved by the Executive Team. So far, we have not had many requests.
What about Little Elks Preschool?
Little Elks is governed by state guidelines that differ from state guidelines for churches – and they are stricter! We applaud Little Elks for taking steps to ensure safety of the children and teachers in that program. Little Elks recently resumed meeting, but did so with smaller classes, and big changes in how they do things.
What about Children and Youth programs?
Over 15,000 children in the Commonwealth have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since March. And while the immediate impacts of COVID-19 to most children do seem to be less severe than for our elderly population, children can certainly pass the infection on to others – parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends. That said, we have tried to find ways for our children and youth programs to meet together in a meaningful way that still ensures safety. And the Task Force is always open to creative ways to allow our children and youth to engage without putting them, or their loved ones, at risk. Again, capacity tends to be the limiting factor.
Why Am I Wearing a Mask Outdoors?
The University of Maryland perhaps said it best, when it noted that “being outdoors is generally considered safer than being inside. When taking a stroll or participating in other outdoor activities by yourself or with people you live with, a mask isn’t required. However, when you find it difficult to maintain at least six feet of distance from people you don’t live with, it’s important to have your mask on.” Because there are times when you might be within six feet of others at SECC, we strongly recommend you wear a mask while on SECC property. It is the both the safest, and right, thing to do.
Why Is There A Mask Mandate?
We need you to model Christian love by wearing a mask at SECC events – even if you don’t personally believe it is necessary. And of course, if you have a medical condition that makes wearing a mask difficult or impossible, we don’t expect you to wear one. But, for those people, it is all the more important that those of us who can, do.
The Numbers Look Bad… Are More Changes Coming?
So far, we think our guidelines remain in compliance with all state requirements and recommendations. As the situation continues to evolve, we will suggest amendments to the Cabinet that we feel are best to protect the physical and spiritual health of our congregation. The trend in cases in Kentucky has been concerning, and we are prepared to take aggressive action so as to not contribute to the rise in cases. However, we also think our model has proven quite resilient. We have had congregation members attend services while not knowing they are COVID-positive. However, we are extremely grateful that we have had no documented case of COVID-19 being contracted at church events. We think this, in large part, can be attributed to our Healthy at Church guidelines.
How Much Longer Will We Have to Do This?
We realize how weary we all are with the pandemic, and that this “new normal” is not as fulfilling for everyone. For now, we think outdoor worship and limited small group use is the safest course. As the situation continues to evolve, we are certainly open to making amendments to the guidelines that reflect the current medical situation. At this time, though, we think this is the safest option.
How Can I Help?
We ask all our congregation members to consider the following:
- Wear a mask while on South Elkhorn property. This is the easiest way to ensure the safety of others and to model Christian love.
- If you’re open to it (and not in an at-risk group), consider becoming trained as a “Hygiene Coordinator.” These are volunteer members of our congregation that help ensure safety at worship and group events. The training is simple, and allows us to keep everyone safe. Please reach out to the Task Force if you’re interested in serving.
- Be smart. If you’re feeling sick, don’t come to church. If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID, don’t come to church. While our guidelines are designed to keep everyone as safe as possible, no plan is foolproof. We are counting on you to help keep all of us safe.
Where Do We Go From Here?
If you have comments or questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us by emailing Healthy@southelkhorncc.org. We hope that we can soon roll back some (or all!) of the guidelines – but we’ll only do so when we feel it is both safe and legal to do so. But, until then, we are happy to consider suggestions and changes if they can be implemented safely. We know this hasn’t been, and won’t be, easy. We are so grateful that our members have responded so positively to these less than ideal circumstances. We are grateful that our congregation has remained faithful, and so willing to make sure that all of our members remain protected. And we thank you for all you do to make South Elkhorn the wonderful, welcoming, and safe place it is!