What to Expect

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Overview

Ebenezer Church longs to reach people for Jesus Christ precisely where they are. Based on Christ’s call to love one another we will strive to connect safely and in accordance with both state and Methodist guidelines. The following plan is a framework for reintegration and includes provisions of increased support for those remaining physically separated.

To be successful we must meet two objectives:
1) Provide increased support to those who remain physically separated.
2) Safely provide opportunities for in-person worship, discipleship, and service in line with state and denominational guidelines.

Objective 1: Provide increased support to those who remain physically separated.

As some begin to move out of quarantine, those who remain in physically separated are likely to feel increasingly secluded.  Ebenezer will adopt the following measures to ensure deeper connection among those who identify themselves as remaining distanced.

  1. Weekly Phone Calls: Each week, families/individuals remaining physically separated will receive a phone call from an Ebenezer staff member/volunteer.
  2. Weekly Zoom Room with the Pastors: Each week, one or both pastors will host group zoom conversations specifically for those remaining physically separated.
  3. Bi-Weekly Porch Visits: Every second week, a staff member/volunteer will visit people who need to remain physically separated and who wish to receive visits. The expectation is that the visitors will sit outside the residence on a lawn chair at a safe distance with no physical contact.
  4. Additional Resources: In addition to these heightened measures, Ebenezer continues to offer virtual small groups along with individual counseling and open group discussions over Zoom. Further, we may find those who remain physically separated will wish to participate in carrying out the measures outlined above.
Objective 2: Safely provide opportunities for in-person worship, discipleship, and service during step-down protocol.

State and Ecclesial Guidelines:

  1. Governor Northam is allowing in-person worship of not more than 50% capacity in a given space.
  2. Bishop Lewis issued a 77-page set of guidelines to govern movement toward in-person activities. The guidelines call for a cautious approach over three phases.
    1. Phase 1 allows certain “Pioneer” churches to gather for in-person worship with:
      1. No more than 25 people.
      2. A start date of May 24, 2020.
      3. No singing in worship due to increased risk of infection.
      4. Bishop Lewis is also authorizing the launch of drive-in worship for all churches.
    2. Phase 2 allows all churches to begin meeting again for in-person worship and gatherings with:
      1. No more than 50 people.
      2. An as-yet-unspecified start date.
      3. No singing in worship due to increased risk of infection.
    3. Phase 3 relaxes guidelines for in-person worship and gatherings with:
      1. In-person worship with up to 50% of occupancy capacity.
      2. An as-yet-unspecified start date.
      3. A potential for congregational singing in worship if health guidance allows.

Ebenezer’s Framework

Ebenezer initially volunteered to be a “Pioneer” church. However, in light of Ebenezer’s size and the necessary deep cleaning between worship services, holding in-person worship for 25 or 50 people is impractical. Further, given the vital role of music in our worship services and our technical capacity to generate a high-quality worship broadcast, we feel it is most prudent to continue worshipping online through phase 2.

In the interim period Ebenezer will:
1. Phase 1
a. Continue offering online worship, small groups, ministry teams, and support groups
b. Launch drive-in communion services beginning in late June

2. Phase 2
a. Launch increased care plan to support families who let us know they are remaining physically distant
b. Authorize and resource in-home and on-campus small groups for those who wish to begin meeting in-person again. Denominational restrictions prevent child care during phase 2.

3. Phase 3
a. Return to in-person activities as restrictions on numbers, singing, and child care are relaxed.

Safety Measures for In-Home Small-Groups

Safety is of paramount importance as we begin the reintegration process. The following measures are a baseline to ensure continued diminishment of COVID-19.

  1. Upon request, Ebenezer will provide each Small Group with supplies to assist them creating and maintaining safe environments. Kits may include masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and shoe coverings.
  2. Anyone who is sick or running a fever should remain home.
  3. Masks should be worn.
  4. Social distancing should be observed.
  5. Food should not be shared between families.
  6. Ebenezer will be prepared to return to an online only environment if required by Governor Northam or Bishop Lewis.
Safety Coordinator

Each small group will need to designate a safety coordinator primarily concerned with helping create safe environments. The safety coordinator would remind people of the importance of social distancing, wearing masks, and sanitizing hands and spaces. They would inform the church when more supplies are needed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

I am remaining physically separated for the foreseeable future. How can I connect with Ebenezer?

We will continue to offer online worship and small groups for any and all who wish to participate. In addition, if you will let us know you are remaining physically separated, Ebenezer has developed a team of friends to help you stay connected through weekly phone calls and Zoom group check-ins with a pastor. Also, we are offering “front porch” visits. If you would like, one of our team members will come to your front door for a visit. They’ll bring their lawn chair, sit a safe distance away, and spend a few minutes fellowshipping with you.

If I am not in a small group, how can I get in one?

Click here to email Chrissy Leathers, she will be happy to connect you with a small group.

Will Student Ministries begin to meet in person?

Please go to ebenezerumc.org/axis, for high school students and ebenezerumc.org/tnt, for middle school students, or click here to contact Michelle Paquette for more information.

Will Children’s Ministry begin to meet in person?

By their very nature, kids love to touch and hug. Because of the profound difficulty of maintaining social distancing among children, we are encouraging families to worship together for the time being. We will continue to offer online resources for families including Sunday School. For more information go to ebenezerumc.org/kidzrock or click here to email Shari Parsons for more information.

What should we expect for in-person services?

Due to CDC guidelines for safe social distancing, our capacity is limited, so registration is required. Please note that when you register, you will be asked to comply with the following:

  • Please bring and wear a mask. Masks are required for everyone. (If you forget or don’t have a mask, we’ll have one for you when you arrive.)
  • Because the CDC recommends that children under 2 do not wear masks, they will not be able to attend. Please ensure older children in attendance are able to keep their masks on for the entire service, as we are not able to provide Nursery, KidzCare or Sunday School.
  • Please take your temperature before leaving home and stay home if 100.4+.
  • Please park with a space in between vehicles, when possible.
  • Please allow for check-in time once arriving on campus.

Thank you for your understanding as we work to provide a safe environment for everyone. We look forward to seeing you!

Registration will open at 12:00 PM on the Monday prior to each weekend’s service and will close at midnight on Thursday or earlier if full. 
If I wish to schedule an event at Ebenezer, may I do so?

When the Bishop informs us we are in phase 2, we will slowly begin to schedule activities as allowed by state and ecclesial guidelines. Please click here to contact our Executive Director, B.J. Priest, to inquire.

How will events be scheduled in such a way as to ensure appropriate cleaning between activities?

In the near term, Ebenezer will schedule only one event, each day, in each room. This will allow our professional cleaning service to sanitize each space before another group uses it.

When will we resume baptisms?

Out of an abundance of caution, Bishop Lewis has requested churches not accomplish baptisms at this time. We are hopeful to resume baptisms once we return to in-person worship.

If I attend an event at Ebenezer and it is discovered that someone else who attended was infected with Coronavirus, will I be notified?

Ebenezer will follow reporting guidelines as outlined by the CDC and will do all we legally can to inform any individuals who may have been exposed.