Dear Friends,

At the suggestion of the Presbytery of Baltimore, we did not begin worship in May, but continued to broadcast services and recruited a Reopening Team instead. Under the leadership of Facilities Elder Gregg Goneconto, this team met and forwarded a comprehensive plan to Session. Many thanks to Elder Gregg Goneconto, Deacon Dave Borchardt, Deacon Andrea Williamson and Dr. Ginger Wiley for their fantastic work and helpful advice!

Session met this week and reviewed these guidelines to formally adopt them and prepare for reopening worship on our target date of June 21st. Using a consensus-based tool and process, Session had a gracious and wise conversation about how to harmonize a variety of diverse views on reopening. Our goal was to develop guidelines that prioritize safety while also implementing achievable practices that we can live with.

I am pleased to announce that, this Sunday, we will hold a live worship service in The Center AND stream the service over Facebook and YouTube simultaneously. You can self-select the experience that best fits your comfort level.

Because there is still community spread of COVID-19 in Maryland, worship will look quite different for now. Here are some of the most important details and guidelines:

  • If you are a person who is at higher risk of illness from COVID-19 because of age, medical conditions etc., please consider joining us online from home. Your safety is of paramount importance! Please see the paragraphs below this note for more information about health considerations.
  • If anyone in your household is ill, please join us online from home.
  • If you wish to attend live worship, it is important to reserve a spot in advance. Chairs in the Assembly Hall have been rearranged to reflect physical distancing among individuals and families, and seating is limitedPlease email Elder Gregg Goneconto at no later than 9 a.m. on Sunday with the number of people you will be bringing. An usher will seat you upon entry to The Center.
  • Before, during and after worship, we will practice physical distancing at all times – please maintain 6 feet from other individuals or families (households will be seated together).
  • Please wash your hands; hand washing stations with sanitizer will be posted throughout the building. Please consider bringing a travel size of sanitizer for personal use also.
  • Masks are encouraged but not required.
  • In response to guidance offered by our Presbytery, our congregation will not engage in singing. Our Praise Team will still offer music, and lyrics will be provided for reflection during songs.
  • We will not serve food or beverages; bulletins will be virtual and distributed via weekly email (The Loop).
  • If you are bringing children to worship, consider bringing activities for them to engage in quietly in their seats. This may help them maintain physical distancing without causing undue stress to them or you. Note that our classrooms will be closed.
  • To avoid congestion and maintain distancing, if you are attending without children, please consider arriving early so that we can seat you early. Because children are naturally active and mobile, we want to be realistic about the total length of time they are expected to be in the Assembly Hall (families are encouraged to arrive by 9:55 a.m.). The worship service may be slightly shorter than normal to accommodate a variety of attention spans!

In closing, our Reopening Team and Elders have attempted to balance the principles of safety, “space and grace” to reopen worship; they have served us well! As has been the case with broadcasting worship each week, I am sure we will be on a learning curve as we launch into this new territory. Let’s ask for God’s grace to be on us.

I look forward to this journey with you!

Rev. Dr. Dan Melton

See details below regarding health and returning to worship: 

Sick and Vulnerable Individuals: Worshipers are encouraged to practice self-awareness for their own state of well-being and to closely monitor the state of well-being of their children.  This includes temperature-taking prior to attending worship in-person, when warranted.

Worshipers are asked to remain at home and worship remotely if they or their children have had any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 within the last 2 weeks, such as fever, chills, body aches, new loss of smell or taste, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, vomiting.  If worshipers (or anyone in their household) have had any of these symptoms, or have been diagnosed with a contagious illness, they are asked to follow recommendations from their personal physician about returning to in-person worship safely.

If worshipers or their children have been personally exposed to someone with active COVID-19, please follow physician recommendations for safely worshiping with in-person (usually 14 days in quarantine without symptoms in the affected individual.)

While St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is diligently committed to maintaining a safe worship space, the CDC recommends that people who are higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness avoid large gatherings, such as in-person worship. This CDC recommendation may extend to older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes.