Now that we have moved our worship services back indoors, we continue to be diligent about protecting congregants from COVID and making sure our building is physically secure.
We have professionally cleaned our HVAC system, and installed a Reme Halo® RGF air purification system. We continue to pump lots of fresh air into the building through our HVAC system, clean and sanitize our facility regularly and make hand sanitizer available throughout the building.
Per CDC guidelines, masks will be optional in worship and for children ages 5 and older who are in Children's Ministry areas.
Our elders and staff have been covering all of these decisions in prayer and benefiting from the expertise of those who have served on our health team. We pray that our corporate posture toward this transition would overflow with grace and self-sacrificing love for one another.
For more in-depth information and answers to some FAQs, we encourage you to read Chipper's letter to our church family which follows immediately below.
Indoor Services Resume June 6, 2021: A Pastoral Letter
If the Lord wills it, we intend to resume Sunday services in our downtown building on June 6. For those of you keeping track at home, that will conclude a stretch of 50 Sundays at First Magnitude! Praise God for the provision of that space, which might be the best outdoor venue in the county. Christine Denny (co-founder and co-owner of First Magnitude) has been a wonderful contact and ally, and we will be honoring her at our May 23 services. I hope you can be there to show your appreciation!
As we return to our building, I realize the emotions within our church family will be mixed. Some of you thought we should have returned months ago, and some of you will be concerned that this transition is premature. I hope you’ll be encouraged to hear that we (the elders and staff) have been covering all of these decisions in prayer and benefitting greatly from the expertise of those who have served on our health team. The timing of this return also fits well with the recent guideline changes published by the CDC and the vaccination rates in our county.
I am particularly glad we’ll be able to better accommodate our families, especially families with young children. We now have six children’s ministry classrooms in our building, three of which are brand new. Vickie Parker (with help from many of you!) has done a wonderful job getting these classrooms ready for our return. We could still use more children’s ministry volunteers, so please contact us if you’re interested in serving.
My prayer is that our corporate posture toward this transition would overflow with grace and self-sacrificing love for one another. That posture lies at the very heart of what it means to follow Jesus, and it should set us apart from the self-interested, individualistic spirit of our age. In fact, as a pastor I care far more about this posture than I do about your specific positions on masks and vaccines. In the words of Jesus in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I’m beyond grateful for the ways that so many of you have already been demonstrating this kind of gracious and self-sacrificing posture, especially in the past year. Keep it up! Your perseverance glorifies the Lord.
1. When will services be held, and will children’s programming be available?
When we return to our building (June 6), we will hold our services at 9am and 11am. This is the same service schedule that was in place before COVID, but it means the second service will start slightly later than what we’ve been doing at First Magnitude. Children’s programming will be available during the 9am service for all children fifth grade and under. Initially we will not have children’s programming during the 11am service, but we will begin doing so as soon as we have enough volunteers to make this happen.
2. What will hospitality look like on Sunday morning?
Members of our hospitality team will be stationed throughout our building to greet you and answer your questions. We will resume serving coffee on Sunday mornings (Resident Coffee!) in our lobby. We will also resume distribution of physical bulletins that include our announcements and general church information. Additional materials will also be available in our lobby. Finally – you will notice some new signage that will help people become familiar with our building
3. Will we be live-streaming our services?
We will be live-streaming our 9am service via YouTube. You will be able to watch that service live, or watch the recording on YouTube at any point after that (the full service remains on YouTube immediately after the conclusion of the live-stream). We will no longer be pre-recording our service on Saturday night, which means you will need to wait until 9am on Sunday to watch the service virtually. The live-stream is a great option for those who do not feel comfortable attending an indoor service or who are actively sick. The live-stream is not intended to be a replacement for in-person gatherings for those who feel comfortable attending in-person gatherings
4. What is City Church doing to make Sunday gatherings safe?
We have spent the past several weeks doing everything we can to facilitate safety on Sunday mornings. That includes protecting congregants from COVID and making sure our building is physically secure now that we will be operating on both the first and second floors. Thankfully our HVAC system pumps a lot of fresh air into the building (we’ve had HVAC professionals examine our system in the past weeks). We are also installing UV lighting on our HVAC coils. We will continue to regularly clean and sanitize our facility, plus hand sanitizer will be available throughout the building
5. What about Communion?
We will continue distributing Communion every week. Protocols for Communion are still being discussed, and they may involve two different options for people with varying levels of safety concerns. Stay tuned for more information.
6. Will masks be required indoors?
Beginning June 6, masks will not be required indoors. The CDC guidelines state that unvaccinated people should continue wearing masks to protect those around them, and we believe that this is the wisest course of action for the time being (particularly for adults). However, we (the City Church leadership) will not be policing mask-wearing decisions, and we ask you to refrain from policing others as well. Individuals should make their own decisions by prayerfully going before the Lord, doing their own research, and consulting medical professionals. I would expect that plenty of people will wear masks on Sunday mornings (including vaccinated people), and some will not. Please be gracious to one another.
7. What about social distancing?
We will not be requiring social distancing in our space, nor will people have to register for our services. If our services start to get full, we will consider adding a third service for the sake of comfort and safety. If you are hoping for some distance between yourself and other people during a service, we would encourage you to check out our second (11am) service, which typically has fewer people than our first service.
8. What is City Church’s posture toward vaccinations?
City Church does not take official positions on matters not addressed in our Statement of Faith or our Distinctives. Both Ryan and I decided to get vaccinated, and we are happy to share our reasoning for this with those of you who desire to hear more. In line with the comments I already made in this letter, individuals should prayerfully bring this decision before the Lord, do their own research, and consult medical professionals (including their own). And again, our decision-making should be marinated in grace and other-interested zeal.
9. What is City Church’s guidance for people who are sick or feeling sick?
People who are sick or feeling sick (fever, cough, etc.) should not attend in-person gatherings. We know Gainesville is famous for its allergies, which can present themselves in the form of a cough, etc. If your symptoms are new and you’re unsure if they are related to allergies or a cold/COVID, please stay home. If your symptoms are not new and you are certain they are related to allergies (we’d advise consulting with your doctor about this), then you should feel comfortable attending a Sunday gathering.
10. What if I’m feeling left out or isolated by these plans?
Let me know, and we will do what we can to be accommodating! Our staff and elders will do whatever we can to listen to you and care for you.
I love you City Church family!
City Church Family,
As we begin Advent, we hope you find great encouragement from remembering the wonderful gift of our Savior coming into this world. The message the angels proclaimed to shepherds in their fields thousands of years ago is the same message our hearts all need to hear again this year: "Fear not for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11). May that message ring in our ears and fill our hearts with joy this Christmas season.
We would like to update you on the current state of affairs regarding our COVID response as a church. As you know, we have been meeting outdoors at First Magnitude for weekend services now since June. This has been a tremendous blessing as we have been able to safely worship together in a large outdoor environment not far from our building nearly every week. Praise God for his provision for us all these months!
While we are eager to get back to our building and resume indoors services and activities, it is not feasible to do that yet without a lot of restrictions (masks, social distancing, limited capacity, etc.). Given how well our outdoor service is going, we think the best option for us as a church is to continue with that for the time being. We plan to transition back to indoor services once we are able to do so safely with limited restrictions, which we do not have a timeline for yet. We can reasonably expect to be outdoors at least through February, at which point we will reevaluate.
Because there are many families with little kids in our congregation, we wanted to especially note that we are continuing to expand our ministry to children during this time. Every week we offer a "family style" service at 9am, with kids' singing/dancing and activity bags during the message. We have also just added a 3rd-5th grade outdoors class during that 9am service. Vickie Parker has organized monthly activity days for a few families at a time and continues to do so (look for her posts on Realm to RSVP to these). And we, of course, continue to personally check-in with our families. We want to do all we can to care for you and your little ones through this challenging season.
As we are reminded by Advent, times of waiting can be both beneficial and active. During this season of "waiting," we hope that you will stay connected and involved in the church community life. If you are able, we would love for you to join us for outdoor services, community groups, or other events. If you are not comfortable with or able to attend in-person gatherings, we miss seeing you but completely understand. We will continue to post the pre-recorded services online. There are also community groups and various studies hosted on Zoom each week. You can find more information about those on the CG page, or contact us to get connected.
As the Apostle Paul encouraged the Galatians, "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Gal 6:9). In a year of weariness, let us all press on in walking closely with God, sharing the good news of our Savior, loving our brothers and sisters, and serving others.
Please stay healthy and safe!
Yours in Christ,
Ryan Harding, Executive Pastor
City Church Family,
Chipper and I, along with the elders, are thrilled to announce our reopening plan! Of course, we never closed. We have continued worshipping and meeting online. But reopen is the simplest way to summarize "resume in-person worship gatherings," which is what we are praying and working towards.
A huge thank you to our health team for all the hard work they did putting this together. We appreciate your labor of love!
Please find the documents for our plan below. We encourage you all to take some time to read through them carefully. If you have any questions or feedback for us, please direct that to my email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
God bless you!
Ryan Harding, Executive Pastor
5/20 City Church COVID Update:
Dear City Church Family,
We hope you are doing well. We sure do miss seeing each of you in person! I wanted to give you a quick update on our reopening process. The health team and the elders are making progress on developing our "reopening" plan for gradually returning to in-person gatherings, activities, and Sunday services. We are also continuing to monitor the developments in our state and around the country regarding the coronavirus. We will keep you updated with new developments!
Last week, we opened up community groups to begin meeting in person for huddles, provided the gatherings were fewer than 10 people, followed social distancing measures, and preferably met outdoors (or, if indoors, with masks).
This week, we want to take the same step for Sunday morning worship. We want you all to feel free to meet up with a few friends in small groups to worship together on Sunday mornings. Here are some guidelines for your small gatherings:
- These gatherings would need to follow all the same precautions listed above (no more than 10 people, maintain physical distance of 6 feet, and preferably meet outdoors or wear masks if indoors).
- Everyone should BYO communion
- Hosts should sanitizer high-touch surfaces prior to and after the gathering (e.g. door knobs, restrooms, etc.)
- Reach out to fellow CG members, ministry team members, or even someone in the church you just want to get to know better to for your gathering
- If possible, we would encourage you to join in on the Zoom watch party as a group at 10am. It would be really wonderful to see the groups gathering and enjoy corporate worship together. However we recognize that not everyone can do that, so there is also the YouTube video available to watch at any point.
- Because singing increases risk of virus transmission, singing along with the worship music should be done outdoors with people spaced 6-10 feet apart. If indoors, individuals can sing gently provided they are wearing a mask.
We will leave the organization of these different watch parties up to you all, since they will be smaller in scale. If you want to host one and your home is a good space to meet the criteria above, go for it! If you are interested in attending one but don't know where to go, reach out to others in your CG or to one of the elders, deacons, or CG leaders about helping connect you with someone that is hosting a watch party.
Also, please don't feel any pressure or obligation to do this! If, for any reason, you are more comfortable worshiping with us from home right now (or that is the more practical thing given your circumstances, e.g. small kids), please continue doing that. And, of course, if you are sick, have recently been sick, or are in the at-risk category (65+ or have underlying health conditions), please stay home and worship with us online that way!
Our Lord loves you, and so do we. We can't wait until the next time we see you.
Yours in Christ,
Ryan Harding, Executive Pastor, with the City Church Elders