From Rev. Brady Whitton, Senior Pastor:
Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
Many of you are aware that Governor Edwards recently announced that Louisiana will begin Phase 1 of reopening following the COVID-19 shutdown. This is the first in a three-step process intended to help us return to normal as soon as and as fully as possible.
I know many of you are anxious to return to in-person worship and other gatherings in the life of the church. I promise there is no one who wants that more than me! The physical gathering of God’s people is a means of grace. It feeds our souls and strengthens us for the journey of life in a unique way.
With that in mind, the leaders of our congregation have been hard at work prayerfully developing these guidelines to begin a slow and wise return to in-person worship and other gatherings. These guidelines will be updated when Louisiana enters Phase II (possibly June 5) or as the situation requires. Click here for a pdf version of the Phase I Strategy document below.
PHASE I STRATEGY FOR REOPENING
We will follow the guidelines for reopening outlined by the Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church: https://www.la-umc.org/newsproof/13932320.
Rationale: Although there is an ongoing debate about the severity of COVID-19 and the best path forward, we support the guidance of our leaders as a good-faith effort to “do no harm” and safeguard the public health.
Until it is clear that it is safe for most people to attend large public gatherings we will not gather in-person for Sunday worship. We will continue to offer Sunday worship online, on television, and radio.
Online Worship Links
Services begin at 8:30, 9:45 and 11:00 AM. Join us on:
• FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/FUMCBR
• FUMC CHURCH ONLINE: https://firstmethodist.online.church
• YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/c/first-united-methodist-church-of-baton-rouge
Sunday TV & Radio Broadcast
• 9:30 AM – WBXH (Cox 16, Digital/Dish 39)
• 10:30 AM – WAFB Ch 9
• 5:30 AM – WYNK 101.5 FM
• 8:00 AM – THE RIVER 96.1 FM
Rationale: While it may be safe for some people to return to large public gatherings sooner than others, people over the age of 65 and those with preexisting conditions are being encouraged to stay at home. The prospect of gathering for in-person Sunday worship while a large number of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ are unable to do so breaks our hearts. Therefore, we choose to wait.
• Starting June 2, we will offer weekday prayer services in the Sanctuary.
• These gatherings will follow the guidelines of the Louisiana Annual Conference and State Fire Marshal including proper sanitation, the use of masks, and limited size groups.
• A simple reservation system will be used to manage the number of participants. (Any on-site weddings and funerals will follow the same guidelines.)
Rationale: Public worship and prayer are an essential means of grace. Although we will wait to gather for in-person Sunday morning worship, we are committed to providing other, more manageable, opportunities for people to gather in sacred space for worship and prayer.
CLASSES & SMALL GROUPS
• When schools resume normal activities, we will resume nursery and in-person children’s and youth programs. Until then we will offer opportunities for children and youth online.
• Adult classes and other meetings will remain online until further notice.
Rationale: It is very difficult to maintain safe social-distancing and sanitation guidelines with young people. When school officials give the all clear, we too will resume our in-person activities. While adults are capable of self-regulation, managing multiple groups at our facility presents a unique sanitation challenge. It is safer and more manageable for us to hold off on in-person classes and meetings at this time. We will continue to evaluate this decision as each step of reopening unfolds.
• The church office and facility will be open by appointment only until further notice.
• Employees who are able will continue to work from home. Employees who need to be on site will adhere to proper social-distancing and sanitation guidelines.
Rationale: Including the Early Learning Center staff, our church employs nearly 100 people. Many of our employees are over the age of 65. Protecting our staff, their families, and those they come in contact with is a high priority.