Northstar’s Public Worship Re-entry Plan

News

When Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced last week that churches would be allowed to begin gathering for public worship, we were excited and eager to begin the process in a safe, wise and worshipful manner. The last time we met together for worship was Sunday, March 8!

Throughout COVID-19, our staff team has taken counsel and studied carefully from a number of resources, including recommendations from the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health, and denominational (SBCV and BGAV) and church resources. We are grateful for access to so many streams of information and expertise. We’ve also found that there is a very wide difference in how localities, businesses, organizations and churches (not to mention individuals) are responding and preparing for a return to public gatherings and new routines.

Our goals have been to return to public gathering as soon as we are legally allowed as well as when we are able to provide a reasonably safe and good faith effort to ensure that thoughtful precautions and instructions are provided.

With all that said, we will be returning to public worship with a small “trial run” service at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, May 31, and then beginning RSVP-based weekly public worship services on Sunday, June 7 at 5:00 p.m. at Gracelife Baptist Church!

We have created a pdf with a summary of our procedures and guidelines that you can download here.

Livestreaming

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of gathering at this time, we hope you’ll join us on the livestream! Whether or not you attend is totally up to you! We want to create a “judgment-free zone” around our gatherings in recognition that thoughtful Christians have a wide range of opinions and convictions related to COVID.

May 31 – Live AND Livestream

While May 17 is the first Sunday that we could gather, we are simply not ready. We don’t have things in place, and the Blacksburg Middle School is not an option due to the school systems still being closed. After visiting with a few of our sister churches, Gracelife Baptist Church has kindly offered us the use of their facility on Sunday evenings.

A measured, small gathering for a “test run”

On Sunday evening, May 31, we will have our first “back to church” gathering. We will be accepting RSVPs for up to 50 people and no more. We wanted this first time of re-entry to be more of a “test run” for us as we make sure we have all systems in place and ready. We are cooperating with Gracelife and are adopting the same safety and cleanliness standards that they are using in order to be consistent.

Church members and guests who feel comfortable about gathering will be invited to RSVP for May 31’s live service. It will begin at 5:00, (arrive by 4:30; doors will open at 4:45 to admit small groups so as to prevent “clumping.” Seating will be such that families can sit together, but rows will be six feet apart, and three chairs will be required between non-family or non-roommate individuals.

The RSVP form (www.dontgo.be/register) has a requirement of giving us your phone number, and this is so that we can send out a text to those RSVPing on the day of in case changes or additional services have to be scheduled.

There will be no children’s ministry activities during this initial weeks of re-entry, but we will be providing a bag with guided activities for kids.

Of course, sanitizing stations will be provided throughout the facility (courtesy of Gracelife), and we will be practicing social distancing as best as we can. If you prefer to wear a mask, we encourage you to do so, but we will not be enforcing mask wearing.

June 7 – Live AND Livestream

On Sunday, June 7, the 5:00 p.m. gathering will be open to everyone by RSVP. We believe that we will be able to meet the governor’s instructions for 50% of a room’s minimum occupancy without having to restrict numbers, but we will be watching Gracelife’s morning gatherings closely and taking counsel from them as to exactly how many people with the required spacing can actually gather.

As we progress forward into the summer, we will continue to make adjustments and seek to implement new ways to safely and wisely move forward into restriction-free worship services.

I’m uncomfortable.

We recognize that there will be many who aren’t quite ready to “go back to church.” If you are uncomfortable with the idea of gathering at this time, we hope you’ll join us on the livestream! Whether or not you attend is totally up to you! We want to create a “judgment-free zone” around our gatherings in recognition that thoughtful Christians have a wide range of opinions and convictions related to COVID. We do not in any way want you to sense pressure from us to “come to church.” We have always (and will continue) to emphasize the importance of “being the church.” You come when you’re ready!

I’m ready.

For those who are interested in gathering with us, we encourage you to be patient with us as we apply necessary guidelines and safety precautions. If you are comfortable with the idea of gathering at this time, we hope you’ll need to RSVP! It may seem strange, but there’s a lot that has been strange about these days. RSVPing is necessary for us to help you and others. We want to create a “judgment-free zone” around our gatherings in recognition that thoughtful Christians have a wide range of opinions and convictions related to COVID.

Pray. Serve.

In the meantime, pray for our leadership teams as we ramp up. There’s a lot to do! If you are open to serving on any of the following teams: cleaning, set-up, tech, greeting and ushering, please fill out our standard volunteer form at dontgo.be/serve. If you’re not comfortable serving in person yet, would you make a commitment to pray for our services each Sunday just before they start?

We’re truly eager to begin this process. Pray with us and for us, as well as for churches across the world in the same stages!

Update