We pray the following questions help answer some of the “why” behind our current reopening plan.
1. Why are we reopening so soon? Should we not wait a few weeks to see if another spike occurs?
During Phase 0, we have obeyed our governing authorities, which have requested Christian churches (along with other communities of faith) to abstain from meeting in person out of concern for public health. During this extended period, our hearts have longed to obey the command and experience the blessing of Hebrews 10:24–25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Now that we are permitted to gather, we are seeking to do so in a manner that also minimizes risk for those who come to our building for services. If another spike occurs, we are prepared to return to online services for a season, and we trust that Arlington County and the Commonwealth of Virginia will provide necessary guidance.
2. Why did we wait a week to reopen when we could have met on May 31?
The services that will take place in our building during these initial phases will be different and more complicated than our typical Sunday services prior to COVID-19. Once the news broke that Arlington County was moving into Phase 1, the decision to start on June 7th gave us the time we needed to communicate our reopening plans with our members, our friends, and our neighbors. The one-week delay also gave us time to recruit and train the volunteers needed to hold services with so many added precautions. May 31st served as a “dry run” for our June 7th reopening.
3. Why are we being required to register weekly for Sunday service? With whom will this information be shared?
There are two primary reasons for our registration: maintaining six-foot physical distancing and contact tracing. Maintaining six-foot physical distancing between households in our worship spaces requires that we limit the total number of people in attendance. Registration allows us to manage this requirement.
Authorities have also requested that we keep an accurate record of attendance for the purposes of contact tracing—identification of persons who may have had contact with an individual infected with the virus. Unless someone who attends our services contracts COVID-19 and an agency requests our attendance, we will not be sharing this information with anyone.
4. Will our registration requirement prevent visitors from attending our services?
We have intentionally capped our registration below the maximum limited capacity for our worship spaces to create space for visitors who may arrive on Sunday without having preregistered. On-site registration is intended for these visitors. If you are member or regular attender of Cherrydale, we are asking you to preregister anyone in your household who will be attending a given service. Registration will be open from Sunday at 12:30 pm until Friday at 12:30 pm the week prior to the Sunday you wish to attend.
5. When I preregistered for a service, I received a confirmation email indicating that I can only attend worship in the room for which I registered. What is the reason for this?
We have worked diligently to maintain three separate worship spaces, each with its own dedicated entrance, exit, restrooms, and rooms for parents to take restless children. This separation enables us to provide more specific information for contact tracing if someone attending our services contracts COVID-19. If additional worship rooms are not necessary due to registration, we will email you by Friday with changes to your worship room location.
6. Why are we only having one service?
Based on the responses that we received from our church survey, we are anticipating that we will only need one service for members, regular attenders, and visitors who prefer to participate in-person—at least initially. Each week, we will monitor registration and attendance carefully to determine when we might need to add a second service. We will continue to offer our worship service online at 11:00 am, which is livestreamed on Cherrydale’s website and on Cherrydale.Online.Church, where a chat feature is available.
7. Why are we being required to wear face coverings?
The Commonwealth of Virginia is currently mandating that indoor gatherings of people in close proximity with one another adhere strictly to a set of requirements, including the use of face coverings over their nose and mouth at all times. Gov. Northam’s Executive Order No. 63 extends this requirement not just to religious gatherings but to all people in indoor settings with public access. This is especially important for a worship service that involves singing. Wearing a face covering is not just about protecting yourself, but others; this is a way we love our neighbor well, especially those who may be at a higher-risk from COVID-19. Per Virginia’s FAQ document on face coverings, “A face covering is any well-secured cloth that covers your mouth and nose. Face coverings are not required to be surgical masks or N-95 respirators.”
8. Why are people on the platform not wearing face coverings?
Anyone who will be on the platform helping to lead our worship service—members of the worship team, the preacher, the upfront elder, etc.—will be wearing a face covering except when they are fulfilling their responsibilities. Executive Order No. 63 provides an exception for people participating in a religious ritual, and the Governor’s office has provided further clarification, encouraging leaders to wear their face covering onto the platform, to remove it only for performing duties, and then to replace it before leaving the platform. All leaders will adhere to the six-feet physical distancing requirement whether on or off the platform.
9. Why are children five years of age and older required to wear face coverings?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for face coverings recommend all children two and older to wear face coverings in public. (Children under the age of two should not wear cloth coverings on their face at any time.) In Gov. Northam’s more recent Executive Order No. 63, he has requested all children ten and older to wear a face covering inside public areas, including religious services. He also encourages adults to use their best judgment about placing face coverings on minors ages two through nine.
Considering these two vastly different recommendations, Cherrydale, with input from medical professionals in our church family, has opted to request children five and older to wear face coverings while on our property, because five seems to be the approximate age when children are able to tolerate wearing them. We are communicating to adults that wearing face coverings is one way to show care for others around us, and we want to communicate this message to our kids as well.
10. Why are children who are too young to wear face coverings allowed to attend services?
We expect that many if not most families with children who fall into this category will choose to continue worshiping at home through our livestream option, simply due to the challenge inherent in attending a live service with small children. But we are allowing children who are too young to wear face coverings to attend services in person because we do not want to exclude any age demographic from doing so based on age.
11. Why do we need face coverings after the service outside?
We truly desire our church family to connect meaningfully in-person after the service while maintaining appropriate social distance. As those attending our service exit our building and move away from floor markings that clearly indicate six-foot increments, we recognize that there may be instances where people accidentally violate the spacing requirement. Wearing a mask all the way to your car (or to the border of our property for those who walk) provides added protection for all who are in attendance if this happens. Because our fellowship will take place primarily outside, our collective adherence to the face covering requirement outdoors will also communicate love for our neighbors as they witness our interactions.
12. What will Children’s Ministry look like during Phase 1 and 2?
During Phase 1 and 2, we are encouraging families to worship together either by attending the service in-person or by watching the livestream. We are excited that we can worship as an entire church family that consists of all ages. We understand that this will be a new experience for some children. We are striving for a relaxed environment where we welcome “kids to be kids.” We fully anticipate a bit more noise and activity than our services prior to COVID-19! Please know that grace will abound, but we will also provide an area in the building specific to your worship space if you feel that your child needs a break from the service. These spaces will offer a livestream where you can continue to participate in the service. The Nursing Mothers room will be available but limited to two mothers.
To help engage the children during the service, we will provide a children’s bulletin very similar to what we currently send to families each Friday along with a worship activity bag. For families who are worshiping at home, we will continue to provide the family sermon packets. While we are not able to resume onsite classes for nursery and kids at this time, we will continue our Zoom Sunday school and other instructional videos so our kids can connect with one another and their teachers.
13. What will Youth Ministry look like during Phase 1 and 2?
During Phase 1 and 2, we are encouraging families to worship together either by attending the service in-person or by watching the livestream. Cherrydale’s Youth Ministry views teens attending our worship service—whether physically or virtually—with their primary youth leaders (i.e., their parents) as part of our youth ministry programming.
During Phase 1 and 2, Youth Group will continue to meet weekly on Wednesdays at 7:00 pm via Zoom until June 17, then they will switch to smaller group summer events subject to re-opening guidelines at the time of the event.
14. When is Cherrydale going to start observing baptism and the Lord’s Supper again?
Please read our Church Constitution to review Cherrydale’s views on baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Article 3, section “M”).
Due to the restrictions of COVID-19, Cherrydale has been unable to observe baptism or the Lord’s Supper safely since March 2020. Now that state guidelines allow us to meet in person, we can consider observing these vital church ordinances with continued guidance from health officials on safe practices.
After prayer, discussion, and reviewing state guidelines, Cherrydale’s elders have opted to resume baptizing believers in our church baptistry starting June 28th; we will follow distancing and face-covering guidelines to the extent possible:
- The state recommends that self-application of “oils, water, ashes, and other materials” in religious ceremonies should be followed “to the extent possible.” Since every biblical example of baptism involves one person baptizing another, self-application is not possible.
- The pastor performing the baptism will practice physical distancing in the baptistry (with the exception of the actual baptism) and wear a face covering when not speaking. The person being baptized will also wear a face covering, except when speaking or being immersed. When physical distancing is not possible—during the actual immersion—the pastor will wear a face covering.
- We will only baptize one person per Sunday unless those being baptized are members of the same household.
- These plans are consistent with other state guidance for those performing various duties during the worship service for which a face covering is not practical, such as preaching or leading worship.
On July 5th, Cherrydale will also return to observing the Lord’s Supper every first and third Sunday. Jesus commanded his followers to take the Lord’s Supper together regularly as a remembrance of Him—His death and resurrection on our behalf. As such, the Lord’s Supper is only for those who have placed their faith in Christ as their only hope for salvation. For those still exploring faith in Christ, we are so glad that they are a part of our service and encourage them to take time during the Lord’s Supper to consider Jesus’ invitation to trust in Him.
During the service, those who have trusted Christ and who are worshiping with us on the livestream may partake of the Lord’s Supper from home using your own elements; however, you may also just participate in spirit if you do not have anything suitable (such as bread or crackers and grape or cranberry juice). The point is not to feel like you must participate from your home but that you can if you would like to do so during the service.
We would much prefer that our church family take the Lord’s Supper in person but recognize that is not an option in this COVID-19 season. We believe that the benefit to the church family in returning to the Lord’s Supper is greater than the downside of not being physically together.
For those attending in person, per Virginia’s current guidelines for religious services, no items can be passed among attendees during the service. In addition, anything used to distribute food or beverages must be disposable, used only once, and discarded. To that end:
- We will begin using disposable sets that have an individually-wrapped wafer and a small cup of juice. On the way into the service, each follower of Christ who intends to participate in the Lord’s Supper will pick up a set of elements on a table on their way into their worship room (whether the Worship Center, Gym, or Community Room). We will also offer a gluten-free option.
- At the conclusion of the service, we will ask you to take the empty packaging with you for disposal in the trash cans provided on the way out. This will help us minimize cleaning and disinfecting time when we add a second service.