We pray the following questions help answer some of the “why” behind our current safety plan during COVID-19:
1. Why did we open June 7, 2020?
During Phase 0, we obeyed our governing authorities, which requested Christian churches (along with other communities of faith) to abstain from meeting in person out of concern for public health. During that extended period, our hearts 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.”
Once we were permitted to gather, we have sought to do so in a manner that minimizes risk for those who come to our building for services. If warranted, 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 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.” For further information on the proper use of face coverings, visit the CDC website.
3. 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 social distancing requirement whether on or off the platform.
4. 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 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.
5. 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, we recognize that there may be instances where people may not maintain social distance 100% of the time. Wearing a mask as you fellowship outside provides added protection for all who are in attendance if this happens. Because our fellowship takes place primarily outside as weather permits, our collective adherence to the face covering requirement outdoors will also communicate love for our neighbors as they witness our interactions.
6. Why are we no longer requiring weekly registration for Sunday service (as of Apr. 25, 2021)? Isn’t registration necessary for contact tracing?
When Cherrydale reopened June 2020, we required registration to help us know how many people planned to return to worship in person. This helped us to ensure we could accommodate everyone and meet the social distancing requirements. Registration was not utilized for contact tracing purposes; contact tracing is spearheaded by local health authorities working together with individuals with COVID-19.
Since June 2020, we have had a steady trend in our numbers that has allowed us to easily anticipate and prepare for how many will be worshipping with us in person each Sunday. We also have accommodations for overflow with social-distance seating both in our Commons and downstairs in The Well.
As of April 25, 2021, we no longer require registration in order to attend our Sunday morning worship in person. That said, many of our ministries continue to require registration, like our typical pre-COVID practices. We remain committed to following CDC safety recommendations to ensure the safety of our church family.
7. What does Children’s Ministry look like right now?
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 may 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 with limited capacity.
To help engage the children during the service, we are providing a worship activity packet. For families who are worshiping at home, we will continue to provide these on our livestream page. We are currently offering Family Sunday School in the Gym from 10:15-10:45 am along with a nursery for children ages 8 month through 3 years old at both the 9:00 and 11:00 am services. Learn more about Children’s Ministry here.
8. What does Youth Ministry look like right now?
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. Youth are also playing an active role in serving on Sunday mornings as ushers to help seat people with social distancing. Learn more about our Youth Ministry here.
9. Is Cherrydale currently observing baptism and the Lord’s Supper?
Due to the restrictions of COVID-19, Cherrydale was initially unable to observe baptism or the Lord’s Supper safely beginning March 2020. Once state guidelines allowed us to meet in person, we decided to begin observing these vital church ordinances with continued guidance from health officials on safe practices.
After prayer, discussion, and reviewing state guidelines, Cherrydale’s elders opted to resume baptizing believers in our church baptistry on June 28, 2021 and the Lord’s Supper on July 5, 2021. For details on how we are seeking to safely follow these ordinances, please read our Elder Council blog post here.
10. What happens in the event of a COVID-19 exposure at a Cherrydale event?
The Elder Council has developed a step-by-step process for responding to a known COVID-19 case among Cherrydale attendees. Our goals are threefold:
- Providing care and compassion for those who may be sick or at risk in our church family
- Following health and safety guidelines provided by Arlington County officials and the CDC
- Caring for our broader congregation by periodically communicating about our procedures