We pray the following questions help answer some of the “why” behind our current reopening plan.
1. Why did we open June 7th?
During Phase 0, we 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 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 did we wait a week to reopen when we could have met on May 31?
The services taking place in our building during COVID-19 are 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 social distancing and contact tracing. Maintaining six-foot social 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 recommended that we keep an accurate record of attendance for the purposes of contact tracing—identification of persons who may have had close 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 service 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. Why are we only having one service?
Based on the responses that we received from our May 2020 church survey, we anticipated that we would only need one service for members, regular attenders, and visitors who prefer to participate in-person—at least initially. Each week, we are monitoring registration and attendance carefully to determine when we might need to add a second service. We are currently planning to begin offering two services at 9:00 am and 11:00 am starting Aug. 23rd. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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 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 packet. 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.
12. 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 currently meeting in outside group events this summer, subject to re-opening guidelines at the time of the event.
13. When is Cherrydale going to start observing baptism and the Lord’s Supper again?
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 opted to resume baptizing believers in our church baptistry starting June 28th and the Lord’s Supper on July 5th. For details on how we are seeking to safely follow these ordinances, please read our Elder Council letter here.