Center Grove U.M.C. Reopening Update
Thanks to each of you who completed the Church Reopening Survey. Following is an update on the survey results.
Due to COVID -19, our lives changed immediately in early March of this year. We are now in a pandemic. Our inability to worship in person was a major change. As “Shelter in Place”, and “Safer at Home” orders were issued, we immediately began identifying ways to connect virtually to continue our worship service and bible study. Connecting and communicating virtually is our new normal.
In March of this year, Center Grove’s Pastor and leadership team immediately began zoom meetings to discuss plans for addressing ways to keep our congregation safe and to remain connected. One of the pandemic’s gifts to us is reminding us of the sacred value of the gathered community and of embodied worship. However, the decisions to resume these activities is complex. The Pastor and the leadership team continued to meet, discuss, and develop safety plans using the guidelines from the CDC, the Alabama Department of Public Health, our local government and the North Alabama Conference, of the United Methodist Church.
The decided next step was to survey the congregation for their input for guidance as we move forward with discussions and plans for reopening the church. The survey was distributed and made available for members of the congregation in early August. Most responses were received between August 3rd and August 10th. Forty-one (41) survey results were received. The responses were generally consistent with few outliers.
The 41 surveys completed and returned represent 95 individuals in the households surveyed. Most of the respondents live in two-person homes with no children. The majority of the household members are age 65 and over (38%), the next largest age group is age 36-64 (35%). The 26-35 age group is 9% of the total household members; the 19-25 age group, the 12-18 age group and everyone age 11 and under are each 6% of the total household’s population.
While everyone is at risk of contracting COVID -19, people of any age may be at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 if they have one or more of the identified high-risk conditions (an extensive list was provided in the survey). Eighty percent of respondents, or a family member reported being at high risk.
Schools and businesses closed, working from home and virtual school became a part of our new normal. However, there were individuals identified as essential workers to ensure that we receive healthcare and necessary goods and services. Thirty percent of respondents, or a family member reported being an essential worker. Additionally, twelve household members reported being a caregiver for someone else.
The demographics of the survey included a small number of school aged children. Respondents reported that five school age children would continue virtual school when schools reopened and two reported they will attend in-person. Every respondent with children indicated they do not plan to bring their children to church when it first reopens. There was no interest expressed in children’s church.
The question, when are you willing to return to in-person services yielded an answer of unsure from the majority, the next highest-ranking response was—after January 2021, followed by when a vaccine is available, and after one-month County downward trend in cases. Four respondents reported they were ready to return immediately.
Additionally, respondents were asked to report events that must be in place for comfortable in-person worship. Among the items listed, the most emphasized were social distancing, sanitizing and masks required. The next most frequently listed was limited capacity for worshiping, contact tracing, and bathroom capacity limits. Listed with less frequency was RSVP required for attending worship service.
When asked about interest in alternative worship and ministry methods, online virtual service is favored by the majority. Drive thru ministries ranked second and outdoor service third.
Considering possible COVID-19 ministry efforts, respondents were asked to indicate whether they anticipate, for the areas listed, any interest or need during continued “safer at home” practices. Ranked number one was securing essential items followed by meals for students and families and utilities, with transportation and child care last. Anyone in need of assistance should contact the church office for assistance from outreach ministries!
The leadership team has continued meeting and planning for the church reopening. Using the results from the church reopening survey, guidance and guidelines from the CDC, the Alabama Department of Public Health, our local government, and the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, along with knowledge and information obtained through the leadership team, a comprehensive written plan/policy will be developed. To ensure access to the information, the written plan/policy will be made available to everyone. Using the plan/policy developed for Center Grove United Methodist Church, the church will reopen with a phased in approach beginning early January 2021, based on conditions and COVID-19 cases.
Center Grove Leadership Team