OCC Guidelines for In-Person Services
The elders of OCC have continued working together to develop a plan for our public gatherings that holds true to God’s Word and allows us adequately to serve the needs of His people. Though we are living through a pandemic and struggling to understand the practical effects that should have upon our life as a church body, we have to realize that despite the presence of this virus the regulative principle of worship continues to be binding on all Christian congregations. The regulative principle is simply the biblical teaching that God regulates the worship of His people with, by, in, and through His Holy Word, the Bible. God’s expectations for the manner in which He is to be worshiped are set by Him and Him alone. And though certain accommodations may be allowed for the Church when she faces unique situations, there are particular mandates in Scripture that do not change based upon our circumstances. This is encouraging for the believer, because it means that we are never left wondering what God expects from us, even in the most difficult of conditions. However, ordering our steps according to those expectations requires believers to maintain a grounded faith in a loving, kind, and saving God, as well as courage to walk with Christ through the difficult trials we face (Revelation 21:8, Isaiah 43:1-2). There are, have been, and will continue to be difficult times for the Church until Christ’s return. In many cases, believers are left to work out the principles set forth in God’s Word in the midst of trying, confusing, and challenging situations. This year, which has seen the rise and spread of COVID-19, has proven to be one of these times for the Church. As the elders have been wrestling through the difficulties of understanding the nature of this virus, its actual threat (based on facts, not main-stream news reports), as well as the added strain of church-state relations, we have come to the conviction that certain policies which were initially set in place need to change in order to more closely align with God’s expectations for us revealed in His Word.
At this time, we believe the following measures are the best way for our church body to move forward during this season. As was stated in May’s edition of our guidelines, none of these measures are set in stone. We know that in time, changes in the current coronavirus situation will require changes to these policies as well. Also, our understanding of the best way for Oakridge to handle this pandemic may morph over time. But for now, we are asking all who attend our worship service to abide by the policies below. We do recognize that these measures are not perfect. But, as we seek for more wisdom from God to shepherd this body of believers, we do pray that all of us can continue to implement these policies during this season in a friendly, considerate manner; and with much-needed attitudes of love, selflessness, grace, patience, and good humor.
Details about the Worship Services:
- One Service: We are returning to one service on August 23rd. As of now, there will be two spaces available for worship. One will be upstairs in the sanctuary. The other will be downstairs in the Fellowship Hall. The plan is to alternate which space is designated for masks only and which is set aside for masks to be optional each week. On August 23rd, the mask-optional space will be in the sanctuary, and the mask-only space will be in the Fellowship Hall. This planned alternation week-by-week will depend on how many saints worship in the mask-only space. The service will be held at 10:20 AM.
- Live Streaming: Though viewing our services online is not the same as assembling together with the saints, we know that there are a variety of reasons and important considerations/responsibilities which may prohibit some from attending the worship service. In order to continue ministering to saints who are in difficult situations, our service will continue to be live-streamed on our YouTube channel. However, the elders do want to emphasize the concerns we have with continuing for long without the benefit of face-to-face ministry, encouragement, and the fellowship of the saints (Hebrews 3:12-14, Hebrews 10:24-25).
- Service Attendance and Seating: We ask everyone to exercise sound judgment and wisdom during this season. The sanctuary will be “open seating,” in that those attending may choose their own seats. We ask that everyone continue to respect the concerns for distancing and continue to foster an atmosphere of love and grace where all believers are free to serve and worship the Lord according to the parameters of God’s Word and the dictates of conscience. Seating will be handled in the same manner in the Fellowship Hall. Families and individuals are welcome to move their seats to wherever is comfortable for them. There are a limited number of cushioned chairs available (15-20). These will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are plenty of other metal chairs available. However, if someone worshipping in the Fellowship Hall needs a chair with more cushioning, please let the deacons know so that they can arrange for a different seat to be available.
- Air-flow: During the service, we will continue to open all windows in the foyer and sanctuary until the weather prohibits us from doing so. The windows in the Fellowship Hall will also be open. All fans will also be turned on, and a/c units will be blowing (though on cooler days, only the fan in the units will be running). Please dress accordingly.
- Singing: As a vital part of corporate worship (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19, Psalm 95:1-2, Hebrews 2:12), there will be singing in our services. We do ask all who attend the physical gatherings to wear a mask while singing.
- Masks: Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has issued “Emergency Executive Order 20-81,” and a separate website makes clear that this Executive Order is intended to include churches (staysafe.mn.gov). We have honest and significant questions about the government’s authority to extend such a mandate into the free exercise and worship of the church. Though we do not feel led to bring such a mandate to Christ's body ourselves, we do continue to encourage prayerful consideration of using masks while in the church building, at least when in close proximity to others.
- Communion: As an essential part of corporate worship, communion at the Lord’s Table will continue (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). However, we will not distribute the elements as we normally do. On Sunday’s when we worship in communion, pre-packed communion cups will be provided at the entrance of the sanctuary and at the entrance of the Fellowship Hall. We ask for everyone to throw their own cups away at the end of the service as you exit the building.
- Giving: Collection boxes will continue to be stationed in the back of the sanctuary for believers to worship the Lord in their giving. There will be a collection box placed downstairs near the entrance of the Fellowship Hall as well. The option to give online will remain on the church's website during this season.
- Nursery: There will be no staffed nursery offered during the service. However, the nursery rooms will be open and available for those families who need or would like to utilize them for their young ones. The service will also be broadcast in the main nursery room. We ask that all of the toys used by children be left on the small table in the nursery so that they can be sanitized.
- Bathrooms: All bathrooms will be available for use. The bathroom in the foyer will continue to be reserved for women, and the downstairs bathroom directly below that will continue to be reserved for men. Those attending service in the Fellowship Hall are welcome to utilize the other restrooms as labeled on either side of the water fountain. Lysol will be available in each restroom. If you use the bathroom, we kindly ask that you sanitize the toilet seat and any handles that you touch. THANK YOU!
- Water/Coffee: For now, BYOW (water) and BYOC (coffee); and so that we do not discriminate, BYOT (tea) as well (your own is probably better anyway). We do ask that if you bring a drink into the sanctuary, please keep it in a spill-proof container.
- Social Distancing: We do ask that everyone act with wisdom, and respect the convictions of one another. Though not nearly as deadly as was initially reported, COVID-19 is still a serious virus. We do continue to ask everyone to exit the building immediately following service in order to fellowship with one another outside.
- High Risk: The CDC identifies those who are 65 years or older, who have serious underlying medical conditions (lung or heart disease, compromised immune systems, severe obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, liver disease), or who have any sort of compromised immune systems as “high risk.” Being “high risk” means that you are more likely (though not guaranteed) to experience severe illness (possibly death) from COVID-19 if contracted. The elders understand and support those who choose not to attend because they are in the high-risk category. Please take advantage of streaming the service online. Those who are in the high-risk category and still desire to join the gatherings in person will not be hindered from doing so.
- Hand Sanitizer: There will be some hand sanitizer at the church building for those who need it. However, we do ask for everyone to bring and use their own hand sanitizer if possible.
- Feeling Sick? If any family members are feeling sick in any way, we continue to ask for you to stay home and take advantage of our live-streaming option.
- OCC will labor to maintain appropriate levels of cleanliness and sanitation at all times. However, there is no human guarantee against the possibility of contracting coronavirus (no different than with any other sickness).
- All who attend service at OCC in person do so acknowledging the risks associated with public gatherings. By coming inside the church building and attending our worship service, you are accepting the risk and possibility of infection with COVID-19 for yourself, and those for whom you are responsible.
We pray that this will help you make an informed decision about whether to attend our in-person gatherings at this time. In this matter, each one of us must be free to operate according to the dictates of our conscience without fear of being judged by one another, or guilty of judging one another. This applies to those who decide to stay home and to those who decide to attend. We ask all to make sure that whatever you decide to do, you do not make your decision out of fear but in faith. For, whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
May the Lord be honored in us and through us as we seek to honor and obey Him moving forward. And may He grant that we as individuals and as a corporate body conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
May the grace, peace, and mercy of the Lord be with you all,
(August 19, 2020)