Dear Yates Baptist Church:
Several weeks ago, the Yates Deacons approved an advisory group, called the “Resumption Roundtable,” to consider how Yates might return to more in-person church activities and identify the criteria that will help us know when and how to do it. Serving on the workgroup are Don Bynum, Lindsay Cook, Beverly Garcia, Sam Haithcock, Walt Pickett, Pam Riley, Gene Smith, Bill Yount, the pastor and ministry staff.
We recognize how important it is to have clear communication with the congregation, so we would like to offer some initial feedback from the past few weeks’ research and deliberation:
- Coronavirus infection rates continue to increase in Durham and across the state. Detailed information about infection and hospitalization rates are found at ncdhhs.gov. Though North Carolina has entered “Phase 2” of Governor Cooper’s easing of social and business restrictions, the Durham/Chapel Hill region has not reached the projected peak number of either infections or hospitalizations. Until there is credible clinical evidence that we have “flattened the curve” or that cases are trending down, moving toward more direct contact will be very deliberate.
In light of this, our first recommendation is to refrain from opening the church campus for activities in June, while reviewing information to identify a window for modest resumption of limited activity on the campus later this summer.
- As we consider resuming gatherings and activities on the church campus, new procedures and protocols must follow, such as sanitizing gathering spaces, wearing masks, practicing hand hygiene and maintaining physical distancing, all while limiting participation numbers and time together. These are medically-recommended steps to reduce the risks associated with gathering until more effective means of identifying and treating those with infections are established.
For instance, the current recommendations for gathered worship would change our customary practices considerably. Attendance at services would require wearing masks, reducing contact time to less than an hour, severely limit total congregational numbers, maintain adequate physical distance between household groups, refrain from singing and physical touch, and limit access to shared restrooms, entrances and exits. In order to accomplish this, several worship services in various areas around the church campus might be offered through the week.
The Roundtable is developing a list of the necessary steps required to do these things. However, we want the congregation to recognize that all these steps are taken to prevent the spread of an infection that imperceptibly affects some and has a devastating impact on others. Additionally, the possibility of spreading the virus through asymptomatic carriers is a very real concern. Yates will continue to practice medically-recommended measures that slow the spread of coronavirus infections. We will proceed on that basis: following the guidance of medical experts, including those in our congregation, to take the most effective measures possible and determine how best to implement them.
- Please remember that adjusting to COVID-19 is a dynamic process, often based on changing or emerging information. Our recommendations of what we should do, and when, are made in the context of what is happening in our community and as medical research improves our understanding of what works best. For now, in North Carolina’s “Phase 2” of reopening, the requirements are fairly stringent and require considerable planning and decision-making on how to apply them to our Yates facilities to make in person experiences safe. The ministry staff is working to identify what various church activities might look like under these restrictions. Along the way, recommendations will be made to the Deacons to move forward using the approach deemed most effective, in maintaining safety and health, and providing meaningful gathered experiences.
Whatever evolves out of our planning and assessing readiness to “resume,” two priorities remain:
- To use the best expert medical guidance available at the time to assure we avoid contributing to the spread of the virus, and thus protect the health of our members and our community; and,
- New approaches to keeping “together” as a congregation, including worship, will be continually refined to optimize opportunities to stay together safely, whether in person or remotely.
We welcome your feedback and questions. Please feel free to reach out to any member named above with your additional thoughts or questions as we discern the best way forward in these unprecedented times.
May God bless you and keep you safe and healthy,
The Yates Resumption Roundtable