To the people of Flemington UMC,
I’m taking a break from our normal Messenger devotional to share an update with you about our church’s response to COVID-19. I ask that you closely read this email due to the important nature of the information being shared.
In the last few weeks, COVID-19 cases have more than tripled in New Jersey. In addition, a concerning surge of new cases is occurring across our nation. While various factors are at play, it seems clear that this increase of cases has to do with a new strain of the COVID-19 virus called the “Delta” variant. While scientists are still learning more about Delta, it has become clear that this variant is more contagious than previous strains of the virus. On top of that, the Delta strain can more easily infect and spread through vaccinated people than previous strains. All that being said, vaccinations are still highly effective against Delta (especially at preventing severe illness and death), and unvaccinated individuals make up most new cases.
In response to these developments, the CDC, the State of New Jersey, and the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference all recommended last week that everyone return to wearing masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Considering these changing dynamics and the recommendations of our state and denominational leaders, our Leadership Council decided to revise our health and safety policies. Further below in this email, you will find our updated written policy, which lays out our new policy regarding masks, small-group gatherings, and outside groups using our building. Copies of this policy will also be available at church this Sunday.
Friends, I want you to know that these decisions were not easy for our leadership to make, especially during this confusing and ambiguous stage of the pandemic. However, as leaders of the church, we are united in our desire to do everything we can to protect all people in our congregation and our wider community. We do this out of faithfulness to one who calls us not to look out for our own interests but the interest of others (Phil. 2:4)
As always, I invite you to be in prayer for our church, and I’m looking forward to continuing our journey together through the Lord’s Prayer this Sunday (whether you join us in person or tune in from home).
Flemington UMC Health & Safety Protocols
Effective August 4th, 2021
The following policies describe the health and safety protocols that Flemington UMC has adopted in light of COVID-19. Given the dynamic nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, these procedures and policies are subject to continual changes and revision as the Flemington UMC Leadership Council deems necessary. At all times, Flemington UMC’s health and safety protocols must be in alignment with New Jersey State and federal laws.
Due to the increase of Delta variant COVID-19 cases and the most recent recommendations put out by the CDC, the state of New Jersey, and GNJ, our church is now requiring that all persons who worship with us wear a face mask, regardless of vaccination status. The only situations when masks may temporarily come off are for 1) the Worship Leader or the Pastor when they are speaking from the podium and 2) when congregation members ingest communion elements.
We are using premade communion packets that will be consecrated and ingested from people’s seats due to health and safety concerns about intinction and to ensure that all worshippers feel safe receiving communion.
We are not passing around the offering plate to minimize contact on high-touch surfaces.
Our church leadership will re-explore our policy on mask-wearing upon any changes in CDC, State, and denominational recommendations.
In-Person Church Gatherings:
In-person church gatherings (defined as ongoing church-led ministries, small groups, and administrative meetings) can occur at this time. In such gatherings, all persons must wear masks. Based on the needs or preferences of its members, committees and small groups can also choose to meet online. This determination will be made by the respective committee chair or small group leader in consultation with other members.
Our cleaning service will be using disinfectant wipes on all high-touch surfaces and areas.
We will no longer be serving refreshments in Fellowship Hall after service due to the new CDC, State, and Denominational recommendations. However, members of the church are free to socialize in the Fellowship Hall after service. Food and drinks will not be consumed.
Exposure & Confirmed COVID-19 Cases:
If a member of the church tests positive for COVID-19, the Pastor or SPRC chair will immediately interview the individual to
1) Determine if the individual has been in the church within the last 14 days since positive diagnosis or contact
2) Determine who the individual was in close contact with (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes cumulative person)
3) Request that individual self-quarantine for 10 days, per New Jersey health department guidelines.
After the interview, the Pastor or SPRC chair will attempt to contact all potentially exposed members and guests while keeping medical confidentiality.
Outside groups are allowed to use our building. However, any group that uses our facilities will not be permitted to consume any food or drinks and will need to require all attendees to wear masks, per CDC recommendations. These stipulations and requirements are stated in our updated building use agreements.
Large Outreach Gathering:
Any large gatherings must be approved by the leadership council and aligned with current CDC recommendations.