covid update mandate aug2020

An Update from Church Leadership

On behalf of the elders and staff of Calvary Bible Church, I would like to give you an update on how our church has responded to COVID-19 in recent months. As stated in previous communications, this has been a highly unusual time in our church’s history. Information changes daily, and there are many facets to the issues we must address. The purpose of this communication is to share some insight into the decisions that have been made.

Since mid-March, the church has had to deal with a number of issues that required a quick response. This is not easy when dealing with a large church, conflicting “facts,” and people with a variety of physical, spiritual, and social backgrounds and perspectives. The principles outlined in Romans 13–15 and 1 Corinthians 9:22 have been the Scriptures guiding our decisions. I strongly encourage you to read these passages. While these verses provide truth and guidance, our ability to make perfect decisions and responses as elders and staff is fallible. We ask for your patience as we wrestle with these difficult issues.

The principles in Romans 13–15 and 1 Corinthians 9:22 are summarized in the verses below (quoted from the HCSB):

“Everyone must submit to the governing authorities … so then the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command … do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason.” – Romans 13:1–4

“… Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13:9b-10

“Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues.” – Romans 14:1

“One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind.” – Romans 14:5

“But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God.” – Romans 14:10

“Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.” Romans – 14:13

“So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Do not tear down God’s work because of food.” – Romans 14:19

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength.” – Romans 15:1

“Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepts you, to the glory of God.” – Romans 15:7

“To the weak I become weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.” I Corinthians 9:22

In summary, the three primary principles that have been guiding our decisions are:

  1. To honor our government. We should have cause to fear if we disobey our government.
  2. To love all people.
  3. To become all things to all people that we may win them to Christ. In other words, we are trying to accommodate as many people as possible so long as it does not cause us to violate Scripture.

When COVID-19 first broke out, we were mandated by the government to shut down. At that time, based on the best information we had, we willingly complied. Our goals were to glorify Christ, protect our flock from a potentially serious disease, and obey our governing authorities as much as possible.

When our church reopened, the three principles listed above guided our decisions. The survey we received from the congregation showed that there were three categories of people at CBC:

  1. Those who were not comfortable returning to church.
  2. Those who would only return with precautionary measures being taken.
  3. Those who did not want to worship with restrictions.

In our goal of becoming all things to all people, we have tried to be respectful of and accommodate all three groups.

  • We offered online services.
  • We required masks during the 8:45am service.
  • The 10:45am service contained no restrictions other than social distancing.

This was done out of love and respect for all three groups.

It took time to reopen after the restrictions were lifted. We needed to complete the survey, talk to the medical community, and determine the appropriate cleaning procedures to establish safe conditions for congregants and staff. We had to order, setup, and learn to use technical equipment so we could live-stream the service. We knew that up to half of our congregants would not be able to attend on Sunday for some time, and we did not want to reopen the church and be unable to provide a worship service for those individuals. Another consideration was volunteer needs. It was necessary to find volunteers willing to serve and establish protocols for various ministries to operate. We opened the church as quickly as possible.

Another issue we have faced is the nature and content of our services. Our sermon series were planned months in advance to allow those delivering the messages time to prepare, and now we are having “family services” every week. People are tuning in at home with their families and children are attending in-person services. We are learning how to present content that enables parents to help their young children participate. This is a work in progress, and we ask for patience as we navigate this issue.

The latest issue was Governor Evers' unexpected announcement requiring masks. This announcement was received on Thursday afternoon at 3pm. Our weekend services and activities had already been planned, and video recording was due to start at 7pm. The church had four hours to adjust. We do not have lawyers or doctors on staff, and we had limited information. Based on the information we had, we announced that masks would be required, and adjustments would be made in future weeks.

After receiving feedback from congregants, working through the details of the weekend services, and gaining better understanding the Governor’s mask mandate, we want to clarify our position and expectations:

We will continue to offer online services for those who cannot attend in-person. We will continue to require that those attending the 8:45am service on Sunday morning wear masks to protect those with health concerns. The 10:45am service will follow the Governor’s order regarding masks. The Governor’s order contains a number of exemptions. It is your responsibility to determine whether you should wear a mask or if you meet one of these exemptions. We will not be asking why a person is not wearing a mask. We are not the enforcers of the government mandate. We urge you to extend grace and mercy to others regardless of which of the three options they choose.

In the decisions we have made over the past five months, our intent has been to love our congregation. We want the name of Christ to be glorified in all we do. As elders and staff, we encourage our church family to love one another, respect our government authorities as much as possible, and, especially, to lift up the name of Christ.

We love our Savior, we love our church, and we love all who attend. Our motives are pure and our goals are noble, but our implementation may not always be perfect. We ask for an extra measure of patience and grace as we work through these unusual times. We have an enemy who seeks to divide and destroy, but Jesus Christ brings love, life, and eternal salvation.

In Christ,

Charlie Hansen
Church Chairman

Update on Services and Congregational Vote

Effective August 1, the Governor of Wisconsin has mandated that masks are to be worn indoors everywhere except private residences (click to read the mandate and exceptions). Wearing masks won't prevent us from worshipping God and preaching the gospel. We will have Worship Services at 8:45am and 10:45am this Sunday with masks required. We will have a limited number of masks available; please bring your own if possible. We encourage you to join us in worship! Our church leadership is considering service options for the coming weeks. A reminder that parking for all worship services will be in the front parking lot starting this Sunday.

Update on Congregational Vote

In response to the Governor's mandate, we will have two options for voting on Sunday at 6pm: A seating area in the Worship Center where masks will be required and a drive-thru area in the back parking lot. Church elders and members of the construction committee will be available to answer questions and receive feedback in both voting areas. Drive-thru voting will be open from 6pm to 7pm.

Attending In-Person Services

We are looking forward to our restart of in-person worship services on June 27 & 28. At first, our services will be quite different from what they were on March 8. We expect things to continue opening up and that health guidelines will be eased in the coming months. In response, we will adjust our services accordingly.

A significant amount of time, prayer, and planning has gone into our restart. As we outlined in our Congregational Communication on May 31st, our plans for reopening are based on information we gathered from our congregational survey, recommendations provided by the medical community, and the guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and the Wisconsin Economic Development Council.

The doctors we consulted were supportive of our reopening plans. Their greatest concern was the potential risk of having a large number of people in a confined space for an extended period of time. Their recommendations were that we should take reasonable steps to help people maintain social distancing, encourage congregants to wear masks to help protect those with health concerns, and direct congregants to enter and exit the building quickly and do their visiting outdoors.

Key Details On In-Person Services On June 27 & 28:

* We will have three services: Saturday at 5 pm, Sunday at 8:45 am, and Sunday at 10:45 am.

* At this time, no other ministries will be open (Kingdom Zone, Youth, Adult Equipping Classes, Café, and Library).

* The 8:45 service is designated for at-risk congregants and those with health concerns.

* Wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing is required to attend the 8:45 service.

* Our services will be 45 minutes in length (both online and in-person). We hope to lengthen the services over time. The primary reason for this is to allow crews to clean the building between services.

* We are excited to have children participating in worship with us. We support you as you train your children in worshipping God and listening to the preaching of His Word. Activity bags will be available for your children.

* We are asking congregants to RSVP for the service they will be attending. While we will have overflow seating in the Gym, we hope and prefer everyone to be able to sit in the Worship Center together.

* Bathrooms near the Worship Center and Gym will be available.

* Seating in the lobby will be temporarily unavailable to reduce congestion in the lobby and make it easier to maintain social distancing.

* The nursing mothers’ room will be open.

Here’s what we are asking you to do if you plan to attend. It may seem like a lot, but we have volunteers and signage around the facility to help guide you through the changes.

While these guidelines may seem inadequate to some and burdensome to others, it is good to remember the reason we gather: to worship our Lord together and to proclaim the unity we have in Jesus through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-3).

1. RSVP Online

  • You will be able to see how many seats are left in each service. If a service is full, you can still attend, but you may end up watching the service in the overflow room.
  • You can cancel your reservation by clicking a link in the confirmation email you will receive when you RSVP.
  • At this point, we are only asking you to RSVP for the June 27/28 services. We will not ask you to check-in when you arrive.
  • If we decide to collect RSVPs for the rest of the summer, we will communicate that at a later date.

RSVP Now

2. Arrive and Park

  • Park in the East (front) parking lot for the Saturday 5 pm and Sunday 8:45 am services.
  • Park in the West (rear) parking lot for the Sunday 10:45 am service.
  • Doors will open about 20 minutes prior to the service start time.
  • We will be seating in groups, so if you want to sit with friends or extended family, please meet them in the parking lot prior to entering the building.

3. Enter and Be Seated

  • Greeters will welcome you and direct you to a Worship Center door.
  • If you plan to wear a mask, it is a good idea to bring your own.
  • Hand sanitizer, kid’s activity bags, and a limited number of masks will be available at the entrance. We encourage you to make use of them.
  • Ushers will seat you. To reduce cross traffic and maximize seating capacity, we will be filling the rows in the Worship Center in order.

4. During the Service

  • We will have limited congregational singing during the service. If you are not already wearing a mask, we would encourage you to do so when singing.
  • If you feel ill, put on a mask if you are not already wearing one, exit the Worship Center carefully, and notify a greeter. If you can leave the building safely, please do so. Otherwise, a greeter will direct you to a designated area.

5. Exiting and Visiting

  • After the service concludes, please stay in your row until an usher dismisses you.
  • After you are dismissed, please exit the building promptly. We need to empty the building so we can start cleaning.
  • Once everyone is outside, we will lock the doors and start our cleaning procedures.
  • We encourage you to visit with the church family in the parking lot. The doctors we consulted said the risks of infection are lower when we are outdoors. Feel free to visit as long as you want.
  • If you leave something inside the building, please notify the greeter at the entrance who will be happy to retrieve your item.

We understand these guidelines may make it difficult for your family to attend when we resume in-person services. We are planning to offer online services for the rest of the year, so you can continue participating online and return to in-person services when it works for you. You could also consider signing up for one of the Summer Small Groups that will meet either in-person or online in July and August. The purpose of these groups is to provide an opportunity to discuss what God is doing in our lives, pray for one another, and share in the daily call to follow Jesus. You can join one of these groups whether you plan to attend in-person services or not. Contact the Church Office if interested.

Calvary Bible Church

1450 Oakridge Rd
PO Box 799
Neenah, WI 54957
Phone: (920) 725-3896

Office Hours

Monday–Thursday: 8 AM to 4:30 PM
Friday: 8 AM to 4 PM