Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions #1
We know you have questions about when we may be able to return to our Sunday in-person worship services. In the following paragraphs we will answer some of your questions and explain our focus, intent, and hope for the future as we work together in Christ’s name. Your patience, prayers, and support have been so appreciated by the pastors, staff, Leadership Team, and Re-Entry Team. This has been especially true as we have faced many sudden and unexpected situations and challenges, sometimes requiring immediate and far-reaching decisions.
As we work through this series of unexpected challenges, know that Christ Church is strong and committed to taking God’s message of salvation to those around us and to the world. Please keep praying for us as we continuously make decisions and adjustments to do just that.
The Leadership Team: Don Yeoman, Pru Bonham, Greg Bruning, Paul Conforti, Lew Hassell & Vann Trapp
1. QUESTION: Why did we stop in-person worship services and ministries?
The Governor’s Executive Order March 9 declared a Disaster Emergency for the State because of the coronavirus pandemic. A succeeding Executive Order March 16 prevented gatherings of 25 persons or more. This number was reduced in successive orders.
2. QUESTION: What was our church leaders’ response to the Governor’s Initial Executive Orders?
We conducted the first of many staff and Leadership Team meetings to plan how best to care for our congregation and those we serve in our ministries.
We immediately determined to host our Sunday worship service online so that we could all worship God together each Sunday morning with song, scripture, sermon, and announcements. This was especially important since many in our congregation were in the high risk categories for the coronavirus. This was a good option because most of our congregation, and many of the people we serve throughout the community, have access to the internet. Christ Church had minimal equipment for this kind of project, and much of the equipment we had was unsophisticated or outdated. But we committed ourselves to make it happen. Staff donated the use of their own personal equipment, made the adjustments, and invested over and above hours to make this pivot. As a result, our team has produced beautiful and inspiring worship services online every week.
We also quickly established our Senior Response Team to check in on any of our members over 65 and those who are immune compromised, offering assistance with travel, errands, shopping, or whatever else was needed. We have continued to help where needed and check in regularly.
We also moved all our small groups online via Zoom so that our congregation could stay connected through virtual small groups. Some chose to disband, but many of our groups have continued in their studies and times of community connection.
3. Question: How are our present online services created?
Each week, Vann prepares and practices his sermon by Wednesday so that it is ready to be taped early Thursday morning, usually around sunrise. This includes finding a suitable location, loading in the lighting and recording equipment, getting it set up (with help from a friend here at Christ Church), recording the sermon (as many takes as necessary), and getting the video uploaded to BJ for editing and posting Sunday morning. This same process is also used by Cheryl when she preaches. Later that day, Vann and Cheryl design and practice their follow-up conversation to the sermon based on the topic, scripture for the week, or something they discern to be important for the congregation. Cheryl then creates an outline and questions based on the sermon topic for use by our C-3 community groups.
Earlier in the week, other staff set up video equipment at their respective homes or other locations and record other parts of the service like welcome, announcements, Scripture readings, interviews, etc. While most of the taping used to take place in their homes, most staff members have gotten creative with the locations where they record to keep the services visually fresh for the congregation.
In the meantime, BJ selects the music for Sunday early in the week, arranges the parts for instrumentalists, selects vocalist and band members, emails the vocalists internet links for the music, arranges a rehearsal schedule with the musicians, and rehearses the band and vocalists. Next he set ups various video and sound equipment and videos the music portion of the service. This includes multiple practices and takes. On Friday and Saturday BJ usually spends many hours editing video and sound, working through issues, and putting the whole package together as a Sunday morning video worship service for our benefit. He then posts the video to the church.online platform that we use to broadcast, moderate, and view our services.
Typically, the whole team gathers on Sunday morning with several other volunteers to host and monitor the Sunday service. This includes taking attendance through check-ins, welcoming people as they join, hosting and monitoring the chat feature, taking prayer requests and praying with individuals, and watching for problems in the platform. When complications arise, BJ is the go to person who gets in touch with the administrator of the platform to seek help.
Because of this complex process, our pastors and staff have been working many more extra hours each week so that we can worship together on Sunday mornings.
4. Question: What is the difference between what we are doing presently and live streaming?
Unlike what we are doing now, which has just been explained above, live streaming is the process where cameras and sound equipment broadcast the worship service at the same time it is occurring. Adjustments in sound and visuals are made on the spot while the service is being broadcast. Pre-recorded sections may be used, but are included as segments of the live service. This live service is also recorded and then posted for later viewing.
Unlike what we are doing now, live streaming also requires a team of volunteers who can be trained to run cameras, mix sound for both the live service and the broadcast service, and produce the video presentation for the live stream. This is over and above the volunteers who are helping in the service with greeting, prayer team, CCKids, etc. These are also volunteers beyond those who are involved on the worship team and preaching. So, this process means that staff are not able to make this whole process happen on their own.
5. QUESTION: What are the advantages to a live-streamed worship service?
For various reasons, even when we can regather live, not all of our members will be able to attend. For some, this is for health reasons, for others, it will be about the timing of the service, and for still others, it will be about having limited seating available. Live streaming allows us to continue to reach those who are not able to attend our live services with a high quality, virtual service in real time and will continue to allow us to post our service online for later viewing.
Live streaming will eliminate much of the time-consuming pastor and staff video and editing sessions now taking place throughout the week. However, these hours will likely shift to learning this new rhythm of preparing and effectively executing the live/live streamed service.
If restrictions on group size continue, we will be able to broadcast the service, with our new equipment, to small groups in various rooms within the church as well, such as the Connection Café, to allow for people to gather live while watching the service broadcast from the sanctuary. People will also be able to access our worship service live from other locations such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and the homes of shut-ins or those who are ill.
6. QUESTION: How did we determine the cost to upgrade our equipment for a live-streamed worship service?
Our Worship Arts Director, BJ, put together a plan to cover three main areas: what was needed to upgrade our equipment to raise the quality of our live services in the sanctuary so they could be live streamed, what was needed to produce and broadcast the live streamed service itself, and what was needed to upgrade our equipment throughout our campus to be able to gather and view this live stream in various locations like the Connection Café. This is important to note, because this cost covers far more than just “getting something online.” It is meant to get something of quality online in a quality way and prepare our own facilities to make use of that capability.
BJ then identified necessary equipment and services (such as the internet speed and bandwidth upgrade needed) at the lowest cost possible through sales, non-profit discounts, volume purchasing, and through relationships with dealers. This number was then double checked through several other channels. Our goal is to balance quality and reliability of the production for the viewer, the simplicity and trainability for our volunteers, and total cost.
7. QUESTION: In response to successive government orders, what measures were put in place to protect the health and safety of staff and persons who visit or use our buildings?
First, all buildings were closed so that no one unintentionally violated government directives. All meetings were initially moved off campus. Only staff led meetings have returned at this point. All external door locks were changed since in-person worship and ministries had been disallowed by the government, and only staff would need to enter buildings. This was meant to predictably ensure the health and safety of our people and staff. Cleaning, sanitizing and entrance protocols were put in place so that our facility would not be inadvertently contaminated. We have also added 8 ultra-violet air sterilizers to our ventilation systems in the church and ministry center which will run continuously while the building is occupied
8. QUESTION: Who has been deciding how we respond to the coronavirus?
The Leadership Team established our Re-Entry Team to monitor state and federal orders, directives, and guidelines. Based on the myriad of government offices weighing in, our team had to decide what we could and could not do. They have also kept abreast of what other churches are finding to be best practices and following the lead of our school districts and colleges in dealing with kids and students. After their investigations and discussions, they have had to continually make their best decisions based on the data and information that is current. The Re-Entry Team works in complete collaboration with the Leadership Team.
9. QUESTION: Why have some churches reopened but we have not?
When it comes to re-opening, we are basing our movement towards reopening on two factors. First, we don’t want to move too fast so that we create an unsafe and unhealthy environment for our congregation or staff. But second, we don’t want to move too slow so that we create a frustration among our people due to a lack of reasonable progress. This is a tricky balance to maintain and there are those on both sides who would have us move quicker or slower.
Nationwide, we have watched some churches re-open too quickly and, as a result, experience the pain of a steep rise of infection among their congregants. Others with larger sanctuary sizes and room capacities allowed by the government, have had an easier time spacing congregants, pastors, worship teams, and volunteers for safety. While these examples have been helpful to consider, we have tried to make the best decisions for our congregation based on our facilities and our abilities to continue our ministries safely. We also asked you in our weekly ENews to respond to a survey on how soon you felt comfortable returning to an in-person Sunday worship service. The majority of responders said they were not yet comfortable in returning.
10. QUESTION: What are the plans for the fall, and will we ever get back into our buildings?
As we move into the Fall, we continue to plan in the midst of a constantly changing environment. Originally, we were aiming for a modified version of our Goddard Park Worship Service on September 6 with baptisms. However, the Parks Department has limited the size of any group meeting to a total of 15 persons. We will see if this changes, but for now, the Goddard Park Service has been changed to a September 6 Christ Church evening Parking Lot Service. If you would like to be baptized, please contact pastor Cheryl at her email address below:
We will still have our morning online worship service September 6 as well.
We recently hosted two Sunday 6 P.M. Parking Lot Services. More than 60 of you attended on July 12 and 94 of you attended on August 9. Many of you brought your lawn chair and your mask and joined us for music, prayer, and inspiration. Others tuned in on their car radios in our parking lot. Check future weekly ENews for the link to make a reservation for our next Parking Lot Service September 6.
As for getting back in the building, we hope to be back in a limited form at some point in September. This will depend again on our ability to get our live streaming and ministry capabilities up and running. We will also be putting the protocols below in place and need your help as volunteers before we can open. Our goal is to be back in church in a meaningful way, so please pray that the fluidity of the international coronavirus situation and potential equipment delivery delays do not impede our progress.
11. QUESTION: When we begin in-person Sunday worship services again, what changes will I see?
First, when we do reopen, we will be following Rhode Islands’ guidance for churches.
- This will include a protocol for staff, volunteers, and congregants who are entering the building.
- This protocol could include a temperature check for all staff and volunteers, mandatory mask wearing while in the building, a hand sanitizing station, social distancing, and a procedure for seating people.
- We will also have a reservation and tracking system that keeps track of those in attendance if someone later develops COVID.
Second, there will be changes. We will only have a limited seating capacity. For that reason, we will have a rotating reservation system that allows people to sign up so that everyone has a chance to worship live each month if they desire. We will develop Watch Parties at homes, the Connection Café, and other locations for small gatherings to watch together. And our sanctuary will be set up not just for live worship, but also for live streaming. This will be a change.
12. QUESTION: How can I help?
Join a team. This is your way of helping us get back together.
- Cleaning Team (to help keep our church safe for everyone)
- Reservation Team (gathering reservations each week and setting up chairs for congregants to be socially distanced)
- Greeting/check-in Team (welcoming and helping with the process of entering the building)
- Production Team (video, tech, mixing, and online responsibilities)
13. QUESTION: How are we doing financially since the COVID-19 protocol went into effect?
Many of you have been able to continue your commitment to Christ Church in your weekly tithes and offerings. Others have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus, and you have had to reduce or stop your weekly contributions. Because of this, we are behind in giving and have seriously cut expenditures to balance our budget.