June 5, 2020
New California requirements and guidance
In response to the growing number of vaccinated adults and the falling number of new cases of COVID-19, there have been many recent changes to requirements for all businesses and organizations in California, including places of worship.
According to covid19.ca.gov, “On June 15, capacity and distancing restrictions will be lifted for most businesses and activities.”
Specifically referring to churches, covid19.ca.gov says, “In response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately, location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory but are strongly recommended. Additionally, the restrictions on indoor singing and chanting are recommended only, and are consistent with the recommendations in the guidance on gatherings.”
This update moves us into Stage 4 of our in-person opening plan (see update below from May 31, 2020).
What does Stage 4 of our plan look like?
First, masks are now optional for all outdoor activities. We will continue to require masks for indoor activities for the time being, but will consider removing that requirement in the coming weeks. We ask that everyone continues to assume social distancing practices unless it is obvious that others are comfortable with close fellowship (handshakes, hugs, standing closer than 6-feet apart, etc.).
Second, we plan to reopen our in-person indoor children’s ministry on Father’s Day (June 20, 2021) for children 2-years old through 6th grade. We expect to expand the ministry and age group as the ministry grows. Our teachers and helpers will be required to be active members of our church body, have completed background checks with our church, and have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Our children’s ministry will also follow the covid19.ca.gov guidance for groups of children and youth in controlled, supervised, and indoor environments.
Third, our Sunday morning services will remain outdoors and mid-week ministries will remain online for now. We are actively searching for a building solution that can accommodate our needs and plan to reopen indoor Sunday morning services and mid-week ministries as soon as a solution is found.
Building challenges and limitations
In order to serve our entire congregation, we require a building that has enough space inside for appropriate spacing and can also accommodate seating both inside and outside during services. We have been searching for new buildings to purchase or rent, but have had trouble finding the right fit for our needs and budget.
In the meantime, we are also looking into how we can possibly use our current building for this purpose, though minimal indoor space and insufficient accessibility to outdoor seating provides significant limitations. Due to these challenges, we expect our services and ministries to remain in their current form for a few more weeks, but we are doing what we can to accommodate indoor seating as soon as possible.
Vision for the rest of 2021
This past year has been a long road. It is very exciting to see some significant progress, but with that progress comes the new challenge of transitioning back to normal safely. Our goal is to serve everyone in our church without leaving anyone out. We look forward to the exciting things to come this year like finding a building solution, expanding our current ministries, and a big push for outreach in our community. The Lord is doing amazing things in our church and we all feel blessed to be a part of it!
Please reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions or concerns.
In His grace and peace,
Update: December 5, 2020
The New Regional Stay At Home Order
On December 3, 2020 the California Department of Public Health issued a new Regional Stay At Home Order for regions with less than 15% ICU availability. This includes San Joaquin County who is currently in the Widespread (purple) tier with over 7 new daily cases (per 100k people) and over 8% positive tests. Restrictions are specific per region and updated regularly at covid19.ca.gov
How does this affect Calvary Stockton’s in-person services?
It doesn’t. Our in-person services already adhere to the safety requirements of the new order and the Widespread (purple) tier.
According to the order, “Worship [is] permitted outdoors, consistent with existing guidance for those activities.” According to the California COVID-19 Industry Guidance for places of worship, “Places of worship such as churches…can open throughout the state, with modifications for safety. In counties in the Widespread (purple) tier, indoor services in places of worship must be discontinued but outdoor and online services are permitted.”
Since we already hold outdoor services that practice social distancing procedures (including 10 foot distances, masks, and proper sanitation), our service is unaffected by this order.
What does the future look like for Calvary Stockton during COVID?
We are confident in our safety precautions and the Lord’s provision. Of course we don’t know everything that will happen, but we can foresee COVID cases rising and falling while government restrictions increase and decrease until the pandemic is over. We have planned for this and our services will mostly be unaffected by the changes, Lord willing. No matter what happens, we will follow the Lord’s leading and Scripture’s guidance.
What’s new this Sunday?
This Sunday we will have a larger tent and a heater for our in-person, outdoor attendees. For those who would like to come to service but watch from their cars, we will have designated parking with visibility of the service and we will be transmitting the service audio to your FM radio, channel 88.7 (similar to a drive-in movie). Online services will continue as normal on our website, Facebook, and Youtube.
As always, please reach out to me (email@example.com) or any of our leaders if you have any questions or if you need support during this time. Blessings and see you Sunday!
In His grace and peace,
Update: August 2, 2020
Finally! Our in-person services are back!
We plan to reopen our in-person Sunday services on August 9th, 2020. This moves us into Stage 3 of our in-person opening plan. We will begin with only our Sunday services in-person as we perfect the many steps involved in creating a safe in-person environment while simultaneously reaching our many church members who will remain online. Sunday services will be held outside our church building and on our website. All other ministry meetings will remain online for now, but we hope to be able to duplicate our Sunday service process across all ministries in the future.
If you choose to join us in-person…
Sunday services will be held outside our church building, where you will have the choice of sitting in our church chairs or in your vehicle in one of our designated parking spaces. If you decide to sit in one of our church chairs, we encourage you to park in the parking lot behind ours, bring your own shade, and bring your own water. Our church chairs will be arranged in family groups across our parking lot at least 10 feet apart from the next family group.
In-person safety precautions:
While in-person, we will ask you to always wear a face covering, remain at least 10 feet away from anyone not in your immediate family, and refrain from touching unnecessary items or entering the church building. We will be limiting restroom use to one family at a time, we will leave the doors propped open between uses, we ask you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds, and if the restroom is occupied, we ask you form a line at least 10 feet apart from the family in front of you.
Please refrain from coming to in-person Sunday services if you feel sick or are exhibiting symptoms identified with Covid-19 (e.g. fever, chills, shortness of breath, cough, loss of smell, extreme fatigue, etc.) or if you believe you may have been exposed to Covid-19 within the past 14 days. It is critical that we each take personal responsibility to protect one another from any possible exposure to the Covid-19 virus.
If you choose to join us online…
Sunday services will continue to be held on our website, Facebook, Youtube, and at our after church fellowship via Google Hangouts. We will encourage our in-person church members to join our after service fellowship online as well. It is important to our church that you feel connected and an active part of the church even if it is remote from your house. Please reach out to me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to any of our leaders if you think of anything we can do to help keep you connected and serve you during this time.
We are very excited about this step forward, but with it comes additional challenges and necessary precautions. We are committed to do everything we can to maintain the safety of those who join us in-person and maintain the connection to those who join us online. We are thankful we have all been patient and long-suffering thus far. We will continue to pray for God’s protection and guidance through the coming months. Blessings!
In His grace and peace,
Update: July 12, 2020
Due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Stockton during the last few weeks of June, we have decided to push our plan to reopen in-person church services back one week. We now plan to move to Stage 2 of our plan on July 19th, which will consist of us live streaming Sunday morning services from outside our church building with the help of a select few ministry leaders and servants.
Our hope is to perfect our outdoor in-person service format (including significant health precautions) over the month of July so that we are able to move to Stage 3 in August, which will consist of a broader invitation to our church to join us outside our church building.
As always, these timelines and plans are subject to change depending on updates that we receive daily. We will continue to update you as we know more.
As we closely follow health updates and projections, it appears that COVID-19 will not be contained any time soon. If that is the case, we are called to safely serve our church and community in both online and in-person capacities. We plan to make ourselves available to serve both those who must stay sheltered-in-place and those who choose to meet in person.
That being said, we will continue to move forward with as much caution as possible. We will adhere to health guidelines and submit to our governing authorities. On an individual level, we want each person in our congregation to understand the risk associated with attending in-person services and to make the decision that is best for you and your family. We will continue to promote online ministry for all our congregation and will also introduce social-distanced in-person services when we are able to. We will stay connected and walk with each other through this unusual time no matter where we are physically located.
First, each of us are responsible for keeping our church connected to one another. Reach out to people you haven’t seen or heard from in a while. Invite people to join our online fellowship opportunities. Share our online content through Facebook and email. Encourage, love, and help one another.
Second, we have many ministries currently serving and more to come. Please reach out to a ministry leader or email@example.com to learn more about how you can get involved. A healthy church body practices serving and being served. We want you to benefit from participating in the ministries we have and your brothers and sisters in our church benefit from your service of them. We can use your giftings in Women’s ministry, Men’s ministry, Children’s ministry, Worship ministry, Media ministry, and more! You can also see our Ministries tab for more information.
Third, please answer this questionnaire to help us better plan for future services:
I am encouraged by the love our church has shown to one another and the bond we have experienced through changes and physical separation. I am excited for what God is doing and for what He has for us that is yet to come!
In His grace and peace,
Update: June 21, 2020
Our primary challenges:
Opening up in-person services for our church is very complex for 2 main reasons:
First, the public is receiving mixed signals from governing authorities. On one hand, COVID-19 cases are spiking across the country (specifically in Stockton) in large part due to people not practicing social distancing. This could indicate a future second wave of the virus and tells us it isn’t safe to open physical services at this time. However, with the support of many organizations and religions leaders, governing authorities are pressing forward with measurable steps to open the nation in large part due to pressure from society. This may lead some to conclude that it is time for our church to open in-person church services since business and other areas of our community are opening up.
Second, our building and resources make it difficult to maintain health safety and serve the broader community. Regarding health safety factors alone: our building is small, we must meet outside in the Stockton summer heat, we must facilitate a long list of social distancing protocols, we must organize a unique set-up/tear-down effort, we must purchase personal protective equipment, and more. There is also an additional consideration that the majority of our congregation will continue to be remote. That means we must utilize new technology to be able to include our remote congregation in every aspect of our church ministries. This requires investment in faster internet at the church, new livestream hardware, improved audio/video capturing, and more.
Both the mixed signals from governing authorities and our resource limitations keep us from making any sudden decisions to commence in-person services as some of our larger sister churches have been able to do.
Our new timeline:
With consideration for the challenges above, we have settled on a provisional timeline for opening in-person church services that may change as we get closer to the dates.
Right now we are aiming to move to Stage 2 of our reopening plan on July 12th. Waiting these next 2 weeks will allow us to further track the spike in COVID-19 cases as well as thoroughly prepare our resources for an in-person service. Stage 2 will consist of a limited number of people to assist with streaming the Sunday service from outside our church building. Ministry leaders and Sunday service servants who are necessary for executing a Sunday service will be invited to help, though no one will be required to attend. Stage 2 will help us test out the safety of in-person services and work out any issues.
If everything goes well with implementing Stage 2, we would hope to move to Stage 3 in August. Stage 3 would consist of an open invitation for the congregation to join our in-person services outside our church building. Stage 3 would also include in-person small-group meetings (Men’s and Women’s Ministries) but not an in-person Children’s Ministry (which will continue virtually on our website). Stage 3 would include significant social distancing procedure and restrictions.
It is very important to note that virtual church services and ministries will continue to be a main priority for us moving forward. This means that if you feel sick or uncomfortable about attending an in-person service we will continue significant efforts to keep you included in church activities virtually, as you are now.
A final note:
I want to stress that none of our plans are final. We are actively tracking the situation and will adjust to whatever is best for our church. It is also very important to us that no person in our church is left out. We will provide as much in-person interaction as we feel we can safely provide for those who desire to be in person and we will provide the best virtual connection to the church as we can for those who feel virtual services are what is best for them at this time. This is an extremely complicated time and our hope is that we all feel connected and responsible to serve and love one another. We cannot include all of our considerations here, since it would be too long, but please reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions or concerns. Blessings!
In His grace and peace,
Update: May 31, 2020
When is Calvary Stockton going to re-open in-person services?
Many churches have decided to re-opening their doors today (5/31/2020) for in-person services. We believe that each church is faced with a unique and difficult decision that doesn’t necessarily apply to all churches. We have always
had the desire to comply with governing authorities, adhere to health official’s recommendations, and apply an additional level of discernment by the wisdom of the Spirit. Our priorities will always be for the complete health of
our congregation and community (eternal, spiritual, mental, physical, relational).
What are our main considerations?
Some things for us to consider are:
– the risk to each member of our church,
– the size and capacity of our church building for social distancing,
– our resources for protective measures (safety compliance monitors,
disinfectants, disposable items),
– the ability for our congregation to have access to the functions of a local church body (corporate
worship, study, prayer, fellowship, service, accountability),
– the ability for us to serve the community around us (outreach, community service, local presence,
What is our current decision?
Being prayerful and thoughtful regarding these considerations and more, we feel it is not yet time for us to re-open our in-person meetings. We do not have a set timeline for re-opening our in-person meetings due to rapidly changing
information. Our plan is to closely monitor the situation from all perspectives and determine actions to take, one step at a time. We will also be able to learn from the experiences of our sister churches’ that are re-opening their
in-person meetings now, and incorporate their learnings into our own strategy.
What is our plan for the future?
Our expectation is to re-open our in-person services in a staged manner:
[Stage 1] For now, we will continue to function in our current remote capacity. We will continue to remote-meet together corporately, live on Sundays at 10am with worship and study on our website and fellowship after in our Google Meet. We will also continue supporting each other through our church ministries and personal relationships. Our Women’s Ministry and Connect Groups are very active and we will have more coming soon for our Men’s Ministry and Children’s Ministry.
[Stage 2] Once we can confirm it is wise to begin re-opening our in-person services, it’s possible that we would start with only inviting Sunday morning ministry servants to join us in-person. These would be the brothers and sisters who can help us stream services live from the church and prepare the building for larger gatherings.
[Stage 3] If we were to see that small public gatherings were successful, not contributing to outbreaks, and safe; our next step would be to host social-distanced in-person services. We could do this in a drive-in parking-lot format, in an outdoor chair format, or in a larger location. It is too early to know what format would be best, but we have options that we will consider as we get closer.
[Stage 4] After the pandemic is mostly contained, hopefully with an accessible vaccine, effective treatment, and some indication of herd immunity, we will probably begin fairly normal in-person meetings with some significant precautions.
This would include regular sanitizing and changes to behavior (extra hand washing, safely packaged food/drinks, sick and vulnerable people staying home, etc.).
[Stage 5] At some point we will get back to normal, but it will be a new normal. Our personal interactions will look different. Our outreach to the community will look different. The use of technology will look different. We will look for opportunities to help those who have been affected. It will be exciting and encouraging to see what God does in the wake of this major historical moment and the healing He brings to those who have struggled and lost during this time.
What is important to us now?
We want to prepare for an in-person re-opening of Calvary Stockton now so we are ready when it is time. However, we expect it will be a long road ahead (months) and we will need to take it one step at a time. We will keep you updated as we know more and we encourage you to ask questions by emailing email@example.com. It is essential that we take advantage of our remote technical resources to stay connected with each other as much as possible. If we work through the challenges and perfect our digital presence and experience now, it will benefit us and our community for years to come. Stay encouraged. Stay connected. Stay strong.
We strive, in every decision, to follow what God is leading and guiding our church to do through His Word, through His global Church, and through His Spirit. In that, we will greet those around us with the love and grace with which Christ greets us. We hope this is helpful to you as you are thinking through your expectations for how Calvary Stockton is partnering with you during this time. Please reach out to us if you would like to discuss further or would like more clarification. Blessings!
In His grace and peace,