COVID-19 Reopening Plan 

May 26, 2020

Church Family,
 
After much prayer and preparation, we’re ready to resume worshipping in our church building, and we hope you’re able to join us! As previously announced, this coming Sunday, the 31st, we’ll have two worship services: 9:00am traditional worship in the Sanctuary (with video-fed overflow in the Chapel) and 11:00am ELEVATE worship in the ELEVATE Worship Center (with video-fed overflow in the Fellowship Hall).

*** Before going any further, let me say this: As excited as we are about being able to gather together again, we also want to make this as safe for everyone as possible. So, if you have experienced any COVID-19-related symptoms in the last two weeks or if you have compromising health issues, please continue to join us from the comfort of your home at live.fhbc.org. Or maybe you’re just not comfortable coming back right away… That’s okay! Know that our church family loves you and we want to protect you, and we encourage you to continue worshiping with us over the internet until you’re ready to re-join us in-person! Both the Sanctuary service and the ELEVATE service will be streamed online. ***
 
If you are ready to come back now, please click the green button below! RSVPing helps us ensure we don’t exceed 50% capacity, per Governor Lee’s guidelines. Also, if an attender makes us aware that they’ve contracted COVID-19 and potentially exposed others to the virus, we'll know who exactly to contact.

CLICK HERE TO RSVP FOR MAY 31 SERVICES

Here are some reminders and things you need to know for Sunday…

The church building will be unlocked 30 minutes before worship starts. Please don’t arrive earlier than 8:30am for the Sanctuary service or 10:30am for the ELEVATE service. You can park anywhere you like, but know that the golf carts won't be running their usual drop-off routes. If you have RSVPed for the Sanctuary service, enter the building through the Main Entrance (Atrium) or the front of the Sanctuary. If you’re coming to the ELEVATE service, enter through the ELEVATE Lobby or the new Backstage Entrance.

To help create a touchless environment, all external and internal entrances and exits will be manned by a staff greeter or will be propped open. In both worship venues we’ll have ushers that will help you find a seat. This is so that we can get everyone who RSVPed in the room safely and efficiently. Remember, we will not be offering preschool, children’s or student ministries — include your children in your RSVP number and bring them to the service with you. Items in the backs of the pews and chairs, including Bibles, hymnals, envelopes, and pens, have been removed.

Face masks aren't required, but are strongly recommended. If you don’t have your own mask, we will have one available for you. For your protection, when you’re inside the building please also adhere to the CDC’s recommended six-foot social distancing guidelines before, during, and after services. Unless you need to go to the restroom, once you've been seated please stay seated. Portions of the building — specifically the worship areas and restrooms — will be thoroughly sanitized before, during, and after services. Drinking fountains will be turned off.

Offering plates will not be passed. You can drop a check/cash in one of the offering collection boxes outside of our worship areas. Or continue to give online or by mailing a check to the church office if you'd prefer.


I think that's pretty much it! We look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday, whether in-person or onlineThank you for remaining prayerful, faithful, and flexible in these times. We truly appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we navigate as responsibly as we can. Again, we are committed to protecting your health and safety and remain vigilant in taking every precaution possible.

If you have any questions, call the church office at 615.373.8074 or email us at .

In Christ,

Jake Day, Associate Pastor of Administration
 
Forest Hills Baptist Church
2101 Old Hickory Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37215
 
615.944.0812 (Mobile) / 

May 15, 2020

Church Family,

Thank you for your feedback on the reopening plan we released on May 5. Church leadership wanted to respond to some of the things that we heard in the survey results. But first, we wanted you to know that we have set a reopening date when we will resume live, in-person worship services at the church building: Sunday, May 31!

Starting the 31st and for the foreseeable future, we will have two services:

  • 9:00am traditional worship in the Sanctuary (with video-fed overflow in the Chapel if necessary)
  • 11:00am ELEVATE worship in the ELEVATE Worship Center (with video-fed overflow in the Fellowship Hall if necessary)
  • Both services will be streamed online, so if you’re not able or wanting to come back right away, please continue worshiping with us over the internet!

Per the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives' recent Guidance on Reopening Houses of Worship document, we will...

  • Restrict seating in the Sanctuary and ELEVATE Worship Center to 50% capacity (~200 people in each venue)
  • Help people follow strict social distancing by spacing out chairs and rows in the ELEVATE Worship Center and taping-off pews and marking seating suggestions in the Sanctuary

To help us do that, next week we will introduce an online RSVP system and ask everyone who plans to worship with us in-person on the 31st (and any given Sunday after that) to utilize that system. More on that later...


Regarding Sunday School classes...
  • We will not offer Sunday School for preschoolers, children, or middle / high school students for a little while longer.
  • We continue to encourage adult Sunday School classes to meet via Zoom as well.

However, like we said before, we will begin allowing some adult-only Sunday School classes (classes without childcare needs) to begin meeting in-person again if they would like. Associate Pastor of Education Jeff Bowden has been working on a plan for those classes that want to begin gathering again, and he will be providing teachers and leaders with more details in the coming days.

Also, again, all Wednesday night activities will continue to be on "pause."

Church staff will be allowed to come back into the church building starting Tuesday, May 26... We are asking them to slowly phase back in between then and Friday, the 29th. Everyone is expected to be back working at the church by Monday, June 1 unless they have worked out other arrangements with their supervisor.

So you know, several staff will be wearing face masks, everyone will be maintaining appropriate social distancing procedures, and we will be implementing a rigorous real-time weekday cleaning plan.


I want to reiterate that there is no timetable in place for getting back to “normal.” Church leadership wants to start in-person worship services first and get those working well. After we get our feet underneath us, with guidance from governmental and health officials, we'll start looking at when we might be able to go back to our regular three-service worship and fully age-graded Sunday School schedule.


Okay, let's get to some of concerns and questions that we vocalized in the reopening plan survey responses.

***
"If I’m 65 or older, can I come back to church?"
You absolutely can come back to church if you want! The CDC, the President, the Governor, and the Mayor are all encouraging vulnerable populations, which includes those 65 years and older, to continue to stay at home because they have a greater risk of catching the coronavirus. However, no one is mandating that older adults must stay at home, and we will not turn you away.

***
"I don't want to come back if I have to wear a face mask."
We know face masks are uncomfortable. The fact that the CDC has been inconsistent in saying what kind of impact they really have in protecting you from getting COVID-19 hasn't helped either. And in some cases, to wear / not wear a face mask has even become a politicized thing.

Let's set all that aside for a minute… We will not force anyone to wear a face mask and you won’t be stopped at the door if you choose not to wear one. But we strongly encourage everyone at church for this specific reason: An important part of our corporate gatherings is singing together. While primary transmission of COVID-19 seems to occur through respiratory droplets and physical contact, there is also concern about aerosol transmission. A 1968 study in the American Review of Respiratory Disease found that the aerosol cloud created by singing leaves nearly six times more particles in the air than normal speech does! Not only that, but the louder you sing, the more particles you spread because more air must pass from the lungs and through the vocal cords to produce a louder sound. Thus, when someone sings, they emit a greater number of particles. Plus, people absorb more particles when singing because they breathe more deeply, taking more particles into the lungs.

Now, obviously singing isn’t as dangerous as shaking an infected person’s hand, but it may generate more risk than normal speech. So what should we do? One obvious, but painful, solution would be to avoid singing when we gather. Church leadership isn’t in favor of that at all, though. Scripture tells us to, "Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!" (Psalm 100:1,4). Singing is one of the greatest joys of being together! Its ability to lift our spirits and point us toward God is unmistakable, and for those of us who will be coming together again after months apart, singing together is bound to be a beautiful and meaningful experience.

No face mask can eliminate all particles of course, but knowing that masks may reduce the transmission of potentially infected particles and that a number of people may be asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus, for your health and the safety of others around you, please strongly consider wearing a face mask to worship. Remember, if you don’t have a face mask, we can give you one at the door.

***
"Why are you making people register for worship? Why can't I just come like I've always done? We’ve been through other virus outbreaks and never had to do anything like that before."
The primary reason we are asking everyone to use the online RSVP program is so we ensure that we are in compliance with Governor Lee’s request that worship venues not exceed 50% capacity. It's not that we want to keep people out of the Sanctuary or ELEVATE Worship Center – just the opposite in fact! The online RSVP system is to help us get as many people as we responsibly and safely can in the Sanctuary and ELEVATE Worship Center without having to turn people away at the door once those rooms are full. We don't want people to leave the safety of their homes thinking they are going to be able to participate in an in-person worship experience only to have to watch a live-stream of the service from the Chapel or Fellowship Hall. Furthermore, by not having some sort of RSVP process in place, we might want to create a situation where people may show up at the church an hour or two before worship starts to make sure they get a seat and in the process they inadvertently forget to observe appropriate social distancing guidelines.

To be clear, this RSVP system won't be anything like what movie theaters are now doing where you have to go online to purchase tickets and reserve specific seats. All we will ask you to do click the RSVP link when you get, see how full a particular room is, and then let us know if you are planning to come so we can be as prepared as possible to safely welcome you and your family!

If you’re uneasy with RSVPing over the internet, no problem! We plan to hold back a few spots for people who want to call the church office at 615.373.8074 and RSVP over the phone.

***
"Will you continue broadcasting the worship services online?"
Yes! We will live-stream both the 9:00am Sanctuary service and the 11:00am ELEVATE service on our Facebook page and at live.fhbc.org.
Again, we are so looking forward to reopening and resuming live, in-person services on Sunday, May 31! Next week I will send the RSVP link and provide specific information on things like where to park, how to enter the building, what restrooms will be open and accessible, etc.

Finally, I can't say this enough: THANK YOU for your continued prayers, faithful giving, and constant support and encouragement in these unusual days — and thanks in advance for your understanding as we navigate this season together. These plans aren't perfect, but we believe they are at least steps in the right direction.

As always, please email us at if you have any questions!

In Christ,

Jake Day, Associate Pastor of Administration
 
Forest Hills Baptist Church
2101 Old Hickory Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37215
 
615.944.0812 (Mobile) / 

May 5, 2020

Church Family,

As our city, state, and country begin lifting some of the social distancing restrictions that have been put in place and many public spaces and private businesses start opening their doors once again, church leadership wanted to give you an update on our plan to resume in-person gatherings on our church campus.

Last week, Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Order 30, which essentially says that in Tennessee, while local and county governments have the authority to issue additional orders / restrictions on businesses, etc., to help contain the spread of COVID-19, they cannot issue additional orders / restrictions on places of worship (which the state has not mandated to be closed). 

Shortly after issuing the order, the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives released a detailed five-page set of guidelines for gathering together in houses of worship. In the release, Governor Lee said, “Religious liberty is important and must be protected, and that’s why [Tennessee] has always deemed religious services as essential gatherings throughout this pandemic. As we look to reopen our economy in a safe fashion, the decision on in-person gatherings will be up to each individual faith community. We’re confident in their ability to determine the proper time and how to incorporate these guidelines to worship in a way that protects the health of their congregation.”

To be in full compliance with the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations for social distancing and hygiene, when they reopen, the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives encourages houses of worship to…

  • Limit the maximum capacity of worship spaces and classrooms by 50%
  • Ensure at least 6-foot distancing between families
  • Encourage vulnerable populations (everyone 65 years and older, people with disabilities, people with serious respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, people who are immunocompromised, and others) to continue to stay at home

The Governor’s Office also recommends that...

  • Preschool and children’s ministries not gather in-person until a later time
  • Close personal contact that may be part of services, such as handshakes, be minimized
  • Everyone wears a face covering

So in the liberty recently provided to us by the Governor, Forest Hills Baptist Church’s leadership wants to both do our part to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and also begin to take steps toward our local body of Christ gathering together in-person again as we believe scripture directs us to do so. Therefore, church leadership is prayerfully considering reopening the church building and resuming live, in-person worship services toward the end of the month of May.

Our plan is to initially have only two services: 9:00am traditional worship in the Sanctuary (with video-fed overflow in the Chapel and other rooms if necessary) and 11:00am ELEVATE worship in the ELEVATE Worship Center (with video-fed overflow in the Fellowship Hall and other rooms if necessary). 

  • At 50% capacity and with strict social distancing in place per the Governor, we estimate that both the Sanctuary and the ELEVATE Worship Center can hold ~200 people.
  • In order to ensure the rooms are no more than half full, we plan to launch an online reservation system (a sort of free ticketing system) and require everyone who plans to worship with us in-person on a given Sunday to utilize that system.
  • Using that reservation data, the staff will space our chairs and even tape seating suggestions on the Sanctuary pews to help everyone adhere to appropriate social distancing practices.

In addition, worshippers will go directly to the venue in which they’ve reserved a seat via that room’s external entrance — the interior of the building (the hallways, lobbies, etc.) will remain closed. And in adherence to the Governor’s guidelines, everyone will be required to wear some sort of face covering to the service. (If you don’t have one, we can provide you with one at the door. We’ll have plastic gloves and hand sanitizer available as well.)


Regarding Sunday School classes and small groups…
  • We won’t have Sunday School for preschoolers, children, or middle and high school students for a while longer. Those will resume whenever all restrictions have been lifted and we’re back to normal. 
  • While we encourage adult Sunday School classes to continue meeting online for the time being, we do plan to begin allowing some adult-only Sunday School classes (classes without childcare needs) to meet in-person again if they would like.
  • As with the worship services, attendance limits will be in place to encourage appropriate social distancing. Associate Pastor of Education Jeff Bowden will provide adult Sunday School teachers and leaders with more details on that in the coming days. 

As for Wednesday night activities, we plan to keep those on pause for now. We have also not determined when the church staff will resume working from the church office.


There really is no timetable for getting back to “normal,” but whenever church leadership believes it’s time to go back to our regular three-service worship and fully age-graded Sunday School schedule, it will be under the leadership of the Lord, with counsel of governmental and health officials, and at the comfort level of our own church family. For now, we are only focused on what’s right in front of us, which is resuming some form of in-person worship services in the near future.

This means that many of our summer ministry events have been or will have to be adjusted appropriately. Our age-group ministers will soon communicate changes to things like Vacation Bible School, summer camps, and summer mission engagements, so be watching for that. Please know that while all of this isn’t anyone’s first (or even second or third) choice, scripture shows us time and again how God takes things most would think are bad and uses it for our good and His glory! For example, thousands of people have been engaging with FHBC every Sunday online. And even though we’re physically apart, I would dare to say that our church family has in many ways never felt closer together spiritually and as a community! For many of us, myself included, this pandemic has pushed us to really and truly be salt and light in our homes and neighborhoods — to be ministers of the Good News of Jesus Christ to those on our block and across our backyards. To God be the glory!


The reopening plan will be regularly evaluated as we continue to receive more information in the coming weeks and we will be providing regular updates via email, our website, and social media. 

Thank you for your continued prayers, faithful giving, and constant support and encouragement in these unusual days — and thank you in advance for your understanding as we navigate this season together. If you have any questions, please email us at . Again, your feedback via the survey is incredibly important as we consider any adjustments to the plan and work to finalize a specific reopening day — hopefully soon!

Jake Day, Associate Pastor of Administration
 
Forest Hills Baptist Church
2101 Old Hickory Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37215
 
615.944.0812 (Mobile) /