The global pandemic of COVID-19, also known as the novel Coronavirus, has changed our way of life at the present time and made social distancing an imperative response to slow its spread in the state of Tennessee and worldwide. These measures have proven effective in “flattening the curve,” and, as a result, the governor of the state of Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee, began the process of reopening the state in late April 2020 in phases, while still maintaining many restrictions and social distancing requirements.
While federal, state, or local governments are unable to place mandatory restrictions on places of worship because of the protections provided in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America and Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, as well as the Tennessee Religious Freedom Restoration Act (T.C.A. § 4-1-407), in Executive Order 30, Executive Order 38, Executive Order 70, and Executive Order 74, Gov. Lee recommends that churches are “strongly encouraged to continue to utilize virtual or online services and gatherings” for the duration of these orders. In compliance with this recommendation and others, the Grace Seventh-day Adventist® Church (hereafter “Church”) will continue to make its services and gatherings available online via Zoom.
The governor’s aforementioned executive orders “strongly encouraged” churches to follow the guidelines produced by the Governor’s Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives in the document titled “Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship” when initiating a reopening process. The Church has decided to comply with these guidelines, as well as the “Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith” issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the “Guidelines for Reopening Our Churches” produced by Adventist Risk Management (ARM), as far as possible in this reopening plan.
To go about this reopening plan in a prudent and cautious manner, the Church has decided to reopen its facility for in-person gatherings and services in phases. Throughout all of the phases of reopening, the Church will continue to provide an online option via Zoom for all of its regular services and gatherings so that those who still may feel uncomfortable with attending in person may be able to continue to participate in the life of the Church.
The Church warmly welcomes all who wish to attend our in-person services and gatherings. It should be remembered, however, that anyone who attends in-person gatherings and services on the Church’s campus do so at his/her own risk and should not hold the Church liable if he/she contracts COVID-19 or any other illness.
The Church reopened its facility at 9123 S Northshore Drive, Knoxville, TN 37922-6326, on 04 July 2020 and began holding a general combined Sabbath School program at 09:30am ET, an adult Bible lesson study at 10:00am ET, and a Sabbath worship service at 11:15am ET on Saturdays.
The Church continues to hold a general combined Sabbath School program at 09:30am ET, adult's and children's Bible lesson study breakout groups at 10:00am ET, and a Sabbath worship service at 11:15am ET on Saturdays. Midweek prayer meetings will continue to be held online only via Zoom at 07:00pm ET on Wednesdays. Weekly fellowship meals following the Sabbath worship service at around 12:45pm ET on Saturdays with extra precautions taken for the safety and wellbeing of those who participate. Requests for other services, such as funerals, weddings, child dedications, baptisms, etc., should be made to the board for approval.
The Church continues to hold a general combined Sabbath School program at 09:30am ET, adult's, youth and young adults', and children's Bible lesson study breakout groups at 10:00am ET, and a Sabbath worship service at 11:15am ET on Saturdays. Midweek prayer meetings are held in person and online via Zoom at 07:00pm ET on Wednesdays. Weekly fellowship meals following the Sabbath worship service at around 12:45pm ET on Saturdays with extra precautions taken for the safety and wellbeing of those who participate. Requests for other services, such as funerals, weddings, child dedications, baptisms, etc., should be made to the board for approval.
Descriptions and guidelines of future phases of this reopening plan will be given when the Church is ready to implement each phase.
The guidelines outlined below will be implemented during phase III of this reopening plan.
Access doors will be propped open during transition times. This reduces the amount of “touch points” and allows more fresh air to circulate into the building.
No more than two (2) persons should utilize the restroom facilities at any given time.
Plates used for the collection of tithe and offerings will not be passed around the sanctuary. Instead, a box will be available in the foyer where tithe and offerings can be placed. Alternatively, some may choose to give online via our website at https://gracesda.com/giving or AdventistGiving at https://adventistgiving.org or by post mailing tithe and offerings to the treasurer’s home address. Those performing treasury duties should take precautions to protect themselves from illness when handling currency.
No more than two (2) persons are permitted in the audio-visual room at a time and should practice social distancing.
For communion services (i.e., the Lord’s Supper celebrations), participants who feel uncomfortable with the practice of the ordinance of humility (i.e., foot-washing) at this time are encouraged to practice it in their homes with their families prior to such services. Otherwise, the Church will provide an opportunity for the corporate practice of foot-washing it has traditionally done. The emblems of unleavened bread and unfermented wine will now be distributed by the elders and deacons in the traditional manner. Additionally, individually pre-packaged and sealed communion emblems will be available for pick-up in the foyer prior to entering the sanctuary for worship participants who may still feel uncomfortable with the traditional distribution of emblems.
Wafer: Bleached flour, water, and trace salt.
Grape Juice: Reconstituted from concentrate with filtered water, natural flavors, natural colors, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate (preservatives used at less than 0.1%).
The Church warmly welcomes all who wish to attend our phase III services and gatherings. It should be remembered, however, that anyone who attends in-person gatherings and services on the Church’s campus do so at his/her own risk and should not hold the Church liable if he/she contracts COVID-19 or any other illness.
Those who are considered a part of populations that are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 (i.e., everyone 65 years and older, people with disabilities, people with serious respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, people who are immunocompromised, and others) are encouraged to assess their personal risk of attending the aforementioned in-person gatherings and services with the guidance of their primary care physician.
Additionally, those experiencing any of the physical symptoms associated with COVID-19 (i.e., a cough, shortness of breath, a sore throat, a fever, loss of taste or smell, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) should seek immediate medical attention and not participate in the above gatherings and services in person but rather make use of the provided online services via Zoom.
Those who choose to attend the aforementioned in-person gatherings and services are urged to comply with the following guidelines while on the campus of the Church.
The wearing of protective face coverings is encouraged but not required at this time.
In addition to social distancing efforts, the current pandemic of COVID-19 also requires greater vigilance in cleaning and hygiene. The Church will implement the following safety and wellness measures to increase the sanitation and hygiene of the church facility in an effort to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19 to attendees.
Signs will be posted throughout the building that encourage the practice of good personal hygiene and sanitation among in-person participants.
The Church will continue to have the whole facility professionally cleaned once a week by a company that specializes in such work.
A sufficient supply of disinfectants (e.g., liquids, wipes, etc.), hand sanitizers with an alcohol content of 60+%, anti-bacterial hand soap, gloves, face coverings, paper towels, toilet paper, and other miscellaneous cleaning implements will be kept on hand for those who wish to use them. Cleaning cloths will be replaced with new ones after use.
Hand sanitizers with a 60+% alcohol content will be placed at each entrance/exit with sign posts that encourage their use when attendees transition from one space to another in the facility (e.g., at main entrance/exit doors as well as those of the restrooms, sanctuary, kitchen (when in use), fellowship hall (when in use), classrooms (when in use), etc.).
Thank you for your understanding with the above reopening plan and your compliance with the guidelines expressed therein. We pray that God will richly bless you and our local Church as we do our best together to worship him and perform the mission of the Church, all the while attempting to keep our community safe and well.