Reopening Shandon: A message from Session
I am so very aware of the Spirit’s presence among us over the past year, both in holding us together and stretching us in new ways. At the same time, I am very grateful that we can continue taking steps toward a full, robust, doors-wide-open ministry.
Those steps are careful and measured, though. The pandemic is not entirely behind us. We cannot throw all caution to the wind. Love requires us to look out for the vulnerable among us, which right now includes our children and youth who do not yet have access to the vaccine that has brought relief to so many. In all our discernment and decision-making, we are mindful of our responsibility to the full body of Christ and to our neighbors.
With all that in mind, let me share with you the actions taken by Session toward reopening Shandon Presbyterian.
Are masks and social distancing still required?
In most indoor circumstances, yes. Masks and social distancing will continue to be required at all-church events, any intergenerational gatherings and all worship services, including weddings and funerals. Masks and social distancing will continue to be required at events, gatherings or meetings in which anyone present is under the age of 16. Furthermore, masks and social distancing will continue to be required in common areas of the church, including hallways and the lobby. Masks and social distancing apply to everyone ages kindergarten and older.
Is there any time or place masks and social distancing aren’t required?
Masks and social distancing are now optional at any outdoor events or gatherings, as well as indoor gatherings or meetings that meet the following two criteria:
The gathering or meeting is in a reserved, defined room of the church.
- Everyone present is over the age of 16.
- You will still need to wear a mask upon entering the church until you step inside your meeting space.
Why the distinction of age, rather than vaccination status?
Distinctions of any sort are always difficult. This particular decision came after significant prayer, discernment and discussion. Persons under 16 years of age either do not yet have access to a vaccine at all or are not yet fully vaccinated. Persons 16 and older here in Columbia have had steady access and have been able to make a decision about being vaccinated. We are prioritizing the protection of the vulnerable, while making careful space for personal choice.
This is confusing. Who can help me understand when I need to wear a mask at church?
Call the church office or any pastor or staff person. When in doubt, wear your mask. Always bring your mask because you’ll need it for traveling through the building.
I need a mask to come to worship on Sunday, right?
Yes. From before you step into the building until after stepping back outside again, masks and social distancing are required because worship is for all ages. We are incredibly grateful for all the young people who are part of our congregation, and we are committed to ensuring they are welcome and safe.
What else do I need to know about in-person worship on Sunday?
First, you need to register ahead of time, either online or by calling the church office, 803-771-4408.
When you arrive, those who need the elevator, or anyone dropping children off at child care, will enter under the portico. All others will enter through the main door on Woodrow Street. In both locations, greeters and ushers will check you in and then take you to your seat.
Seating will be offered from the front of the Sanctuary to the back. Those using the elevator will be seated in the Sower’s Chapel. Please accept whatever seat the ushers offer you. Again, we are doing everything we can to keep everyone healthy and safe.
Worship will look familiar, but not identical, to what you remember. We will only sing together at the very end, right before we exit the space. But there will be plenty of musical offerings throughout the service that will invite you into prayer and praise as you listen. We are blessed with many tremendous musicians.
The outside doors will remain open throughout the service, and the fans will run the entire time, as well. It is well documented that maximum air circulation is a key component to safer indoor gatherings. You might hear a bit of traffic noise if a siren goes by. That’s OK. It’s a chance to remember that the church is part of the world around us.
We’ll share the peace, but just with responsive liturgy. We won’t pass the offering plates, but there will be boxes at each exit. You can also give online or by text. That information is included in the worship bulletin.
When worship concludes, we’ll ask that you stay in your places until ushers dismiss you to the door nearest you. For those that wish, there will be a brief time of fellowship and refreshments outside on the church lawn. That is the perfect time to catch up with friends you have missed or introduce yourself to someone new.
This is a lot of detailed information. What if I forget something?
It is a lot of detailed information. It is the result of significant planning on the part of many — Session, staff, and volunteers. It is worth it, though! We want to be together, and we want to praise God together, and this is how we can do so safely right now. If you forget something, we’ll offer a gentle reminder.
Speaking of gentle reminders, please be kind and patient with one another and with your worship leaders. We are working hard to make everything come together, but there will be bumps along the way. We’ll probably need to make adjustments from time to time. We are so grateful that you have hung in here with us over the past year, and we are grateful that you’ll hang in here with us in this next season, too.
I appreciate all of this, I really do. But I’m not ready to come back inside yet. How can I worship?
Both the 9 and 10:30 a.m. services will be livestreamed. You can access that livestream feed from our church website or our YouTube page. If you have been worshipping with us on Facebook, a reminder and a link to the services will be available there. And finally, the livestream will be recorded and added to our online archives, so you can watch it later in the week if you prefer.
I am grateful for the Reopening Task Force, which has been meeting every two weeks for a year now. I am grateful for our Session, which has led capably and faithfully all along. And I am grateful for you. Every one of you. And I look forward to seeing you in person, whenever you’re ready. We’ll be here.
As always, you are in my prayers.
Rev. Jenny McDevitt
On behalf of the Session:
Debbie Alexander, Marcia Bacon, Carolyn Click, Jenna Cox, Garrett Humphries, Linda McDonald, Leck Patterson, Kenny Phelps, Heather Powers, Sarah Ramsey, David Roberts, Jay Rogers, Cheri Stakely, Susan Steedman, Scott Winburn, Rev. John Cook, and Rev. Molly Spangler