Worship in the Sanctuary

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Letter to the Niskayuna Reformed Church Congregation on Returning to NRC Sanctuary

July 12, 2020


Dear NRC Congregation,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you for your patience, flexibility, grace, and support as we have adjusted to life in the midst of a pandemic. We are grateful that we have found ways to continue to meet together while remaining safe. We thank you all for your responses to the survey which guided us in our continuing discernment about returning to worship in the Sanctuary.

In the spirit of transparency, we wanted to share with you the response to Q2: “How comfortable would you be to return to in-person worship utilizing these protective measures?”

Here is the breakdown of the 86 responses:

                14           I’m not comfortable at all with coming back to in-person worship

                15           I’m waiting for the social distancing guidelines are lifted

                24           I’m waiting a few weeks to see how things go

                19           I’m mostly okay with returning to in-person worship

                14           I’ll be attending the first week we reopen! 

After engaging in discussion, your consistory has decided to practice re-opening an in-person worship on July 19. On Sunday, July 19, a small number of consistory members and their families, musicians and other church leaders will attend an actual worship in the Sanctuary. We are calling this a “soft opening” to assess the safety practices we have put together and make any necessary changes.

On July 19, the Worship Service will be live streamed on YouTube through a link on the first page of our website. Beginning this week, you will receive an email with the link to the live YouTube stream and a copy of the bulletin. The service will continue to be available by link on our Website page once the service is finished. This allows you to watch the service later in the day or the week. After Sunday July 12, 2020, Zoom will no longer be used for worship but will continue to be used for Coffee Hour on Wednesdays, Sunday School, and other gatherings as needed.

On July 26 we will invite everyone to attend as they are able. The maximum capacity of the Sanctuary at this point is 90. This number is dependent on the number and spacing of family groups. Family groups will be able to sit together without six-feet of space between family members. We ask for patience as spacing will be figured out on a week to week basis.

We realize not everyone will feel comfortable returning to worship in-person. We also encourage those who do not feel well, or have high-risk health conditions to remain home to watch the live stream. This would include, but is not limited to:

  • anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days;
  • anyone who has come in contact with someone else who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days; OR
  • anyone with a fever or cough within the past 24 hours.
  • Anyone who has traveled to any state on the NYS restricted travel list in the past 14 days


What to Expect

Upon returning to worship in the Sanctuary, you will notice some changes to how we worship. We are doing our best to comply with the CDC and NY State guidelines for indoor gatherings. Here is what to expect:

  • Per the guidelines regarding social distancing, we can only allow 90 people in the Sanctuary. Once we reach capacity, anyone else will have to watch the service via livestream. Based on current data, we do not anticipate reaching capacity during the summer. We will monitor this and make changes as necessary.
  • Entry to the Sanctuary will be almost exclusively through the front entrance. We ask that use of the accessible door on the courtyard side of the church be limited to those who need it. We will also ask you to maintain a six feet distance from non-family members as you wait to enter the Sanctuary. In the case of rain, a canopy tent will be setup for your protection.
  • When you come to the door, you will be welcomed by an usher who will make sure you are wearing a mask. If you do not have a mask, a disposable one will be available for single use. You will not be able to enter the Sanctuary without a mask, no exceptions. The mask shall remain on your face for the entire service. Even Pastor Jason will preach with a mask.
  • As you enter the Narthex, another usher will encourage you to sanitize your hands. (Our hand sanitizer is 70% ethyl alcohol and is NOT on the CDC warning list.) This usher will also have offering envelopes or visitor cards if you need one.
  • Next, an usher in the center aisle will guide you to your seat. The Sanctuary will be filled based on proper distancing between congregants. Again, family units can sit together. We ask that you sit where directed and not in your favorite spot. Once the main level of the Sanctuary is filled, seating will be available in the balcony. There will be no hymnals or bibles in the pews. Everything you need for the service will be in the bulletin. Bulletins will be in the pews.
  • During the service there will be no hymn singing from the congregation. A soloist will sing the hymns and other special music that might be part of the service. (Please note that the soloist will be behind a plexiglass shield.)
  • There will be no passing of the plate for offering. Following the service, you can leave your offering in boxes that will be placed in the Narthex and near the usher at the side door. Offering envelopes will be made available for you if you need one. We encourage you to continue to use our online giving option or mail in your offering to the church office. ( https://www.niskayunareformed.org/online-giving/ )
  • Following the Postlude, each side of the church will exit from the wall side of the pews to avoid congestion in the center aisle. From the viewpoint of the pulpit, the left side will exit through the courtyard door and the right side will exit through the main Sanctuary doors. Those in the balcony will wait until the first floor has completely left before they exit. Ushers will guide you to exit.
  • If you do congregate outside in the courtyard, or in front of the church, please maintain six feet of distance and continue wearing your mask.
  • A few other things that may be of importance to you:
    • The Sanctuary will be cleaned on the Monday following the service.
    • The first floor of the Education Building and the elevator will not be accessible on Sunday mornings.
    • The second floor of the Education Building will be open for use of the office bathroom, which will be cleaned before and after Sunday services.
    • Touchless hand sanitizer machines will be mounted at various spots in the Sanctuary for your use. Additional pump bottles will serve as backups.
    • We will continue to discern when and how to celebrate communion.
    • We will also continue to determine the options for small and safe in-person gatherings for people to socialize

Reopening our Church for Worship Services required considerable research, discussion, time and work from your Consistory and many volunteers. We know the Sunday Worship Service will feel different. We ask for your grace and patience as we navigate a new process, but know that we take such measures for the health of all our congregation. If you have any issues or concerns, please contact a member of the Consistory or leave a message with the Church office.

In this together, for the glory of God,

Pastor Jason and the Niskayuna Reformed Church Consistory


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