Loving God, Loving People

A Place To Belong, A Family To Love

1016 North Avenue * P.O. Box 494 * Athens TN  37371

(423) 745-0554

A Note Regarding Phase 1 of our Re-Gather Plan

Brothers and Sisters,

On June 7, we began Phase 1 of our Re-Gather Plan.  During this phase, we won’t be having Sunday morning classes, Wednesday morning or evening classes, Sunday evening worship, or any other assemblies; we’ll simply be having Sunday morning worship.

As an Eldership, we’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last few weeks prayerfully thinking through the guidelines to be put in place for this plan, considering the CDC’s and our Governor’s suggestions.  We freely admit that our guidelines aren’t perfect, and neither are we.  However, we believe this plan will allow us to safely begin the process of reassembling.  Today, we want to give you the details of the plan.

First of all, if you are 65 or older, have serious respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, or have a compromised immune system, we strongly encourage you to consider not re-assembling at this time.  If you have experienced symptoms of the virus, have a fever, or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks, we ask that you please stay home for a while.  If you simply aren’t comfortable assembling yet, we totally understand that and don’t want you to feel any pressure whatsoever to assemble before you’re ready.  We’ll continue to livestream the service, so you’ll continue to have the opportunity to worship from home.

Here are the details of Re-Gather Phase 1:

  • We will have TWO worship assemblies on Sunday mornings, the first at 8:45 and the second at 10:45. We’re asking those who are 45 and older to attend the 8:45 service, and those 44 and younger to attend the 10:45 service. 45 was chosen because it represents the approximate median age of our church family, and we’re trying to balance out the number of people who’ll attend each service.  If you have members of your family who fall on either side of the age division, feel free to attend either service.  We’ll be cleaning thoroughly between each service.


  • PLEASE NOTE: Only the 10:45 service will be livestreamed, and it will be broadcast on both Facebook Live and Zoom.


  • We’re asking people to arrive for each service approximately 20 minutes early so that we’ll have plenty of time to seat you. When you arrive, there will be spaces marked under the carport and in the foyer to allow people to stay 6 feet apart. You’ll be met by an usher at the front doors under the carport, and he will take you to your seat.  We’ll have the seating arranged so that we’re practicing good physical distancing.  The two main doors under the carport will be the only ones that will be open for entrance to the building.


  • As you enter, you’ll see a couple of tables set up. One will have bottles of hand sanitizer for your use and a collection basket/box for you to put your contribution in. The other will have the individual pre-packaged communion cups.  You’ll receive enough for your family, and they’ll be given to you in a Ziploc bag.  When the service is over, you can put the empty cup in the bag, and on your way out you can put it in a trash can that will be in the foyer for that purpose.


  • We’ll be seating people on every other pew. The pews we’re not using for each service will be marked with a small orange cone. Please don’t sit on these pews.  On the pews we are using, you’ll find a pool noodle on it that’s 6 feet long.  This will help you gauge good physical distancing on the pew.


  • PLEASE NOTE: With the seating arrangement we’re using in order to practice good physical distancing, you likely won’t be able to sit where you normally sit. We ask for your patience, understanding, and cooperation in this.


  • Parts of the building will likely be closed off, so we ask that you please respect the boundaries. This will enable us to be more efficient in our cleaning between services.


  • As much as we’re going to be thrilled to see each other again, we do ask that you respect the 6 foot physical distancing boundary in your interactions with one another (outside of family units and extended family, of course). Hugs and handshakes should be avoided at this time.


  • There will not be a bulletin or prayer list on the guest desk. Any announcements that need to be made will be on the PowerPoint slides, will be mentioned by Mark, or will be emailed during the week. The prayer list will be emailed and placed on Facebook each week.


  • We’re asking parents to keep their children with them during the service. There will not be an attended nursery. If you have to take your child out, the nurseries will be available for you to use if necessary.  Please use the wipes that are provided in the nursery to wipe down anything that you touch.


  • Though we’re not making it an absolute requirement, we do ask that you consider wearing a face covering of some sort, if you’re able to. This isn’t so much for your protection as it is the potential protection of those around you. We’ll try to have a few available if needed, but we’re asking you to please bring your own face covering if possible.  As a countercultural community, let’s put others above ourselves.  And whatever your position is on the masks, let’s be sure to treat those who disagree in a respectful, honorable way.  After all, we’re family!


  • We’ll still be using the Praise & Harmony recorded songs during our singing for a while. With so few of us in the building at a time, and also with many of us wearing masks, singing presents a unique challenge. We still encourage you to sing as best you can, if you’re able; but the Praise & Harmony recorded songs will help us in that regard.


  • When the assembly is over, we ask that you remain in your seat. We’ll be dismissed by rows starting from the back to avoid everyone trying to leave the auditorium at one time. We also ask that you not linger in the foyer, as cleaning will need to take place.  If you’d like to visit, feel free to do that outside, respecting physical distancing boundaries.


We’re confident that elements of this plan will need to be revisited from week to week, so we know we’re going to need to be flexible, and we ask you to be as well.  We also know that not everyone will agree with every aspect of the plan, and that’s perfectly fine.  We welcome your feedback, and we’ll take it into consideration as an Eldership.  We do ask that you share your thoughts in a kind and gracious manner.

Thanks so much for your cooperation in this.  We’re blessed to be Shepherds of such a wonderful group of people, and we’re looking forward to seeing many of you beginning June 7!

Your Shepherds