As Northwood’s elders prayerfully considered our plan for reopening, 5 values or heart postures significantly shaped our plans:
The Call for Wisdom, Humility, Charity, and Grace: Decisions about reopening churches during COVID-19 fall into the category of wisdom, so we need to exercise humility, charity, and grace towards churches and Christians we may disagree with.
Honoring the Governing Authorities: The government has been appointed by God to preserve life and facilitate justice, and to the extent the government is seeking to preserve the lives of our nations most vulnerable citizens, we believe we should honor and submit to our governing authorities.
Loving Our Neighbors through an Abundance of Caution: The church is called to love our neighbors especially the most vulnerable among us, so we want to exercise an abundance of caution in our plans for the sake of the high percentage of vulnerable people in Pinellas County and at Northwood.
Making Plans to Make Much of Jesus in Our Community: The church exists for God’s glory among the nations, so we want to consider the impact of our plans on Jesus’ reputation in our community.
Embracing our Identity as a Scattered People: The church is both a gathered community and a scattered people, so we hope that in this season we will continue to be the church as a scattered people by fulfilling the many "one another" commands of Scripture among our Northwood family and by joining God in his mission to call a people to himself.
With all these factors in mind, Northwood’s plan is to follow the phased plan outlined by the White House and the Florida State Government. Our county and Northwood are currently in Phase 1 of this plan. Below you’ll find both the government’s recommendations and our plan based upon those recommendations for each phase.
Recommendations for All Phases
Continue to Practice Good Hygiene
Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces.
Avoid touching your face.
Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow.
Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.
Strongly consider using face coverings while in public, and particularly when using mass transit.
People Who Feel Sick Should Stay Home
Recommendations for Phase 1
All vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place.
Individuals are encouraged to continue to avoid groups of more than 10 that cannot practice social distancing.
Unlike the shelter in place order, Phase 1 seems to allow for socializing in groups smaller than 10 if you can follow social distancing guidelines.
We will not be changing any of our practices as a corporate community.
We will continue to produce a Home Worship Guide each week and hold digital Zoom meetings each week.
If you are able to safely follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing and if you’re conscience allows, we would like to encourage individual members to consider practicing hospitality with your church family and your neighbors by:
• inviting a family over for dinner
• asking someone to go on a walk
• finding creative ways to welcome people into your lives
If you choose to begin practicing hospitality in this way, please do not assume the people you hope to extend hospitality to will feel comfortable receiving hospitality yet. Your invitation might include something like: “It appears the recommendations for social distancing now allow for people to socialize in smaller settings, would you be comfortable doing _______ together. If not, I understand.”
Recommendations for Phase 2
All vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place
Individuals should avoid social settings of more than 50 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, unless precautionary measures are observed.
We will continue to produce a Home Worship Guide each week and hold digital Zoom meetings.
We will continue to encourage you to consider practicing hospitality as you would under Phase 1.
We hope we will be able to facilitate the opportunity for those who feel comfortable to use the Home Worship Guide to worship together in smaller settings.
• We are not yet sure whether we will be able to facilitate this kind of gathering safely.
• We will be assembling a team to help us think through the details of attempting this as a church.
• The most significant obstacle we will need to overcome to safely gather is figuring out how to accomplish appropriate physical distancing or creatively identify safe precautionary measures.
• If this is something we will be able to facilitate, we will let you know our plan when the opportunity arises.
Recommendations for Phase 3
Vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions, but should practice physical distancing.
Individuals should minimize exposure to social settings where distancing may not be practical, unless precautionary measures are observed.
We are planning to resume gathering for corporate worship, and will be making adjustments to how we worship together in order to adhere to the safety guidelines of the government and CDC.
At this time we are not sure what those guidelines will be, but as the time approaches for us to resume gathering again for corporate worship, we will let you know our plan to safely conduct corporate worship.
How We Will Move from Phase to Phase
Northwood will advance to a new phase of the plan as a church family only after:
Both the governing authorities move us to the next phase
And the elders have been able to gather to pray, discuss, and prepare for moving to that next phase at our monthly elder meeting.
For example: If Pinellas County moved to Phase 2, on May 18th, our elders would meet to discuss advancing Northwood to the next phase on Monday, June 1. After which, the soonest Northwood would move to Phase 2 as a church family would be Sunday, June 7th.