Frequently Asked Questions Related to COVID-19
We all have many questions in the face of COVID-19. St. John’s UMC remains an active worshiping body, and the recommendation from the COVID-19 Task Force to resume In-Person Worship was approved by the Church Council. Watch this video to learn more about What to Expect When In-Person Worship Resumes.
Here is more detailed information we hope you find helpful:
When will we worship together again?
We will resume in-person worship on Sunday, October 4, 2020. We will continue to offer a livestream of our worship service online for those who feel unsafe attending in-person. Worship will happen on Sundays at 10 a.m. in the Family Life Center.
Why? Other churches are already worshipping in person.
We heavily considered returning to in-person worship sooner but ultimately decided against it after evaluating the potential risks. Choosing to worship while in Phase 1 excluded a significant portion of our congregation and even in Phase 2, there are a number of limitations and challenges for gathering together. Though it is safe for some, it is not for those who have underlying health conditions and who are 65+. In the spirit of unity, love, and hospitality, we have chosen to wait.
Will we have to wear a mask?
Per recommendations from health experts, the wearing of masks will be required for everyone while on the church campus, including throughout worship. We have taken a firm stance on this to protect the health and safety of everyone. Children under the age of 3 are not required to wear a mask. We will have reusable masks available for those who forget or do not have one.
Will I have to be screened to come into worship?
We will not be taking temperatures at the door. We do ask that you “self-screen” for potential COVID-19 symptoms like: fever, shortness of breath, new or worsening cough, sudden loss of taste and/or smell. If you have any of those symptoms, please stay home and worship with us online.
What specific safety measures will be taken to protect everyone?
- Photos of the gathered congregation will be taken to assist with contact tracing if needed.
- Everyone must wear a mask. Masks will be provided for those without.
- We will minimize close contact by maintaining a safe distance of 6 feet.
- Hand sanitizer will be available in multiple locations.
- There will be no physical contact during the service.
- No bulletins, hymnals, or Bibles will be provided.
- Ushers will assist with seating groups.
- People who ride to church together will sit together.
- The nursery will be closed for the foreseeable future.
- OUR ENTRANCE WILL OPEN AT 9:45. If you arrive early, please wait in your car or make sure to practice proper social distancing if you line up in advance.
- Social distancing applies not only to entering but also exiting, so, after the Benediction and Postlude we will dismiss in an orderly way. We will ask that you please stay at your seats until being dismissed.
- With capacities and social distancing guidelines different for every room, we ask you to enter no other room or hallways other than those for worship. Emergency exits are marked accordingly.
Will you offer more service times to accommodate more people?
We will initially offer one service at 10 a.m. in the Family Life Center and will continue offering a livestream of our worship online. This will be reassessed periodically.
What about Coffee Time?
We will not be holding Coffee Time for the foreseeable future. This will be revisited when it is deemed safe to resume.
What will worship be like?
We will hear the Word, pray together, be invited to reflect during solos and instrumental music.
However, worship will feel and look differently than before.
- Chairs will be arranged in accordance with family size and social distancing requirements.
- Worship will be abbreviated.
- We will be unable to have congregational or choral singing. We will adhere to social distancing and ask for your cooperation in observing safe distancing.
- We will not pass the peace or physically greet one another before/after the service.
- While we will continue to offer a Children’s Moment, children will be asked to remain with their caregivers at their seats.
- We will not have bulletins, hymnals, pew Bibles.
- Ushers, wearing masks, will direct congregants at the appropriate times. During the Offering, ushers will walk through the congregation holding an offering plate. If you desire to make a financial donation with cash or check, you may safely do so as the plate passes you, without making contact with the offering plate or an usher.
These procedures will be evaluated regularly and adjusted based on the research and guidelines from health experts. We will return to more normal worship practices as soon as it is safe to do so.
What about Nursery Care?
The nursery is not currently being offered, so all children will be seated with their caregivers in the service. It is very challenging to maintain social distancing and proper hygiene with young children.
What will be open at the church on Sundays?
We will close portions of our campus in an effort to keep rooms sanitary. The sanctuary, restrooms, education building, and choir room will be closed. The Family Life Center will be open.
What about Restrooms?
The only available restrooms will be those in the Family Life Center and these will be open for emergencies only. We ask that you do not congregate in the hallway.
What about Sunday School Classes and Small Groups?
Adult classes and small groups that meet at the church will continue to meet online until further notice. The church encourages offsite adult small groups to continue meeting online.In order to continue practicing safe social distancing protocols, the first space that will be available for small groups will be the library, for groups of six or fewer, and the gym portion of the Family Life Center. Groups will have to contact the church office to reserve the space. The operation of The Shepherd’s Market will not be altered for small groups.
What about Children & Youth?
Children’s and Youth ministry will continue to focus on online engagement.
For those of you raising children at home, we invite you to join the new Faith Friends Facebook Group. This group will provide tools, ideas, and helpful hints on how to share meaningful and faith-filled experiences with your family. Join us as we share resources for keeping the faith and making it through homeschooling and long days of isolation.
We have scheduled other Zoom gatherings for both Children & Families as well as Youth so our younger disciples can stay connected, too. Check our Church Calendar and your email for details.
How will the church office operate?
The church office is open for half days, 9 a.m. to noon, Monday – Thursday.
Some of our employees will continue to work from home, and we ask that you make an appointment before coming to the office. We do not want to put you or our staff at risk.
If you come for an appointment, you will be asked to wear a mask. We thank you for your consideration and cooperation.
- All visitors must remain at least 6 ft from staff persons and others while on campus
- All visitors must wear a face covering/mask when meeting with staff members and others while on campus
- Staff members will adhere to proper social-distancing and sanitation guidelines while working.
What about funerals & weddings?
All weddings and funerals will be held at the discretion of the pastor and in strict adherence of State Guidelines. Please contact the church office or a pastor for more information.
How do I participate in online worship?
Online worship at St. John’s is livestreamed Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. on a variety of channels: Vimeo, Facebook, YouTube and our website. Many members regularly worship together on Facebook Live, connecting via the chat feature, and others have success watching on smart TVs using the YouTube app. As always, you can find our sermon videos on our website and Vimeo. Troubleshooting help during non-livestream hours is available by emailing email@example.com.
Can I still participate in my small group?
Yes! You can participate in a small group that is meeting virtually or via phone and encourage you to do so. Gathering virtually is one of the best ways for us to stay connected.
Small groups, Sunday School classes, and other groups, including our committees, are encouraged to continue to meet virtually, via Zoom, an online meeting platform.
Check our Church Calendar for details about which groups are meeting when. The event descriptions include the person to contact for Zoom login information, and those same details are included in the Tuesday and Friday emails sent from the church.
What about The Shepherd’s Market?
Due to very high demand from our neighbors, and at the request of the Baton Rouge Food Bank, The Shepherd’s Market will be operating on a limited basis on Tuesday and Thursday each week from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. unless it becomes apparent it is not safe to do so because of COVID-19 concerns. Distribution will be done by drive-thru method. Please contact Theresa Sandifer (text or call: 225-337-1306 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to volunteer.
Can I still contribute to St. John’s?
Yes please, and thank you! Please maintain your regular tithing and giving, and if you’re able, consider giving more to help offset those who can’t during these uncertain times. You can mail your contribution to St. John’s UMC (230 Renee Drive; Baton Rouge, LA 70810). Or contribute online with credit/debit cards or your bank account info by clicking here. Now would be a great time for you to set up recurring online giving. We also have a secure black box outside the church office where you can drop off donations at any time. Those joining us for in-person worship will have the option of dropping an offering into a plate upon exiting the FLC.
Where can I find updates?
We will be regularly communicating with you through our Facebook page, Inside St. John’s, which is sent on Tuesdays, and Friday newsletter emails, text blasts, and our website.
Facebook Live Troubleshooting
We are learning as we go, and one thing we have learned is that watch parties and Facebook Live events don’t mix. Our pastors cannot see comments/prayer requests posted within a “watch party,” so jump on the main Live stream on the church’s Facebook page to fully participate in a Live event.
Once a Live event has ended, watch parties are perfect to gather with others to re-watch (or watch for the first time at a later point). If that changes or we can figure out how to make watch parties work with Live events we’ll let you know. Remember you can always submit prayer requests for the prayer team to email@example.com.
You do not need to have a Facebook account to watch! Just click “not now” when it asks you to login. Here is a screencast help video to show you how that works.
Don’t want to miss a video? Here is a screencast help video to show you how to sign up for notifications for our weekly worship videos.
COVID-19 Crosses at St. John’s
As a prelude to Holy Week, we placed a number of small wooden crosses on the front lawn of the church in memory of those who have died from COVID-19 in our state. For every life lost to this coronavirus, we placed a cross on the St. John’s lawn near Highland Road, along with a banner that says, “In Memory…Each cross represents one life lost to COVID-19 in Louisiana.”
The crosses serve as a prayerful, heartfelt witness to our community that our church family recognizes both the collective and individual grief and loss we are experiencing. Read more about the project and see additional pictures here.
Who do I contact if I have questions?
If you have general questions, you can call the church office (225-766-4594) and leave a voicemail. We will check it regularly, and the appropriate staff member will return your call.
If you have questions about communications, please contact Lynn Cooper. This includes: “I’m not receiving Inside St. John’s/the Friday newsletter but I would like to,” and more.
If you would like to set up a Zoom meeting for a church small group, email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule.
If you need help with finances, please contact LeAnn Davis.
If you need assistance with groceries or errands, please contact Pastor Deirdré. We have wonderful church members ready to help out those who do not feel up to leaving the house.
Don’t hesitate to contact us with more questions. You are not the only person with that question, and we will update this FAQ with new answers as we go.
Read Pastor Lane’s COVID-19 related messages here.