CLARKSVILLE, TN- In the midst of concerns around Coronavirus and COVID-19, the residents of Clarksville continue to seek to be in relationship with one another and their faith. In June, and early July, many local area churches began to open back up. Though this has been great news for many, one group has still been excluded from many of those gatherings — those whom the CDC calls the most vulnerable. Many of the most at-risk, those in the 65 plus age bracket or with underlying medical conditions, are still understandably cautious about a return to large group gatherings.
Pastor Stephen Sauls believes it is the responsibility of the church to ensure that all members of the Clarksville community have a safe place to continue engaging their faith. “The most at-risk in our community, our elders and medically vulnerable, can often be forgotten as the world races on. Our church believes that these people are truly treasures and saints who have given their lives to this community, world and church. It is our privilege to provide an opportunity for them to worship that honors their traditions as well as their needs for health in spirit, mind, and body,” Sauls said.
Hilldale United Methodist Church is providing an opportunity for these members of the Clarksville community to gather and worship together while feeling safe and cared for during these times. This service, called Safe Worship, is held at 9 a.m. every Sunday morning and is open to all members of this at-risk group in the Clarksville community. Safe Worship has been intentionally created for this group and follows specific guidelines in order to maintain the health and safety of those in attendance.
Some of these guidelines include:
● The Hilldale UMC sanctuary is cleaned and disinfected before and after worship. The sanctuary also remains unused by any other group so that it is clean and ready for Safe Worship each Sunday.
● Guests RSVP online or by phone during the week leading up to service so that staff can prepare for the number of people expected.
● Attendance is restricted to those who are 65 or older, or with chronic illness. Their spouses and/or caregivers who live in their household, or with whom they are already in contact, may attend as well. Children with underlying medical conditions, and their families, are welcome to participate in this service too.
● All staff and volunteers are monitored and checked for symptoms, including temperature, before opening the building on the morning of the service.
● Guests are ushered to specific seats, and ushers are trained to seat according to a comprehensive plan which separates guests by at least 6 feet no matter their group size. The sanctuary is limited to 1/4 its normal capacity, for a total of no more than 50 people during Safe Worship. Additional Safe Worship services will be provided if capacity is reached.
● All guests and staff wear masks entering and exiting the building, as well as during the service.
● Music is performed in a concert style before and after the service for guests to enjoy as ushers seat them, as well as during service. At this time, to prevent the spread of any virus, there is no congregational singing.
Hilldale UMC does have a separate service for all others to attend and enjoy. This service, called Open Table, takes place at 11:00 a.m. on Sundays and is a unique worship service with large group discussion as a part of worship. Attendees sit around tables in family groups or with friends who RSVP together. One of the most popular aspects of this service is reserved “Family Rooms” that overlook the worship service where children can safely take part in lessons and fun Bible-based activities for the day while parents sit outside the doors on the balcony walkway and participate fully in worship. In order to maintain a sanitized space for the Safe Worship service, Open Table takes place in Hilldale UMC’s Christian Life Center rather than the sanctuary. All ages and backgrounds are welcome to attend. More information can be found on the Hilldale UMC website.
To RSVP for Safe Worship, or the Open Table service, visit Hilldale UMC’s website or call at 931-647-2249.