Pastor to Pastor: How and When We Are Reopening our Churches
(TXPC NOTE: We will continue to update this as we receive narratives from pastors around the state)
Pastor Jeremy Foster, Hope City, Houston:
"We're in a unique situation because we own property but can it's not inhabitable yet, so we have to use high schools to have church. We think that the high schools will allow us back in June."
Pastor Randy Weaver, Lone Star Cowboy Church, Montgomery:
“We will be opening in the 31st. Encouraging people to keep 2-3 chairs in between families/ groups. We are extending time in between services for cleaning. Service times 8,10,12. No children ministry yet. Youth started back live last week. No coffee or donuts.... In a nutshell that’s where we are.”
Pastor Kjell Johansson, Living Branch Church, Conroe:
“We opened immediately when we got green light from Abbott. We had about 30% attendance the first Sunday...then 40, 50 and about 60% last Sunday. We are still streaming Sunday services for those who are not able to attend in person yet. Our Wednesday nights are streaming only so far. We are planning a “Grand Opening” on Father’s Day with all things getting back to normal including children ministry and midweek service and youth services.”
Pastor Jeff Williams, Eagle Nest Ministries, Conroe:
“We have reopened for Sunday worship. No issues and no sickness within our community or residents in the program.... We pray daily for our leaders!!”
Pastor Dan Hannon, Christ UMC, The Woodlands:
“Christ Church is opening this Sunday. Our normal 3 hours of worship with all prescribed protocols.”
Pastor Steve Burrell, Magnolia Bible Church:
“Our first Sunday service is this Sunday. We have gone from to Sunday services to for weekend services to on Saturday to on Sunday one of our Saturday Services is dedicated to 65 and older. At this point we are not offering children or Youth Services. We are going to wait to see when the state opens their school's up a little bit more and then we will move towards Children's Program. We have reduced our seating capacity. We are also pre-registering people for church services so we have a general idea of the crowd size. We have all also made known to the leadership of the church that if we have a positive covid-19 within our church body of someone who attended a service we will immediately shut down for two weekends to prevent any kind of spread.”
Cedric Johnson, Senior Pastor, Destiny Church, Clute
We just reopened May 10th with the same number of services. Our attendance was about 30%.
Tim Shepherd, Senior Pastor, Restoration Church, Gun Barrell City
On April 26, re opened and increased the number of services. Our attendance was about 50%.
Hernan Castano, Senior Pastor, Rios De Aceite, Houston
We reopened on Sunday, May 3rd with the same number of services that resulted in about a 50% attendance. Church members came with great joy, no signs of fear and made comments of how safe they felt during services. We just did the distancing in seating arrangements, sang, danced, shouted, jumped, and preached all with no masks on but keeping the distance. When service was over, one family at a time left the building and everyone cooperated. We have been meeting 4 services per week. We are about 70% attendance. To this date, praise God we have no reports of any one person at church being sick or testing positive. Precaution and wisdom combined will destroy the amplification of fear and build the faith in God while protecting the ones at risk.
Bruce Craft, Executive Pastor, Braeswood Church, Houston
We reopened on May 3, 2020 with a reduced number of services. We had approximately 10% of our normal attendance. Thank the US Pastor's Council for all you've done to set up the Zoom meetings with the state leaders to inform us of all we needed to do to reopen.
Norman Flowers, Missions/Discipleship Pastor, First Baptist Church, Marble Falls
Dear Church Family,
You need to be commended for your faithfulness to our Lord during this odd, confusing, and for many people, a painful experience. For the first time in 130 years, our church building was closed for worship. Notice I do say “building,” because our church never stopped worshiping or ministering, yet we have never experienced such a halt to physically coming together as we have these last few months. Through wars, depressions, natural disasters, and national and world tragedies, we have always come together, so indeed, this has been a considerable event in our lives and history. I am exceedingly grateful that, so far, COVID 19 has not taken lives within our church or residents of our area, although the tragedy has knocked at our door in counties to our east, and several of our members have lost loved ones to COVID 19.
Phase 1: May 17 – June 7 Home Church
Sodality/Care Groups/small groups gather in homes at 9am or 10:30am (identical worship services) and worship together by participating in the online service and having a time of discussion. More info about hosting a Home Church.
Phase 2: June 14 -21 Coming Back
Worship at FBC campus at our normal times (9am and 10:30am). Limited activities. No Sunday School or Childcare.
Phase 3: June 28 Welcome Home
Worship at FBC campus at our normal times (9am and 10:30am). Celebration event after church. Sunday School and Childcare resume.
Ronnie Holmes, Senior Pastor, Church of the Open Door, Waco
We have had church on the parking lot the last two Sundays and are opening this Sunday morning in the building (minus kids ministries and nurseries). Then we are also having Sunday evening and Wednesday service, including Wednesday youth services. Going forward.… But still trying to follow distancing protocols and all of these things.
Don Pope, Senior Pastor, Grace Church, Willis
We opened on May 11 with our normal service schedule and ran about 50% on attendance. Maybe 10 out of the 70+ people wore a masks. Most folks were eager to hug and shake hands. We were careful to arrange seating according to the current government request. We continue to offer online viewing and additional video contact throughout the week.
Pastor John Elliott, Gulf Coast Foursquare, Hitchcock
We are opening this Sunday (May 10)
Steve Sanchez, Senior Pastor, Community Church of the Hills, Johnson City
I’m very happy to report that we had a full house back in Community Church of the Hills today! I was so excited. One family texted me that they cut their camping trip short to come to church! This is how we did it:
We segregated the more mature members to the upper north side of the pulpit, while each unit of chairs was socially-distanced from the other. Hand sanitizer was available as people came in and everyone had the option to wear the gloves and masks that were also available. Moms took the roses we set aside for them as well. Sadly, our greeting time was reduced to only air high fives or elbow bumps. But the coolest part? I announced that our giving was up 40% in March and 70% higher in April.
Carol Khoury, Senior Pastor, Perritte United Methodist Church, Nacogdoches
I really appreciate you encouraging the sharing of everyone's story and basic plans for re-opening on site worship. What is impairing our opening is lack of prevention supplies that we are inable to even order because orders are not being taken until product ios in stock. Or paying outrageous prices and products will be shipped sometime in mid to late June. We need disinfectant spray and wipes, gloves, masks, had sanitizer.
I would love it if churches would share what they are doing to find these supplies!
Thank you so much for your consideration.
Andy Cherry, Senior Pastor, Oak Shade Baptist Church, Atascosita
We opened Sunday, May 3rd. I sent out an email and put it on Facebook some suggested guidelines. However, I stated that they are responsible adults and could choose to stay home if over 65 or have small children. They also had the choice to wear masks and gloves, just masks or just use the hand sanitizers around the church. On average, we have about 110-115 at a service. We had 70 attend with two new families visiting. Only one person came wearing a mask! Only two people observed social distancing. One couple, 89 and 87, stated that they were coming to worship if it hair-lipped Texas! They hugged everyone they could find! Many did the same and there was a great attitude of joy throughout the building. We were not trying to be disobedient. We gave them the choice and they demonstrated what they wanted to do. Consequently, we will start Sunday School once again in June. We are expecting a larger crowd for Mother’s Day!
Barry Cameron, Senior Pastor, Crossroads Christian Church, Grand Prairie
We were given the GREEN light by the governor to reopen Crossroads on a limited basis for worship SUNDAY, May 3. To say we are excited is a colossal understatement. We also want to be as prayerful and careful as possible so we can do it the right way, and the safe way, for all of our people and our guests. What does this mean for our Crossroads’ family? We’ve created this page to help you have detailed information about our efforts to provide a safe on campus worship experience for you and your family.
We had a limited opening Sunday, May 3 with services at 10:00 and 11:30 a.m.
For this Sunday, May 10, MOTHER'S DAY, plans include two different venues at two different hours for worship with rows marked off and chairs arranged to practice social distancing.
10:00 a.m. – Main Auditorium and the Theater
11:30 a.m. – Main Auditorium and the Theater
Cedric Showels,Pastor, Macedonia MB Church, Austin TX
We never closed.
We have had the ten or less come so that we can have prayer , songs and service for the rest of the congregation joined in by Facebook Live.
We will have ushers in masks guide people to their seats so we ensure proper separation.
We are allowing the members to come back whenever they feel comfortable being in the sanctuary.
We will also continue to offer online service and encourage people to participate online or in person whichever they are comfortable doing.
We will clean the pews/restrooms after each service and not share microphones.
We will clean the microphone covers after each service.
Rev. Merlin Woosley, Abundant Life Assembly of God, Hamilton
We opened May 3 , 2020 (senior pastor was out because of other obligations). We had seven in attendance and we went by the rules of six feet apart. All went well. We will have service Sunday May 10. We will do according to what the six feet apart. May God bless y’all.
Rob McClelland, Director of Operations, Bannockburn Baptist Church, Austin
Below is a link to Bannockburn Church’s re-open plan here in Austin/Dripping Springs.
Please let me know if you have any questions or I can help our fellow church’s in any way. I used to do contingency planning for the federal government in D.C. so this kind of stuff is in my wheel house for sure. I am very happy to help our fellow church’s or pastor’s in any way.
Dave Koppel, Palm Valley Lutheran Church, Round Rock.
Here at Palm Valley Lutheran church, we will not open until at least June. We want to make sure everyone is safe and we don't add to the pandemic.
Jon Weems, Senior Pastor, Lake Shores Church, Marble Falls
We are reopening this Sunday.
We have taken out many rows in our worship area to make them 6ft apart. We have made our aisles 6ft apart. We have sent out recommendations of whitehouse and cdc. We will have ushers in masks guide people to their seats so we ensure proper separation. We will not have our children’s programs. We will encourage people not to come early or stay late.
We will also continue to offer online service and encourage people to participate online or in person whichever they are comfortable doing.
Pastor Mike Lawson, First Baptist Church Sherman
This document is meant to provide essential information regarding the reopening of FBC Sherman. OUR TARGET DATE FOR REOPENING IS May 17th!! As we move toward reopening the church for regular worship services, we will do so with extreme care. Our goal is that everyone who attends is confident we are doing all we can to safeguard against the possibility of transmission of ANY communicable disease. The current conversation your staff is having includes several parts to the plan. These are delineated below and will be followed by the verbatim recommendations from the CDC and state government.
1. Our reopening will initially include two worship services only. There will be no on campus Sunday school gatherings until further notice. The worship services will be identical. The first will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will last one hour. The second will begin at 11:00 a.m. and will also last one hour.
2. It would be helpful for the staff to have some indication as to how many of you will be planning to come to one of the services. We have measured our sanctuary and believe we can safely seat 130-150 and practice safe distancing. We need to know which service you would plan to attend, so we can recommend some to choose the other if one is going to be too full. Please respond to this email with your intention to attend or not to attend. If you do plan to attend, please indicate which service you prefer.
3. There will be no childcare initially. It is virtually impossible to practice safe social distancing in a nursery, or with small children. You are encouraged to come with all your family, regardless of age, and worship together in one of the services. (Points 4-12 available by clicking here)
Scott Tidwell, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Wimberley
FBC Wimberley is starting back on 5/10 and 5/24 outside only, probably also 5/31 outside.
Maybe back in the building in June with space restrictions.
No children yet.
Jason Butler, Minister, Highland Village Church of Christ
We will begin with a service this Sunday, but outdoors. Also, we will stream a service for those that are more comfortable staying at home. We are going to have it this way for a few weeks. We are slowly transitioning back, no bible classes, no Sunday evening or Wednesday night studies in person right now, just Sunday morning. Below are the procedures we sent out to our congregation this week.
Here are the procedures for Sunday`s in person service (majority of these come directly from the Texas Open handbook provided by the Governors office):
1. We will meet outside on the lawn around the Annex
2. We suggest that everyone wear a mask
3. Please bring your own lawn chair
a. if you do not have a lawn chair, a chair will be provided that has been disinfected, and will be disinfected following the service.
4. All families sit near your family members only, and maintain 6 feet of distance between your family and the next family.
5. Please keep 6 feet of distance when visiting as well.
6. When you arrive please pick up your own communion supplies from the table and throw in the trash can when you leave.
a. The supply box is disinfected and noone has touched the supplies in the box
7. There will be a collection box for your contribution placed on the table that has the communion supplies.
8. There will be song sheets provided with the songs.
a. At the end of service throw away these sheets
9. Everyone will be dismissed by family units. To eliminate congregating in close spaces.
Stay home and watch online if:
1. You are feeling the least bit sick
2. You have any underlying health risk
a . According to the Texas statutes this is how they define those who are at risk:
i. At-risk population are those who are 65 or older, especially those with chronic lung disease; moderate to severe asthma; chronic heart disease; severe obesity; diabetes; chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; liver disease; or weakened immune system
3. If you have been in contact with anyone who is Covid-19 positive in the past 2 weeks.
4. Or right now if you are just more comfortable watching online. We completely understand!
Rev. Sean D. Reeves, Pastor, St. Luke Lutheran Church- Olney, TX
As we reacted to the narrative of worst case, we decided to only hold an Easter service online. We anticipating holding Easter as a celebration of life over death in a big service when we could again safely gather. We still will- with our full congregation of God’s saints, including those who are high risk or uncomfortable gathering now. But we will not let the idea of a worse case hinder those who want to gather now. Just as Gov. Abbott has recommended reopening business in phases for the well being of Texas, we are regathering for church services in phases for the well being of God’s flock. So we will open for members and guests under the guidelines of “Open Texas” this Sunday in phase 1 while still directing the services towards those who continue to watch online. And we will pray for and wait expectantly for the day when we can ALL gather and celebrate in full God’s victory in physical and spiritual life! We are thankful for the thoughtful guidance of Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov Patrick as they stand on our Constitution for the well being of our Texans.
Chris Valdez, Senior Pastor, New Covenant Church, Lampasas, TX
We will resume in person services on 5/10
We removed every other row from our sanctuary.
We will have ushers seat and ensures each household (group that came together) is separated by 2 seats.
We will dismiss row by row.
We are also setting up another space with the same guidelines as an “overflow” room if needed.
We already had 2 services before, but the early one was a much smaller crowd. We are adjusting the service times so it is later in the morning which should allow for a more even split between the two services. If the “overflow” room is used/needed we will consider our other options then like starting a 3rd service.
We will not offer any form of nursery or childcare, and do not have a date/time set or even targeting for that yet.
Mike Mizell, Lead Pastor Bethel Temple, Cleburne.
Our plan is to continue with drive-in service for the next two weeks. Beginning on the 17th we are looking to stagger services in our building: 0900 will be for those 55 and above and 10:45 will be for those under 55.
We will rope off every other row and encourage spatial separation by family units.
We are not offering children’s services as of yet. We will look at resuming those ministries in June with guideline compliance.
We typically have hand sanitizing stations so we will seek to add more should the need arise.
As far as masks, that will be at the discretion of the member. We will not pass an offering plate but have a receptacle for attendee to use for tithes and offerings.
We have done really well through all of this so far. However, we are looking forward to being together in person again.
Rev. David J. Rogers, Senior Pastor, Town North Presbyterian Church, Richardson
We plan to resume our public worship this Sunday (May 3). Below is the communication we are sending out to the congregation:
Brothers & Sisters of Town North,
As you know, we found ourselves in a dilemma in mid-March. God has prescribed a meeting with us (His people) each Lord’s Day, but our civil authorities asked us to cease from this meeting with God (physically) and asked us to meet remotely. The authorities asked us to do this in order to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. We sought the Lord’s will on this, and determined it is God’s will to submit to civil authorities in a case like this (Romans 13:1). Our civil authorities did not ask us to cease meeting out of malice against Jesus Christ or His Church, but simply for the health of society. This Order was not only given to churches, but to all businesses in our society. So in submission to God’s will to submit to our civil authorities we ceased gathering for public worship, and gathered through Livestream instead.
This past week Texas Governor Abbott released an Executive Order (GA-18) allowing churches to resume meeting for public worship. So we plan to resume our public worship at Town North THIS SUNDAY (May 3).
However, there are still several things you need to know if you plan to attend this Sunday:
1) We will abide by the recommendations given in the Governor’s Report to Open Texas
This means several things:
a. We strongly encourage “at-risk” people to STAY HOME and participate remotely.
(“At-risk” people are those over 65 years of age, especially those with chronic lung disease; moderate to severe asthma; chronic heart disease, severe obesity; diabetes; chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; liver disease; or weakened immune system.)
b. We will designate areas in the worship space reserved for at-risk people.
c. We ask that you NOT attend if you are sick, or have recently been sick, or been in contact with others who are sick.
d. We ask that you leave at least two empty seats between families (or individuals), and every other row will be left empty. (Family members from the same household may sit together.)
2) We WILL provide Livestream video of the service for those who choose not to attend.
3) We ask that you wear a MASK.
4) We will NOT collect an offering or have the Lord’s Supper this Sunday.
5) We will ONLY have Worship at 10:30am.
6) We will NOT have a NURSERY available.
7) We will NOT have Sunday School classes or any other Sunday morning activities.
(We will keep you informed with our plan to resume these activities.)
8) In the unfortunate event that we reach our seating capacity with these restrictions we MAY ask those who arrive late to return home to participate in Livestream worship.
(Please know that we will try to make every accommodation to avoid this. We sincerely WANT you to be able to join us for worship!)
Pastor Rick Linn, Senior Pastor, Alston Road Church of Christ, Sugar Land
Consistent with the governor’s minimum standard health protocols for churches, and after weighing input from our spiritual family, we have decided to begin this week to meet at the building at 10:30 am for the Sunday morning worship service (see below for classes). Because of the continuing risks, there will be guidelines to be followed to maintain safety.
Here is what we are planning:
1. We will begin having Sunday morning worship assembly at the building at 10:30am.
2. Provision will be made for people at home to join the service at that time using Zoom.
3. Bible classes on Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening will continue to be online with Zoom.
4. We ask anyone who is sick or has any symptoms of sickness to remain at home.
5. We encourage the most vulnerable (65 or older, and those with existing health conditions) to stay home.
6. We encourage anyone who is not comfortable coming to stay home and not feel bad about it.
7. We are asking teenagers and older wear a mask (cloth or paper is sufficient) when you enter and leave the building, and when you are singing. We recognize this is inconvenient, but it is meant to minimize the spread of the virus. Anyone speaking or leading singing is sufficiently distant from the congregation to not require one. Children under 2 should not wear a mask as it increases the risk of suffocation. For children between the ages of 2 and 12, parents should use their discretion, since some children may not tolerate a mask very well.
8. There will be ushers wearing masks and gloves assigned to open and close all doors.
9. The water fountains will be off-limits.
10. People will be seated on every other pew in such a way as to maintain distance rules.
11. Chairs spaced appropriately have been added at the back of the auditorium.
12. Individual communion supplies will be available for Christians to pick up on the way in,
so there will be no passing of trays. Feel free to bring your own if you wish.
13. Collection boxes for the contribution will be set up.
14. The facility (particularly bathrooms and door handles) will be cleaned and disinfected after each service.
15. We will dismiss people in an orderly fashion and ask that they leave the building once dismissed.
16. Once you are out of the building, it is okay if you want to stand on the lawn or in the parking lot to talk.
17. Headsets will be assigned to individuals and stored so that they get the same one every time.
18. Afghans and blankets have been removed from the pews. If you want or need one, please bring it from home and take it back home with you. If you need one, the ones that were in pews have been washed. You are welcome to take one of the washed ones, but do not leave it at the building. We will no longer supply afghans for general use.
Keep in mind that these are not permanent rules. We expect to revise them in the next two or three weeks.
Pastor Rick White, Christian Fellowship Church, Beaumont
RE-OPENING PLAN FOR CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
1) May 10, 2020 (Mother’s Day)
2) Building to undergo special sanitizing prior to May 10.
3) Two services 9:00 & 11:00
4) As per Attorney general’s guidance, individuals over the age of 65 and or those with underlying / pre-existing conditions are encouraged to stay home another week or two and be a part of the services via the Facebook livestream. Those not feeling well should also stay at home until they are in better health. Masks are welcome, but not mandatory.
5) For those over 65 who wish to attend but take extra precautions, the Fellowship Room will be open to accommodate 65 and over only and the service will be streamed into that room.
6) Enter through the front doors only; the exception will be those 65 and over who choose to worship in the Fellowship Room – those may enter through the north doors.
7) A percentage of chairs on the sanctuary floor will be removed and rearranged to comply with proper distancing and to accommodate families sitting together. Chapel will be used to accommodate overflow; seating in chapel will also be set for proper distancing.
8) Once the sanctuary has reached seating capacity for the 9:00 service, worshippers will be given two options: attend the next service (they will be given a ticket that guarantees them first entry for the 11:00 service or worship in the chapel via livestream).
9) No Greeters, Parking lot crew or Prayer Partners; Ushers used in limited situations.
10) Children’s church and Nursery at the 11:00 service only – Venture’s Kids and Nursery will align with the CDC “Guidance for child care programs that remain open.”
11) Each service will be dismissed either by section or by families.
12) Tithes and offerings will be received in containers by the exit doors as people leave .
13) Building will be “sanitized” between services.
14) No School of the Bible classes until further notice.
15) No Wednesday night services until further notice. We will continue the Bible study / Devotion on the Facebook stream
16) For the foreseeable future communion will be administered in individually sealed packets
Michael Acker, Senior Pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Cleburne, TX
New Hope Baptist Church will be resuming services in our sanctuary this Sunday, May 10th (Mother's Day). This will be a hybrid worship with remote simulcast in our open air pavilion, as well as, available by our FM transmission in cars in the parking lot.
We will be subscribing to the safety guidelines that are recommended and offering any of these worship venues to suit the needs of the individual attending.
Brady Traywick, Lead Pastor, Crossroads Community Church, Austin
We are ONLINE only through May at this point and waiting for direction on when we move to phase 3. Assuming we will arrive at Phase 2 on 5/18 and then likely to phase 3 (2-3 weeks after that).
Doing church in-person with “social distance” proves difficult. Especially with children’s ministry and following the CDC Childcare suggestions.