Return to In-Person Worship Frequently Asked Questions

Please note that as you read through these questions that all of these answers are for the immediate future. As the status of our community changes and new guidelines are put in place by the government and North Carolina Synod, the Re-Gathering Task Force and Council will continue to make adjustments.

SAFETY PROTOCOLS

What are the safety protocols in place?

All of the standard safety protocols we see throughout the community including spacing between pews, wearing of masks, and usage of hand sanitizer will be in use.

Masks (covering the nose and mouth) will be required to be worn by all participants at all times during the worship service with the brief exception of receiving the communion elements. The pastors will be required to pause worship if anyone is not wearing their mask correctly. Those who continue to violate this policy after a warning will be asked to leave worship. Masks will be available to those who might arrive to worship without one.

What type of pre-screening will take place prior to worship?

You will be asked as part of the reservation process the same standard Covid-Health questions you would be asked at your physician or other public place. Additionally, you will be asked those same questions when you arrive for worship on Sunday. If you answer “YES” to any of those questions, please do not worship in-person that week.

We will not be taking temperatures upon arrival. We ask that if you are running a fever or are not feeling well, you do not attend in-person worship.

Why are there such strict capacity limitations in place and so much time between the worship services?

The capacity limitations in place reflect the current recommendations of the CDC and the North Carolina Synod Re-Gathering Guidelines. These limitations account for registered participants, worship leaders, ushers, and for any guests. These capacity limits may change over time based on changing conditions.

Our Re-Gathering Team has developed a pew spacing system that utilizes every other pew and makes sure that worshipers are at least six feet apart from any other worshipers outside their household. Upon arrival, the ushers will lead you to your pew which you must remain in for the duration of the worship service. If you have any special needs, please communicate them to an usher upon arrival.

One of the key recommendations of our Medical Advisors is that a period of six hours take place between use of the same room by different groups of people. This time will allow for the cleaning of our spaces and for the room to regenerate new air. Cleaning will include using a professional atomizing machine and sanitizing high-touch surfaces. This is a policy in place for all spaces across the Augsburg campus.

Will there be a requirement to be vaccinated? Will there be special seating for those who are already vaccinated?

Augsburg is not able to monitor the vaccination status of individual members or guests. Recognizing that there are some who are not vaccinated because of health reasons, by choice, or because they are not yet old enough to receive a vaccine, we are going to continue to operate in a cautious manner and maintain protective measures that ensure all who attend are at the lowest possible risk. Our seating plan ensures the safety of all who worship regardless of vaccination status or effectiveness.

All Augsburg pastors and staff who participate in worship and programming are fully vaccinated.

What if an attendee of a worship service were found to be positive for Covid-19?

Our registration process will ensure that every participant who attends worship will be documented. In the event of a positive case, all individuals who attended worship that Sunday will be made aware of the positive case. At the guidance of our Medical Advisors, additional steps may be taken, including the pausing of in-person worship services.

Again, we ask that if there is any possibility that you have been exposed to Covid-19 that you do not attend worship until you have been cleared by a medical professional.

REGISTRATION

How will registration work?

Registration will begin at 8:00PM on the Sunday prior to the worship service. We will use the same Realm Church Management program that we have been using successfully for months for Drive-Through Communion. You will receive an invitation via email on Sunday evening each week.

We will have two worship services on Sundays at 9:00AM and 6:00PM. You will use the same form to register for both services. The registration form will guide you to register all members of your household who will attend one service or the other, and there will be a memo field where you can add any special accommodations.

If you are unable to access a computer, you may call the church office beginning on Monday morning to register.

What if the service I want to attend is full?

Registration will take place on a “first-come, first-served” basis. If your preferred service time is full when you register, we encourage you to register for the other service. If both services have reached their capacity, we ask for your understanding of our current capacity challenges and to worship with us via our recorded service on our Augsburg YouTube channel.

Will we be able to invite friends and extended family?

Sharing God’s Word with others is an important part of who we are as the church. Each week we have set aside a few spots for visitors. However, we will still need to be mindful of capacity limits and aware of the fact that many Augsburg members have been waiting a long time to return to worship. If you are interested in inviting others to worship, please contact one of the pastors. We will also make sure space is available for family for special events, such as baptisms.

How will I know that I have successfully registered for a service?

You will receive a confirmation email after you complete the Realm registration process. This email will include details about what to expect when you arrive for worship and where to enter the building. If you do not receive a confirmation email within a few minutes of registering, please call the church office.

PLANS FOR THE WORSHIP SERVICE

How will worship look different than what I remember prior to the pandemic?

Our worship will still be rooted in Word and Sacrament. Most of the service will remain the same including much of the liturgy, Scripture readings, prayers, and a sermon. In order to maintain social distancing, most of the liturgy will be offered by the pastors and we will not have as many lay volunteers, including readers and youth for the Order of St. John roles.

The portions of the service that draw members closest together, such as the sharing of the peace and the children’s sermon, will not be included in worship at this lime. Additionally, passing the offering plates and friendship registers will not take place. Offering baskets will be at the rear of the sanctuary. The pastors will also greet worshipers outside after worship services.

Will we be able to sing in worship?

Unfortunately, the answer at this time is no. Based on the recommendations of medical professionals, large group singing is still considered a prohibited practice due to the possibility of the spread of airborne particles, even while masked. We realize how important congregational song is to the community and will return to that practice when evidence provides a safe way to do so.

Each week, a small number of worship leaders who remain in the choir area will offer short portions of sung liturgy, although much less than usual. The masks that these singers wear are specially designed for singing and they will be using microphones to amplify the sound.

Because being outside allows for safer conditions for singing, the congregation will be invited to remain outside for a few minutes after each worship service to sing the Doxology together. This is an optional activity, and masks must remain on, even though we will be outside.

How will Holy Communion be different?

We will continue to use the individual communion kits that we have used for Drive-Through Communion as part of our eucharistic liturgy. Your communion kits and bulletin will be shared with you when you arrive for check in before worship. After the pastor has presided over the elements and shared in the Words of Institution, you will be invited to partake of the elements at your pew.

We will continue to provide a gluten-free option for those who indicate that preference on their registration form. We remain committed to the theological understanding that “Christ is fully present in both bread and wine” for those who are unable to partake of either element. You will be asked to dispose of any remaining items at the end of worship in the trash cans provided.

Won’t all of these changes feel awkward and less sacred?

That is a real possibility. We all share in the grief that worship cannot quite be the same as it was before the pandemic. While some of these changes will be temporary, it is still not what we are used to. While it may be different, the pastors and worship leaders will work to ensure that our worship continues to give praise and glory to God in the most meaningful and sacred ways possible. We are reminded that the Church throughout the world has survived many challenges over the last two millennia. We give thanks to God that we have remained rooted in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in spite of the challenges to worship we have faced this past year.

Will there be a nursery?

At this time, the nursery will not be available. The actual room will not be accessible and it will not be staffed. Children are welcome to join their parents in worship. We celebrate their place in the life of the church. Masks will be required for all children ages 2 and older.

How long will the service last? Will restrooms be available? What about water fountains?

Worship is expected to last about 45 minutes for each service. The restrooms by the Gathering Room will be available. While the water fountains will be unavailable, our ushers will have bottled water for those who need it.

Will Augsburg still offer a service on YouTube?

Yes, absolutely! We will still offer a full worship service each week that will include taped portions of the Sunday 9:00AM service as well as additional prerecorded elements such as additional music and special events. We hope to have the service sent to the congregation and available on the Augsburg YouTube channel by 11:00AM each Sunday morning.

Will Augsburg still offer Drive-Through Communion?

Yes, Augsburg will still offer Drive-Through Communion once a month. Please keep an eye on the Beacon and bulletin announcements for dates and times.

What about worship in the Outdoor Gathering Space?

When the space is completed and the grass has had time to adequately grow, we look forward to offering an additional service on Sundays in the Outdoor Gathering Space. We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of this project.

What about other ministries besides worship?

Over the next few weeks, the Re-Gathering Team will work with Ministry Teams and the Church Council to start re-engaging in other ministries in a safe and effective manner. The next goal is the return of adult Sunday School Classes. Youth ministry will begin to meet outside for small socially distanced events. Keep an eye on the Beacon and bulletin for updates!