Thursday, June 25, 2020 Update from the pastors at St. Stephen’s on the church’s Healthy Church Team

All local churches in the Virginia Conference, including St. Stephen’s Church, have been charged by Bishop Sharma Lewis to establish a Healthy Church Team to prepare for the return to in-person worship and to advise on the use of the St. Stephen’s building and grounds for non-worship gatherings.

What is the Healthy Church Team?

What is its role at St. Stephen’s in returning to onsite worship ?

What about non-worship gatherings at St. Stephen’s?

All local United Methodist churches in the Virginia Conference, including St. Stephen’s Church in Burke,Va., have been charged by Bishop Sharma Lewis with establishing a Healthy Church Team, “HCT”. Using protocols established by the Virginia Conference, the HCT is preparing for a return to in-person worship and advising in the safe use of the St. Stephen’s building and grounds for worship and non-worship gatherings until all restrictions are lifted. Through the Handbook for the Local Church (released May 13) and now the Technical Assistance Manual, “TAM”, (released June 15)  the Virginia Conference is mandating a number of requirements and protocols for all local churches to follow as we prepare to safely return to in-person worship. The requirements prioritize loving our neighbors by first doing no harm.

The Healthy Church Team at St. Stephen’s consists of 10 staff members and laypeople, some who are  healthcare and legal professionals.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is using the term “Phases” for reopening and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on June 23 that the Commonwealth would move into Phase III on July 1st. The Virginia Conference is using the term “Stages.” The requirements and the timing of phases and stages are not the same. The Virginia Conference entered Stage II on June 21st, and no announcement has been made about when Stage III is expected for Virginia Conference churches. Regional, county, or local outbreaks may require some or all churches of the Virginia Conference to delay moving to a specific stage and any outbreaks or other factors may require the return to more severe restrictions for in-person worship and gatherings. 

At St. Stephen’s Church, all church property is currently closed to both worship and non-worship gatherings without prior approval by the Healthy Church Team.

The TAM addresses Stage II requirements for in-person worship, including drive-in and in-person worship outside on the grounds, but it also addresses non-worship gatherings in the building, outside and even offsite.

At St. Stephen’s Church, all church property is currently closed to both worship and non-worship gatherings without prior approval by the Healthy Church Team.

All gatherings, including gathering outside on the grounds, must follow the Stage II protocols and requirements. These requirements include but are not listed to: a written plan to be submitted to the church office via email for review by the HCT, no more than 50 people per gathering, 6-feet social distancing to be strictly followed, wearing of face coverings at all times, no handouts or other shared materials, and registering for the event and completing and returning via email a Health Acknowledgement Form for every attendee at least four days prior to the event. You can download St. Stephen’s Health Acknowledgement Form by clicking here. It should be completed and sent to the Church office at office@ststephensfairfax.org for review by one of the pastors. If you do not have email, please call the church office for more information.

It is very important that all people entering St. Stephen’s property, including the outside grounds and the building, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms (e.g., fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, gastrointestinal issues, chills, and new loss of taste and/or smell) and complete a Health Acknowledgement Form. Anyone who presents with these symptoms or feels sick should not enter the property, including the outside grounds.     

Download a PDF of the  St. Stephen’s Health Acknowledgement Form by clicking here.

Currently, regular in-person worship on St. Stephen’s property, including worship that would take place outside or inside the building, is not planned until Stage III.

When St. Stephen’s returns to in-person worship, a recorded or live-streamed service is planned for those who are not able to attend in-person.

The decision to wait until Stage III to return to in-person worship is based upon a number of factors, including strict requirements and protocols for in-person worship during Stages I and II. Below are some of the requirements for Stage II, and you can review the TAM for more complete information. 

These are challenging and uncertain times we live in. Let’s all be in prayer, asking God to guide us through the days and weeks ahead. 

Should you have any questions, please call the church office at (703) 978-8724. Should you need to leave a message, please specify the nature of your call, so we can address your question more efficiently. 

Stage II Onsite Worship Protocol and Requirements 

• No greater than 50% capacity or 50 people maximum 

• Registration required to attend in-person worship service or a non-worship gathering 

• Registration required at least 4 days in advance

• Completion and emailing of a Health Acknowledgement for, 

• Health Acknowledgement Form – required for ALL gatherings

• Strict 6 feet social distancing for seating (except family members living together)

• 6-feet social distancing, when entering and exited the building

• Face covering / Mask (bandana) required, bring a face-covering with you

• Face coverings will not be handed out

• No in-person singing 

• Electronic materials only – no handouts

• Children allowed but seating near exit 

• No age limits – but pre-existing conditions discouraged

• No Sunday School 

• No coffee or fellowship time, must enter and exit the building social distanced  

• Social-distanced Parking 

• Playground is closed 

• Drop-off offering 

• Strict Cleaning Requirement between services and gatherings and more…

Should you have any questions, please call the church office at (703) 978-8724. Should you need to leave a message, please specify the nature of your call, so we can address your question more efficiently.

Download a PDF of the  St. Stephen’s Health Acknowledgement Form by clicking here.