In May, the Greater New Jersey Conference of United Methodists issued a goal for its congregations: Spread the Good News of Jesus Christ as together we flatten COVID-19 and ensure zero infections are spread by United Methodist activity.
n response to this, a Reopening Team was formed and has been meeting often to create plans to reopen St. Peter’s for in-person worship and our many other activities, ministries, and missions. This group has worked diligently and prayerfully to balance the importance of returning to in-person worship with the health and safety of our entire church family and community.
As Church Council Chairperson, I would like to take a moment to keep you up to date regarding our plans to return as soon and as safely as we can to in-person worship.
On Sunday, July 5th, we will begin an 8:00am Outside Service in the Wesley Avenue parking lot. Attendees will be encouraged to bring their own chairs, although some folding chairs will be available if needed. Masks will be required, and the now-familiar social distancing protocol will be followed with other measures to provide for a safe environment. The Wesley Avenue parking lot and alley between 7th and 8th Streets will be cleared and closed to traffic. Parking will be available in our Central Avenue lot as well as the municipal parking lot across from St. Peter’s on Central.
Our 9:00 On-Line Service via Facebook and live streaming on our YouTube channel continue to grow as a vibrant, robust, and creative worship experience. On-line fellowship will continue even after we return to in-person worship.
Preparations are underway to resume services in the sanctuary, but currently are dependent on guidance from the State of New Jersey allowing 100 or more participants. The challenges posed to safely conduct indoor worship are complex and have presented themselves in multitudes, however we are confident that our preparations and precautions will allow for a return that keeps everyone’s health and safety in mind.
Due to health and safety concerns, services at the Boardwalk will not be offered for the time being. Discussions have taken place with the City of Ocean City and the door is open for us to resume fellowship at the 11th Street Pavilion in the future. Our presence on the Boardwalk is a valuable ministry and one we know has become a treasured tradition for residents and visitors alike. Until we can again be together by the beach, we invite all to our 8am Outdoor Service a few blocks away at our home at St. Peter’s.
We do not anticipate providing in-person Sunday School or nursery opportunities in the initial weeks of our return and on-line ministry will continue. Proper precautions will be taken to provide a safe environment for all our ministries and are dependent upon current conditions and specific guidance given for group gatherings.
Our experiences as we re-gather together as a church family are going to look and feel quite different than we might be used to. Remember, however, that these are not permanent changes. Our approach is one of balance between our excitement to be together again and the Conference’s stated goal.
I would like to thank the Reopening Team and the Church Council members for all their continuing efforts. Our conversations and planning would not have been possible without the input of the entire staff of St. Peter’s which, without exception, have prioritized the health and safety of all who participate in our worship ministries. Involved, as well, has been Pastor Erik Hall who has just arrived in Ocean City with his family this past week to join and lead us at St. Peter’s. It is under these unique circumstances that we welcome him to our church family.
Thank you, St. Peter’s family and community, for your service and support.
Church Council Chairperson
St. Peter’s United Methodist Church
Ocean City, New Jersey