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COVID-19 Advisory Task Force

Guiding Principles

In these unprecedented times, the COVID-19 Advisory Task Force was formed at South Main Baptist Church to give counsel to the pastor and other church leadership about when it might be safe to return to in-person gatherings and how to prepare for the adjusted reality of this time.

To give wise counsel, we are gathering and reviewing as much scientific, medical, and social data as reasonably possible. We are listening to what other congregations are doing. We are engaging in robust discussions via Zoom meetings. And we are listening to you. Thank you to all who participated in our congregational survey. We had 391 responses, and those responses will guide us and inform us as we make our decisions.

Several realities have become obvious to us initially and are foundational to the approach we will recommend:

  1. We will not be an early adopter. We must strive to do no harm. We must promote community engagement in a safe environment. South Main’s historical practice has been to live out of faith rather than fear trusting that perfect love casts out fear. We also have a long history of acting with prudence while gathering facts and evaluating risks. It is our intention to observe and evaluate new developments toward reopening and learn from them.

  1. We will prioritize the community over the individual. Because we are a multi-generational congregation, and because our church body includes people with various heightened risk factors, we need to advise for the good of the whole congregation, not for the wishes of any subset of the congregation. We want to continue effectively serving those who will be unable to gather on the campus, whether for a short season or permanently, using all we have learned about webcasting worship in this season.

  1. We will follow the advice of the medical community. We believe there is no inherent conflict in being people of faith and people who believe in science. God created all things and is the source of all knowledge; all truth is God’s truth. We act most wisely when we pay attention to expert counsel that comes from trained medical, scientific, and social scholars who use their God-given gifts to lead us into truth.

  1. Churches are not like businesses. Most businesses that are successfully reopening have the ability to serve customers in one-on-one or very small group settings, thus limiting the risk of exposure. Churches do not operate that way. We are about group functions and large-scale gatherings, where the known risk of accidentally spreading infection is exponentially higher. We are relational in our work, not transactional, and this makes a fundamental difference in how and when we can reopen our buildings. The church, after all, is not and has not been closed. We continue to worship, serve, and care for each other. While we miss seeing each other face to face and being in our glorious Sanctuary, we know the work of the church does not stop when the doors are closed.

With these realities guiding our thoughts, the task force is now working on a matrix for decision making that considers aspects of the church’s work and how we might adapt in phases. The first of those phases is the present moment of worshiping and gathering at home. The ultimate phase will be when we reach some “new normal” of daily life. In between, we are envisioning a time when very small groups might be allowed, then medium-size groups being allowed, then larger groups allowed. We are evaluating each of these phases for things like worship, Sunday School Communities, the office, committee and team meetings, food service, Family Ministry activities, and missions engagement.

When will South Main reopen for face to face gatherings?

The short answer is, we don’t know.

For now, all in-person gatherings have been cancelled through the month of June. We continue to provide excellent worship and Bible study experiences using technology.

When we do begin to reopen the building, expect several things to be true: 

  1. We will reopen in stages. For example, it is likely that we will be considering small group activities and worship services separately. It is also likely that we can invite staff back to work in their offices before we open the building to walk-in traffic.

  1. We will evaluate every aspect individually. One of the sad realities of the spread of coronavirus is that singing creates a significant risk. Likewise, we know that shared food service items that get touched by multiple hands create higher risks of spreading infection. We are seeking to learn about these and other unique risk factors.

  1. We will remain a church for “every body.” Our decisions will be guided by the common good and finding ways to welcome back the largest possible numbers of our members and guests while continuing to be the family of God for those who worship remotely. We are also using your responses from our congregational survey to help inform us on how and when to reopen safely.

  1. We will honor your decision about what is best for you. We know when the church building reopens, not everyone will immediately feel comfortable returning. Everyone will have their own schedule. We will welcome everyone’s participation in the way that is safest for them.

We welcome your input, your suggestions, your questions. Please email them to Brad Jernberg. We are now meeting weekly, with additional tasks being done between meetings. Our current plan is to send another report to the congregation mid- to late-June.

Members of the Task Force:

Wade Cline, Chair of Personnel Committee; Immediate past-chair of Deacons; SMBC member since 1988; Member of Graceland SS Community; Managing Director & General Counsel, Endeavor Energy Holdings LLC

Claire Frazier, President of SMBC Sanctuary Choir; Member of Agape; SMBC member since 2007; Member of IMOT SS Community; Facilities & Events Manager, St. Luke’s UMC Day School

Jason Harper, Chair of Operations Committee; SMBC member since 2000; Member of FYF SS Community; Parent of children in MainKids, The 527 Tribe, and Youth; Director of Technology & Supply Chain, Baker Hughes

Nancy McNiel, Chair of Deacons; SMBC member since college; Member of Pilgrimage SS Community; Senior Associate Dean for Administrative Affairs, McGovern Medical School at UTHealth

Clint Pasche, Member of Stewardship Committee; Member of Sanctuary Choir and One Accord; SMBC member since 2009; Member of Journey SS Community; Community Leader for Nearly / Newly SS Community; Parent of Mini MainKids and MainKids; Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Greater Houston Partnership

Lauren Raimer-Goodman, Family Ministry Volunteer; SMBC member since 2010; Member of Journey SS Community; Parent of MainKids; Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Texas Medical Branch

Randy Taylor, Member of Operations Committee; Member since 2018; Member of Graceland Sunday School Community; Parent of Youth; Director for Grounds / IPM Coordinator, Galena Park ISD

The task force also includes all SMBC ministers and other members of the staff necessary to accomplish its work.