Hi everyone. We greet you in the Name above all Names. We know many of you are ready and eager to get life back on track. Most of us want things to go back to normal. The truth is, things will not return to normal for some time yet. Like the Christian life, this is a marathon and not a sprint. Patience, wisdom, maturity, discipline and responsibility are needed.
Revival, what a timely and appropriate theme! We want to “revive” church, revive the economy, revive work, revive life following the crippling blow with Coronavirus. It is time to blossom and live again! But we are in the budding process. As such, it “begins with me”. I need to be cautious and prudent so as not to endanger others.
Phase 1 for us as a church was a complete shutdown of all our in-house activities as recommended, and then enforced by government. We were a step ahead of many churches in that we have been livestreaming for some time. We simply transformed into a “virtual church”. We were wonderfully surprised to notice that our church grew exponentially on-line. Our last service in the church auditorium was on Sunday, March 8. Most, however, are done with Phase 1 and eager to begin gathering once again. We will relaunch our services on Sunday, May 31, as recommended by Government, after 11 consecutive Sundays online! However, several precautions are highly recommended by health authorities because a second outbreak could prove fatal to thousands.
Phase 2 for us at Riverside International Church in Cascais will be a “slow and staggered” approach to “reopening”. We would like to communicate how this will work itself out over the next couple of months. We hope everyone embraces the following recommendations to comply with Portuguese law, keep everyone safe and act with a sense of civil and moral responsibility.
• First Service in our Auditorium: Sunday May 31 @ 10h00! Hallelujah! Before we throw a party, the following guidelines must be enforced.
• Compulsory use of masks: We are obliged to enforce the wearing of face masks. Perhaps you feel comfortable not wearing one, but your neighbor might feel insecure and unsafe. As believers we must consider and respect one another (Romans 14:13-23). The law also requires masks in all public venues. Please bring your own masks although the Church will provide masks at the entrance should you forget. Your own double-layered cloth mask will look nicer, is far safer and saves the church funds, which can be better used to help those in need. We will have weekly prizes for the most creative mask ?. Make a mask and surprise us.
• Disinfection Points: The staff will provide hand-sanitation gel at several locations in the auditorium. We strongly encourage everyone to disinfect their hands prior to coming into the building and whenever they deem it appropriate or necessary.
• Health and Safety Certification: The auditorium and all our premises will be disinfected by a professional company prior to the reopening of our doors. The spray they will use is non-toxic and safe. It will destroy all virus and bacteria but will not be harmful to humans. An official certificate will be placed on the door once our rooms are sanitized.
• Reduced seating capacity: This will be one of our biggest challenges. We will not be permitted to have a full house until the Authorities tell us Portugal is officially COVID-free. During Phase 2, we will ensure there is one empty seat space between seats with every other row removed as well. Family members will also sit apart in this fashion as those watching online will not know people are related and may accuse Riverside of “irresponsibility” or non-compliant with the law. We want to avoid any opportunity for others to “throw stones” at the Church. This will reduce our numbers from a 275-seating capacity to around 90 people maximum. How will this work:
o Seniors, at risk and hesitant members. We advise all who are high-risk and vulnerable to the virus not to come to church on Sundays during this phase (aprox. 2 months until August). Your safety is our concern. People over 60, those who battle with health issues, and all who are uncertain and somewhat afraid should continue to watch on Livestream. We will keep providing an excellent online experience and encounter with God. You will be present with us in spirit!
o Respect the seating plan. Those who are eager to join in and want to be part of the “live church” celebration need to respect the above social distancing measures. There will only be a limited number of seats available. In order to ensure we have adequate seating and to gauge the numbers of people desiring to attend, please contact the Church Office (cml2ZXJzaWRlaW50Y2h1cmNoIHwgZ21haWwgISBjb20=) to communicate your desire to attend each week. Those who do not confirm might not be allowed in. If we exceed recommended seating the church may incur heavy fines.
o Social distancing & greeting. The welcome team and ushers will not greet you at the door with anything except a big (masked) smile and warm “hello”. We will do our best not to shake hands, kiss or hug during this phase. We will also do away with Pr. Eddie’s favorite time: “take 3 minutes to greet one another”. I know it’s terrible but good times are coming!
o Coffee ban. Sadly, for now, coffee and cake time is a no-no. I know this is criminal(!!) but handling cups, sauces and touching surfaces to pass on to the hospitality team can put them (or us) at risk. I know this is a tough one!
o Offering baskets. We will not be passing around the offering baskets. Imagine you are person number 93 to receive the basket? This means 92 have handled it before you. Not safe! As such we will have two baskets at the entrance where you may drop off your tithes and offerings. However, we encourage online tithing and giving as much as possible.
o Holy Communion. This will not be a major change for us as we already use small individual cups. The procedure to receive the elements is as follows: everyone comes to the front to take their own individual cup and one piece of bread without touching anything else. Some churches use a common chalice and break pieces from a common loaf: their will need to adjust greatly!
o Balcony off bounds. The new balcony we built and were so excited about will be out of bounds in this phase. This area will store the chairs removed to create social-distancing seating. We ask for deacons, elders and volunteers to come and help us prepare the hall for reopening on Saturday 30 May from 10h30 until 12h30. We will pack chairs, disinfect, clean and prepare the entire venue to receive our family the next day.
o No bulletins. Bulletins were already going out of use prior to COVID. They require many hours of work with little return: half of them remain on the seat or get crumpled and thrown into the wastebaskets after the services. This is not good stewardship of time and money and it is not environmentally friendly. As bulletins are potential propagators of viruses and bacteria which survive for many hours on paper, all announcements will be online, on the screens and on our site and social media.
o Reception area. We will create a new and attractive reception area to provide information, receive visitors, answer questions, enroll people into ministries, hand out translation equipment etc. It will become the “hub” of the church. We will need servant-leaders, young and old, to serve at the reception -- duly identified with proper t-shirts -- and handling the iPad and screens in this vital new area where people can be helped in safety. Angela and her team will be looking into the design and execution of this new area.
• Upgrade Multimedia. Our ability to provide an online experience has greatly increased our ministry around the world for the foreseeable future. In order to enhance our impact worldwide, we will be investing to improve equipment and provide resources to ensure we have the best possible online streaming service. Few people are willing to watch a church which could care less how it come across. The reason we are being watched by thousands is precisely because they see something beautiful reflecting a beautiful God. We need to reflect the excellence and beauty of God in all we do. Excellence is doing the best with the resources you have.
• Herozone, Igniteen and Crossroads Youth. We encourage leaders and teachers to work with limited numbers of participants in each of our designated areas. Leaders and teachers are charged with disinfecting all toys and play areas prior to the kids arriving (come 30 minutes before services please and separate the materials and toys you will use for each Sunday). Children need to be taught to wash hands and to respect boundaries. This can be tough for kids who just want to play and don’t understand what all the fuss is about. It is up to us adults to serve as the model and teach with love and patience. Working with teachers, parents can make this a fun learning experience instead of turning it all into rules and strict regulations.
• Servant-leaders. Many who have served long and well will not be available to serve in this phase: they are at-risk. As such we will be looking to recruit and deploy many new servant-leaders in every department from audio to Herozone. If you would like to step up and help the church at this time of fragility and need, know you are vital!
• Health and safety zone. Should anyone show symptoms, begin coughing, or demonstrate any signs of being unwell, we will have a room ready to receive that person in comfort until the health authorities arrive. This will be our “sick bay” or “quarantine zone.”
• Pre and post service clean up teams. Will you volunteer to come in 15 minutes prior to the service and stay on 15 minutes after the service, to help disinfect all doors, doorknobs, tables and other surfaces? If we have 2 or 3 teams of 3-4 people, this can be done quickly and efficiently. We will provide gloves and cleaning materials.
• Potential for two services. Should the demand to attend service in the Church building exceed our threshold of 90 people, Riverside could well organize a second service. This option can only come to fruition if we have sufficient support personnel and volunteer cleaning teams. Each service must have its own team of volunteers to avoid burning out our current group of volunteers.
MID-WEEK LIFEGROUPS & ACTIVITIES
Zoom Room is king! One thing this virus has done is “reinvent church”. Many have found that they actually enjoy doing life-groups, bible studies or prayer groups online in the comfort of their own Zoom Rooms. It is a more flexible approach, one does not have to leave the comfort of the home, get dressed and travel anywhere. Why not keep on connecting using technology?
House-to-house. For those who prefer house-to-house meetings and getting together in person, around meals or coffee, that’s fine. The hosts should take all necessary precautions as we are doing on Sunday’s (on a minor scale) and the ones who participate should be wise and careful. The last thing we want is to have anyone become infected in our life-groups. The very word “life” says it all.
TITHES & OFFERINGS
Times are becoming extremely challenging for many people. Many are out of work or have seen their hours cut down to a bare minimum. That means less income and, in some cases, no income. We ask all whom the Lord has blessed, with few or many financial resources, not to forget your church, His House. Without funds, the church cannot function. Without money we cannot bless the world, support our missionaries and ministers, help our churches, pay our pastors and staff, do the work! Remember the story of the widow’s mite? We can all be faithful, even in times of drought and scarcity, and the Lord -- Our Provider -- will not only be watching, He will choose to bless those who bless, be faithful to all who are faithful towards His mission and His House. That is His unfailing promise.
SPIRITUAL MILESTONE AND HARVEST EVENTS. We will continue to host and provide for weddings, dedications, baptisms, nation focus days, outreach, funerals, home visitation and so much more, which is vital to spiritual life, to doing and being the Church. However, everything we do will be preceded by and permeated with a consciousness, preparing, planning and executing, taking into consideration our people’s health and safety, first and foremost. Every leader and host should look at what we are doing during our Sunday Celebrations and adapt accordingly.
Tickets for Riverside Church Cascais LIVE Service can be booked here.
|Ticket Information||Ticket Price|
|SERVICE - CULTO||Free|
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