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"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness
and the world's deep hunger meet."  --Frederick Buechner  

RE-OPENING TASK FORCE REPORT
October 2020

The Session appointed this task force to study and make recommendations as to how and when PCEI could safely re-open its facilities for public worship and other uses.  It has been our firm belief throughout this process that, while our facilities may have been closed, the Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island has remained open and actively serving God in our community. 

With local Covid-19 cases on the rise and the percent positive number climbing,
we will stay the course with online worship through the end of the year for our Sunday morning worship time.

Objectives

We began meeting via Zoom conferences in the middle of May.   Our initial objective was to find ways that our congregation could safely return to in-person worship and related church activities, while safely providing opportunities for the entire congregation to participate together.  We did not want a solution that would exclude any group of members.  We also were keenly aware that a significant majority of our congregation is in the group at highest risk for infection and severe reaction to the virus.

Methodology

We have relied heavily on objective data available to us from sources including SCDHEC, CDC, Charleston and Colleton Counties.  We reviewed information from the PCUSA General Assembly, Charleston Atlantic Presbytery, and the websites of numerous church organizations.  Various members of the task force have monitored reported data on a daily basis.  We have personally investigated how other congregations on Edisto Island have responded to the pandemic.  Two of the primary websites we have reviewed are:

https://scdhec.gov/infectious-diseases/viruses/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/south-carolina-county-level-data-covid-19

https://web.musc.edu/coronavirus-updates/epidemiology-project

Initial Actions

When we began meeting, the number of daily new COVID cases was relatively low (100-200) with data indicating only a single case in the 29438 zip code.  At that time, we explored how we could use the Ministry Center for worship and had outlined a plan that would have called for controlled one way movement through the building using one entrance and another exit, physical separation from others, seating in family groups, mask requirements for anyone over two years old, and no social gathering before or after the service.  This process would also have entailed professional cleaning/sanitizing the building before and after each service.  We also considered how the HVAC system could be modified to provide increased filtration of the air being circulated throughout the building.

We also considered how we could provide in person worship to the entire congregation while limiting the number of participants in any one assembly.  We looked at dividing the congregation into groups and having one group attend in person on a rotating basis while the others worshipped on-line.  We also considered multiple services on Sunday at staggered times.  Each presented its own challenges, but a major concern was that we not overburden the staff with preparing multiple different worship services while continuing to address the myriad needs of the congregation. 

At the same time, we were looking at a numerical benchmark of a 14 day decline in the seven day average of new cases.  That objective seemed illusive in the early days as tourist season approached with the accompanying increase in the island’s population.  What began as a slow rise turned to severe spikes in the number of cases and the percentage of positive tests as the summer progressed.

We also investigated issues of liability should someone contract the virus and claim that the exposure could be traced to an event at PCEI.  Our insurance carrier confirmed that there would be no coverage to indemnify the church or the elders if such a claim were made.

Based on those factors, we made a unanimous recommendation to the Session that, in the discharge of the elders’ duty to “serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love,” they should not invite the congregation and potential visitors into our facility for worship.

Alternatives to In Person Worship

Over the summer we explored a number of alternatives.  Outdoor worship did not present an appealing option for several reasons:  the PCEI campus does not have a convenient, large, shaded area for a large gathering; using the area across Highway 174 would involve significant safety risks; the heat, humidity and insects prevalent during the summer months would not be conducive to worship; use of a tent for shade would defeat the need for physical distancing.  We did not have the capability to broadcast “drive up worship” where folks remain in their cars while listening to a service broadcast via radio. 

More importantly to us, however, the quality of the worship services being provided on-line far outweighed any benefit the alternatives might have provided.  Creativity, broad congregational participation in worship leadership, and powerful sermons demonstrated to us that PCEI remained open and active in its mission to this community, even while we remained physically distant.

Some have suggested that we host in person worship for those who want to participate, while providing on-line worship for others.  In addition to the added burden this would place on the minister, this is not consistent with our objective to provide a solution that does not segregate the congregation.  Our investigation also demonstrated that churches in our presbytery that were able to provide dual types of worship had the luxury of multiple ministers on staff.

Current Conditions

Daily totals of new cases are declining, but they remain at least three times higher than when South Carolina businesses closed in March.  MUSC currently shows Charleston County in a green category.  Businesses and schools have begun re-opening with various rates of success.  We have moved beyond Phase One of the attached criteria. 

Objective data demonstrate that wearing masks is an effective means of limiting transmission of the virus, but subjective opinions differ.  It is reasonable to expect that any mask requirement the Session imposes will not be universally well received by all members.

 

Current Recommendations

  1. Group Gatherings
    1. Preschool – We recommend that the Session allow the Preschool to open under the terms of its new handbook with Covid-19 Guidelines.  We further recommend that each family execute a release acknowledging the inherent risk in providing in person classes, and releasing the Preschool and church from any liability.
    1. Meetings – We recommend that the Session authorize outdoor meetings in accordance with Phases Two and Three of the criteria.  If the Administrative Committee establishes criteria for cleaning the facility, the Session should consider allowing indoor meetings under Phase Four.  The cleaning criteria could include a determination as to how often the facility could be used.
    1. Outdoor Vesper Program – We recommend that the Session authorize an outdoor vesper program to be coordinated by the Worship Committee and conducted in accordance with the Phase Three criteria.  This would serve as a barometer for us to gauge the level of interest within the congregation for in person worship under the criteria necessary for safety.  If successful, this could be implemented on a monthly basis.  This would not replace a Sunday worship service.

 

  1. Future Worship Opportunities -- We recommend that Sunday worship remain in its current format for now.   At a later date, once the audio visual components have been installed and fully tested and church personnel fully trained, Session may consider providing either a simultaneous broadcast or recorded services.   At that time, services would be conducted in the Ministry Center with limited, socially distant seating, and masks required for all participants in accordance with Phase Five of the attached criteria.  We do not recommend presenting one in person option and a second on-line option as this would not be consistent with our objective of providing a worship experience to include the entire congregation and would be a significant burden on the church staff.

 

  1. Continued Monitoring – We believe that these recommendations are reasonable under current conditions, but that the volatility of the virus requires continued monitoring and may, if necessary, require that we cut back to a lower level of attendance.  A willingness by all participants to abide by the established criteria must determine whether we can maintain the recommended levels of attendance.

 

  1. Continued Participation in the Life of the Congregation – PCEI remains an active congregation serving this community.  We recommend that all members remain committed to each other and this congregation, that they take advantage of the many available opportunities for worship and service, and that they continue to pray for God’s guidance through this challenging period.

 

  1. Publication of this Report – We recommend that this report be posted on the church’s website and that a link to it be provided to the congregation in the next issue of The Flash.

 

RE-OPENING TASK FORCE CRITERIA

Phase One: No in person gatherings           

1.  No gatherings with groups within the congregation or the congregation as a whole.

2.  Continues until cases in our area and state continues to decrease or remain steady.

 

Phase Two: Limited outdoor gatherings

  1. The % number of positive cases of COVID 19 in our area (Charleston and Colleton Counties and ZIP Code 29438) decreases and our area remains in MUSC code yellow or green.
  2. Limited to groups of 20.
  3. No food or drinks shared allowed and participants must bring their own chairs.
  4. Maintaining a 6-foot social distance.
  5. Masks required.
  6. No handshakes, hugs, or touching another.
  7. Hand sanitizer and regular hand washing is mandatory.
  8. Bathrooms available only as an emergency
  9. Seating at social distance
  10. If sick or vulnerable: stay home

Phase Three:  Larger outdoor gatherings

  1. The % of positive COVID 19 cases in our area continues to decrease and our area remains in the MUSC yellow or green area.
  2. CDC guidelines and state and local guidelines are met.
  3. Number of participants shall not be more than allowed for CDC required social distancing.
  4. Masks required
  5. No food or drinks allowed.  Participants must bring their own chairs.
  6. Bathrooms available only as an emergency.
  7. Seating at social distance
  8. If sick or vulnerable please stay home
  9. Leader of the group/event assumes responsibility of enforcing all requirements

Phase Four: Limited indoor congregational gatherings

  1. The % of positive of COVID 19 cases in our area continues to decrease and our area remains in the yellow or green MUSC data range.
  2. Space must be thoroughly sanitized both prior to meeting and after meeting.  Each group will be responsible for sanitizing the area. 
  3. Space to be used will be the Fellowship Hall ONLY.  No participants should enter the kitchen or other areas of the Ministry Building due to sanitizing needs.
  4. Participants would need to enter from and exit from the marked doors of the Fellowship Hall closest to the church.
  5. 6 foot social distancing must be followed and masks must be worn.
  6. HVAC system must run continuously.
  7.  Groups must reserve the space and there should be a 3 day gap between groups.
  8. Number of participants shall be no more than 20.
  9. No shared food or drinks
  10. CDC guidelines are met
  11.  Masks are required.
  12. If sick or vulnerable please stay home

Phase Five:  Larger indoor gathering including a limited number for Sunday worship

  1. The % of positive COVID 19 cases continues to decrease and the MUSC guidelines remain in the yellow or green range.
  2. CDC guidelines are met.
  3. 6 foot social distancing protocols are in place.
  4. Masks are required.
  5. No nursery or Sunday School groups over 20 participants.
  6. No breakfast or coffee time.
  7. No recitations or singing.
  8. Communion procedures will be determined at a later date.
  9. Meet in the Ministry Center.

Phase Six:  Return to in person worship

  1. A vaccine is in place for COVID-19 and all governmental restrictions and CDC and MUSC restrictions for large groups are rescinded or can be met.
  2. This stage will have protocols to follow which will be determined at the appropriate time.

Please know that we are all ready to return to church and instead of using a calendar date it may be easier to use these guidelines instead of a date.

 

In response to God's love and grace, through Jesus Christ, we commit to learning, proclaiming and living the love of God.

WELCOME to the Presbyterian Church on Edisto  Island

Here you will find information concerning our church and its ministries. We hope you find your time spent here a blessing. Our church is a warm and loving church, and we want you to feel comfortable and at liberty to call on us for anything you need. Feel free to browse through the various areas of our website and learn about us.

If you are considering relocating to our area, we would love to have you be our guest for Sunday School and worship.

The Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island is a PC(USA) congregation.

Contact Us  
The Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island
PO Box 86
2164 HWY 174
Edisto, South Carolina 29438
Phone 843-869-2326
Regular Schedule  

Office Hours

  • Monday
    – 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
  • Tuesday
    – 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
  • Wednesday
    – 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
  • Thursday
    – 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM
Affiliations  
Announcements

Online Worship

Worship at PCEI is online during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Videos can be found under the Sermons tab.

Zoom Sunday School

Join us for Zoom Sunday School at 9:00 AM on Sunday mornings.  Contact the church office for more details.

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