Church is Planning to Relaunch Aug. 23 with Guidelines, Plan for Relaunch Outlined

08/15/20 From Pastor Jim Martin: Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  As I prepare the following words on behalf of the St. Matthew Relaunch Team, I write with much encouragement.  We are planning to begin – in a limited way – in-person worship on Sun., Aug. 23.  Before lay out our plans, there are acknowledgements which I would like to make.

First, we need to acknowledge that people are in different places with different thoughts, ideas, and opinions about this coronavirus we call COVID-19.  Even scientists and medical experts have differing ideas and approaches to this pandemic.  The St. Matthew Relaunch Team is using information and guidance from our West Virginia Conference, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the WV State Recovery Plan in conjunction with the Governor’s Office, and our local Lewis County Health Department. 

We know our congregation, and we must acknowledge that at least 75% are seniors which places then 75% of our congregation in the high-risk category. 

We acknowledge that our congregation and our space in which we meet is unique to us.  We have advantages and limitations, as any other faith community, across our county, state, nation.  But our particular advantages and limitations are unique to St. Matthew.  Our decisions are based on the congregation and the space in which we worship. 

We acknowledge that there will be many adjustments as we move forward.  Someone has advised to “fail quickly” and then work to make adjustments.  We acknowledge that this is new ground for us all.

We acknowledge that conditions of the infection rate for this virus are capable of changing rapidly.  And therefore, we must acknowledge that THE PLAN CAN CHANGE AT ANY TIME.

We acknowledge that this is hard for all of us.  Thus, we ask you to remember:

Offering cooperation in difficult times is an expression of God’s grace.

We have currently two defined “phases”:  Phase 1 and Phase 2

We have been in Phase 1 (conditions not safe for in-person worship) since the second week of March.  If the following unsafe conditions or circumstances arise, we will return to Phase 1. 

Unsafe conditions that will warrant reactivation of Phase 1 include:

  1. Rise in positive diagnoses of Covid-19 in the Weston – Lewis County area, level Orange or Red per County Health Department.
  2. State of West Virginia’s Rate of Infection is 3% or more
  3. The Georgia Tech Covid Map’s Risk Assessment for a gathering in Lewis County is 20% or greater
  4. An attendee who worshiped in St. Matthew is diagnosed with Covid-19
  5. Unwillingness of those attending in-person worship to follow safety guidelines

We anticipate moving to Phase 2 (conditions permit limited in-person worship).  The following conditions or circumstances listed are required for Phase 2.

Phase 2:  Conditions permitting limited in-person worship include:

  1. Lewis County Health Department lists Virus activity level for the county at Green or Yellow
  2. State of West Virginia’s Rate of Infection is less than 3%
  3. The Georgia Tech Covid Map’s Risk Assessment for a gathering of 25 in Lewis County to be at less than 20%
  4. Lewis County is not considered on the “uptick” or “spiking” in reported cases
  5. Attendees are following safety guidelines

Online services will continue regardless of which Phase we are experiencing.  And we encourage you to worship through livestreaming, especially if you are in a high-risk group due to health or age issues.  We livestream and have recordings on Facebook Live via St. Matthew United Methodist Church Weston WV’s Facebook page, Pastor Jim Martin’s Facebook page, or other available means to offer worship. 

Visit the St. Matthew website: to find services, church news, prayer lists, and updates.

Not online?  Use our service “Sermon by Phone” to make a local toll-free call to listen to the most recent Sunday sermon.  Just dial 304-269-3437.

You are probably asking yourself:  “How are we going to do this limited in-person worship?”

Here’s some questions you may have.  If you have more questions or need clarification, please call the office (during office hours) or the pastor.

What does “limited” in-person worship mean?

  • We will only worship 25 attendees plus a worship team of 5 to 6 people.
  • We will not be able to sing.
  • Everything has been removed from the pews:  Hymnals, Bibles, envelops, etc.

Why are only 25 allowed to attend in-person worship at this time?

  • After carefully measuring the sanctuary proper and the Annex seating, it was found that to properly practice social distancing of 6 feet, the most the sanctuary and annex could accommodate was approximately 35 people.  We will have a worship team, including ushers, which will be 5 to 6 people.  We also anticipate that some immediate households may wish to sit together.  We will try to accommodate these.  But in doing so, it was discovered that it actually lowers our capacity.  25 was deemed doable. 

If our in-person worship will be limited to 25 people, how is it decided as to who may attend worship?

  • The only fair way to handle this is to have people call in an RSVP. 
  • If you desire to worship in person and are able to meet the guidelines outlined below, please call the office at 304-269-2428 during normal office hours (9 am to 2 pm) the Thursday before the Sunday you wish to attend.  You may only call for yourself and member(s) of your immediate household. 
  • The first 25 people who RSVP will have a spot held for Sunday worship. 

What is considered an “immediate household”?

  • A group of people, that is a family, living under the same roof.

What if I call after 25 rsvp’s have already been made?

  • In that event, your name (and immediate household) will be rsvp’d for the following week’s service if you wish.  If more than 25 people consistently rsvp while we are still in Phase 2, that means that people will have to allow others the opportunity to worship in person if they so desire.   

May I sit where I normally sit?

  • Unfortunately, probably not.  To maintain safe distancing, you will be directed by an usher (members of the worship team) in specific order of arrival.  Members of the immediate household may sit together.  We have made some provision for this to accommodate – the thing is, this actually cuts down on our capacity a bit.

Please do not place the one assisting in a difficult position.  This is hard for all of us.  Remember:  Offering cooperation in difficult times will be received as an expression of God’s grace.

We are having only one service each week under Phase 2.  What time does church start?

  • 10 am. 

Why 10 am?

  • Simply because it somewhat strikes a balance between the what we know as the “early” service and the “second” service

Which door(s) may I enter?

  • The Annex door, side door with the ramp, will be the only door that we will use to enter and exit.

How early may I arrive?

  • The Annex door will be opened at 9:45 am. 

How long will the church service be?

  • No more than 40 minutes

What if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Weston – Lewis County area before the Sunday service?

  • If our community experiences an outbreak, those who have rsvp’d will be notified by phone ASAP. 

Here are things to keep in mind.

Before you come to church:

  • Bathrooms are open for emergency use.


  • If you have a dry cough, feel feverish, have a fever, do not feel well, please seek rest and care, but please do not place yourself or others at risk.  Just stay at home. 
  • If you have been out of state (especially in an identified high COVID-19 impacted area, please refrain from attending per Governor Justice’s recommendation for 2 weeks after your return.
  • If you have knowingly been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed, postpone coming to church until your test results are returned indicating negative.
  • If you have been exposed to someone who is suspected of having the virus, please postpone attending in person worship until their results are known. 

Must do’s:

  • Wear a mask, either fiber or cloth, purchased or homemade, if you do not have a mask, one will be provided for you.
  • We urge you to wear your mask from and to your vehicle.
  • Maintain personal distancing of at least 6 feet.
  • Have your temperature checked as you enter the church building, If one has a temp over 100ᵒF, they cannot be admitted inside the church building.
  • Use hand sanitizer, yours or that provided at the entrance to wash hands as you enter and depart the church building.
  • Allow the usher / worship team to help you to your seat.
  • Wait to be dismissed so that we can do so safely.

May do’s

  • Bring your own Bible

Cannot do’s

  • No singing
  • No handshaking or hugging, really no touching, maintain 6 feet distance
  • No hymnals or Bibles in the pews
  • No bulletins
  • No Holy Communion until we get further word from the Council of Bishops