2020 Feast of Tabernacles Guidelines
Our heavenly Father is pleased to see His children “dwell together” in unity (Psalm 133:1), something exemplified on its largest scale when we come together to worship Him during the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day (Deuteronomy 14:23).
This unprecedented time, however, presents some unusual challenges. As we have emphasized in recent months, we need to live by the overarching biblical principle Christ described as the second great commandment—to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). By working together and abiding by the following guidelines, each of us can do our part to ensure a safe and joyous environment in which to keep God’s Feast.
- Our Christian conduct. First and foremost, it is important to be on our best Christian behavior. With so many differing views and opinions in the public discourse today on everything ranging from the pandemic to politics, we entreat everyone to heed the apostle Paul’s admonition to be careful that our conduct in word and deed be that of “edification” or building up (1 Corinthians 14:26).
- Symptoms that require staying home. Please use extreme caution at any sign of illness, even if it may not seem specifically symptomatic of COVID-19. Anyone displaying any of the following symptoms should remain in his or her accommodations and not attend services or any group activities:
- Shortness of breath Sore throat
- Dry cough
- Loss of taste or smell
- Muscle pain Flu-like symptoms
- Age and underlying health issues. Those with underlying health issues associated with increased risk relative to COVID-19 and those who are immunocompromised should use extra care when deciding whether to attend services or other group activities. If you are over age 65, you should also consider the age risk factor before deciding to attend services. When in doubt, we recommend that you err on the side of caution and remain in your accommodations and view the live webcast.
- Temperature checks. Some facilities or states require that temperatures be taken of all attendees as they enter the meeting hall. Most of our Feast sites will not require this additional step, but for those that do, we will use protocols to ensure this process happens in a smooth and orderly fashion. At sites where temperature checks are not required, we will have a noncontact infrared thermometer available for anyone who wants to take his or her temperature.
- Social distancing. We ask everyone to continue practicing social distancing when fellowshipping or talking with others at services and other sponsored activities. As mentioned below, all family groups will have seating separated from others by 6 feet (e.g., leaving empty chairs between individuals or family groups). We ask everyone to refrain from touching, hugging or shaking hands at services and other church-sponsored activities.
- Face masks or coverings. We ask everyone to wear face coverings when coming into services, while fellowshipping and while singing hymns during the Feast. Since our halls will be configured for social distancing, you may remove your masks while seated during the service itself unless a local or state order requires the wearing of a mask throughout the service. Per the CDC guidance, very small children or those with medical or breathing conditions are not required to wear a mask. Where feasible, they may consider wearing a face shield as an alternative face covering. Different states and municipalities may have different age requirements for children when it comes to requiring a face covering. In such cases we recommend that the local or state guidelines be followed. See this CDC statement: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/considerations-for-events-gatherings.html.
- Seating at services. While a few of our sites will need to alternate in-person attendance to services, all of our sites will be set up to ensure social distancing (6 feet between family groups) in the seating configuration. We will have assigned seating. Only immediate family members should plan to sit together during services at the Feast unless other nonfamily members are sharing accommodations with them. Ushers will assist all attendees in securing their seating each day prior to services.
- Children. While children will be eager to have contact or share toys with one another, we ask parents to monitor their children, as the same principles of social distancing apply to children and their interactions at services.
- Hymns. We plan to project the hymns at most of our Feast sites. However, you may choose to bring your personal hymnal to the Feast. You will also be able to access the COGWA hymnal from the COGWA members’ app on your smartphone.
- Members exposed to COVID-19. While it is highly unlikely to happen, those who know they have been exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine and/or seek to get a COVID-19 test the second day after exposure. Only after sufficient time quarantining or receiving a negative COVID-19 test result should they consider returning to services or other social or group settings.
Unregistered Attendees at COGWA’s U.S. Feast Sites
In the past, the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, has always welcomed brethren from other fellowships to worship with us in peace at our Feast sites. This year, unfortunately, due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and attendance restrictions mandated by state and local governments or the meeting facilities themselves, COGWA may not be able to provide that opportunity so readily.
At each of our U.S. Feast sites we will be practicing social distancing in seating and fellowship, and we expect all attendees to use face coverings. At some of our sites the attendance numbers and seating limitations will allow brethren to attend only one in-person service on the holy days and then only on alternate days for the rest of the Feast. The assigned seating and alternating attendance schedule for these sites will be organized according to our registration lists, and those who are registered will have priority for the limited seating.
Just before services begin every day, our ushering staff will determine if there is seating left over in the hall. If there is, unregistered guests will then be welcome to attend services in person. On days when people are unable to attend in person, they will be able to watch the webcast, which will be provided for each of our Feast sites. Access to the webcasts from all of our U.S. Feast sites will be available at cogwa.tv.
We appreciate your understanding during these challenging times.