We have returned for in-person worship services after a time of about 15 months when our services were online-only!
Much is still the same, but much is different.
The Ministry of Worship has prepared this information so that we all know what to expect and how to conduct ourselves.
We expect our practices to change as we transition to more familiar forms of worship and fellowship. Changes will be announced in advance so that everyone knows what to expect.
Everyone is Welcome
No matter who you are, or where you are in life’s journey, you are welcome here.
The First Congregational Church of Fresno, also known as “The Big Red Church,” is an Open and Affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ. Here is what that means:
We believe that all people are sacred creations of a loving God. We affirm the diversity that exists among us. We strive to answer the call of Christ by extending his love, compassion and acceptance to everyone. In this spirit, we open our family of faith to people of every religious background, sexual orientation, family composition, physical and mental ability, race, age and gender.
As Christians, we experience God’s reconciling love. In response we stand with those who suffer discrimination, isolation and alienation.
We welcome all people to participate fully in our church’s life and ministry. We celebrate the variety of talents and perspectives which flow into our spiritual community, continuing to enrich us in ways we could not have predicted or envisioned.
Please remember that we are not perfect. Although we strive to live up to our Open and Affirming Statement, above, we still have plenty of work to do. If you notice ways that we are not living up to our Open and Affirming Statement, please join the conversation and let us know! Your perspective is valuable, and we wish to grow together with you. Contact Pastor Raygan here.
Consensual Contact Only
During the entire time that you are with us, we expect you to be respectful of everyone else’s personal space and boundaries.
Please do not approach within six feet, touch, hug, or engage in personal physical contact with anyone else unless they have expressed consent for you to do so. Do not assume consent. Do not assume that someone who consents to personal physical contact with someone else also consents to personal physical contact with you.
If you request consent, and someone declines, then you should respect and honor their decision. Be mindful of your words, your body language, and your facial expressions. Do not make people feel pressured, shamed, or less included because they have not consented to personal physical contact.
We expect everyone to follow these guidelines for your entire time with us, from your approach to the church before the worship service to your departure from the church after the worship service.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” Children are important people in our church.
We are not currently offering Sunday School. That means children aged 4 and up will be together with us in the sanctuary during the service. Children will remain in their seats during the “Time for Discovery.” We hope and expect to resume our Sunday School classes soon!
We understand that people, including children, are sometimes noisier than some others would prefer. We understand that people, including children, sometimes need to move their bodies more than some others would prefer.
We expect everyone to be welcoming to families with children.
Everyone is welcome in our services, including babies and children! If you prefer not to bring your young children (birth to 3 years old) into the service, we have a nursery available.
Nursery attendants are required to be vaccinated and to wear masks.
The entry to the nursery is in the courtyard to the south of the sanctuary. If you are outside facing the main doors of the church, go to the left, around the corner into the breezeway, and through the gate. In the courtyard, the nursery is in the wing nearest Van Ness Avenue, through the first door on your left.
Arrival and Departure Times
We will have two worship services each Sunday morning. One starts promptly at 9:00 a.m. and one starts promptly at 10:30 a.m. The doors will be opened 10 minutes before each service. Each service will last about 45 minutes. Both services are the same.
Please depart the church promptly when you are dismissed at the end of the service.
For now, we are not having Coffee Hour or any other fellowship time outside of the worship service. We ask that you respect this practice, which we hope is temporary, by following the arrival and departure guidelines above, and by not carrying on informal fellowship on the church campus before and after services. We know this is a difficult request, but we expect everyone to respect the need for limiting contact right now.
The Big Red Church is at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Yale Avenue. We are in a residential neighborhood just north of Fresno High School.
We have a small parking lot at the south end of the church, which can be entered from Van Ness Avenue. Exit from the parking lot is past the apartment complex to the south of the church, onto Weldon Avenue. When you drive past the apartment complex, please be mindful and respectful of the residents there, who may be coming or going. We wish to be good neighbors.
There are limited spaces in the parking lot, so many people who come to church need to park on the streets in the neighborhood around the church. If you park on the street, please be mindful and respectful to all of our neighbors. Be careful not to block their driveways. If they ask you to move your vehicle, please do so kindly. Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Everyone over the age of 2 years is required to wear a mask for the worship service.
We ask that you model good practice by having your mask properly on your face (covering both your mouth and your nose) as you approach the church. If you arrive by vehicle, please put on your mask before you exit the vehicle. If you come to church on foot, please put on your mask before you reach the church campus.
Please continue to wear your mask properly on your face (covering both your mouth and your nose) throughout your entire time with us, until you leave the church campus.
We encourage everyone to be vaccinated. We wear masks even though many of us are vaccinated to help protect the people among us who are unable to be vaccinated. If you need help getting access to vaccination, please contact the church office.
We have two bathrooms in the courtyard to the south of the sanctuary. If you are outside facing the main doors to the sanctuary, go to the left and around the corner into the breezeway, through the gate. Continue straight to the opposite wing and you will see two doors.
A second set of bathrooms is also available in the Fellowship Hall. From the bathrooms in the courtyard, go to the other end of the courtyard, past the bulletin board, and enter the double doors to the Fellowship Hall. The bathrooms are at the other end of the Fellowship Hall, opposite the stage.
Each bathroom is single-person occupancy only. Any person of any gender may use either of the bathrooms on the courtyard. The bathrooms in the Fellowship Hall are divided by gender. If you are in the Fellowship Hall and facing the bathrooms, the men’s room is on your left and the women’s room is on your right.
When you are inside a bathroom, you should lock the door from inside. If you are waiting to use a bathroom, please be respectful of persons inside. If the door is locked, then someone is inside. Please step back quietly and wait your turn. If you are waiting outside a bathroom in the Fellowship Hall, please do not stand in the narrow hallway just outside of the bathroom.
If several people are waiting to use a bathroom, please maintain a distance of six feet from the next person.
If you need to use a bathroom during the service, please exit and re-enter the sanctuary through the narthex. There is a door just in front of the pulpit that opens onto the courtyard where the bathrooms are, but we ask that you not use that door to get to the bathroom during the service.
If you need help finding your way to the bathroom, ask an usher!
We enter the sanctuary for the worship service through the main doors to the church. Those are the large green doors nearest the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Yale Avenue, facing Van Ness Avenue.
The main doors to the church will be opened 10 minutes before the beginning of each service. If others are already in line to enter when you arrive, please get into line and make sure that you or your group keep six feet from the person or group ahead of you.
There will be a welcome table just outside the main doors to the church where you can pick up the Order of Worship and an activity packet for children. Every person of any age is welcome to have one of each.
On Communion Sundays (the first Sunday of each month), the table will also have boxes with the elements for Communion. The elements will include a small portion of grape juice (non-alcoholic) and a gluten-free wafer. Every person of any age is welcome to have a box with the Communion elements, but please do not open the box until we celebrate Communion together.
After you have picked up from the table what you need for the worship service, please follow the directions of the ushers through the narthex and into the lobby. Please be sure to keep six feet from other persons or groups.
Hand sanitizer will be available from touchless dispensers in the narthex.
Seating will be available in every other pew. Do not sit in a pew that is taped off. This method of seating is intended to ensure that there is at least six feet between each person or group. You may choose generally where you or your group will sit, as long as the space is available.
If you are by yourself, then please sit at the end of a pew, so that someone else may sit at the other end. Groups who wish to sit together in a pew, such as household or family groups, may do so. If someone else in your pew is not part of your group, please keep six feet between your group and the other person or group in that pew. If there is not enough room to keep six feet apart, please choose a different pew.
Seating in our church consists of two ranks of wooden pews, one on the pulpit side (to your left when you enter from the main doors of the church) and one on the lectern side (to your right when you enter from the main doors of the church). The pews are separated by a center aisle. There is another aisle along each side of the sanctuary.
We know that the wooden pews can be hard to sit on, so there are green cushions available in the narthex for those who need them. If you use a cushion, you may return it to the narthex at the end of the service, or you may leave it in the pew and the ushers will collect it.
We do not currently have spaces designed or designated for wheelchair seating. If you use a wheelchair, the ushers will seat you at the end of a pew, either on a side aisle or in the center aisle. We know this is a shortcoming of our sanctuary, but we hope to remedy that problem in the future.
During the Service
When you enter the sanctuary for the worship service, you will hear a musical prelude. It is usually performed on the pipe organ or the piano. The musical styles that you will hear in our church are mostly traditional.
We remain at our seats during the worship service, but we stand or sit for different parts of the service. The Order of Worship will tell you when you should stand or sit. If you are unable to stand, or if you do not wish to stand, you may remain seated.
There will be prayers and readings during the service, but we will not recite anything as a congregation except for The Lord’s Prayer (also known as “the Our Father”). The words of the prayer are printed in the Order of Worship. You may choose whether to join in the recitation of the prayer.
Most of the music during the service will be performed from the Chancel. We will not sing together as a congregation until the end of the service, when we turn toward the center aisle and sing “Go Now in Peace.” The words to “Go Now in Peace” are printed in the Order of Worship. You may sing loudly, or quietly, or not at all.
At the end of the service, there is a brief musical postlude. It is usually performed on the pipe organ or the piano. Our tradition is to remain seated during the postlude so that everyone can enjoy the music.
We celebrate Communion monthly, on the first Sunday of each month. Everyone is welcome to celebrate Communion with us. No one is required to celebrate Communion with us.
The Order of Worship tells you when Communion occurs in the worship service. The Pastor will explain what to do when that time comes in the service.
Giving is an important part of our faith practice, and we expect the people of our church to be generous as they are able. At the Big Red Church, everyone counts and every gift counts.
If you wish to give by cash or check, there will be collection boxes in the narthex. Envelopes for your gift are available in the pews and in the narthex.
You are also welcome to give through the Givelify app. (“Givelify” rhymes with “magnify.”) Instructions are available in the Order of Worship and in the narthex.
At the end of the service, after the musical postlude, the ushers will dismiss us one pew at a time, beginning at the rear of the sanctuary, to ensure that we maintain a distance of six feet between each person or group.
If you sat near the front along the side aisle on the pulpit side (to your left when you enter from the main doors of the church), then you might be directed to exit through the door in front of the pulpit, onto the courtyard. From there, turn left and go through the breezeway back towards Van Ness Avenue.
Otherwise, when your pew is dismissed, please exit down the side aisle through the doors at the rear of the church.
We ask that you please depart promptly after the worship service.
We do not have Coffee Hour or any other fellowship time before or after the Worship Service right now.
We hope and expect to resume Coffee Hour and other fellowship times at church in the future. But for now, we ask that you please depart promptly after the worship service. We understand that is difficult, but it will not be forever.
Live Streaming Online
Both of the Sunday worship services can also be viewed through our online live stream, which is available on Facebook Youtube and our Digital Sanctuary. The streams will also be available to view at a later date.
If you would like to have more information about our church, or how to meet Pastor Raygan, or how to get involved, please contact the church office at [email protected] or 559-227-8489