COVID-19 Email Update #1

Special Announcement Regarding COVID-19

Greetings SoL family and friends! May God’s grace be with you today and every day! Yesterday morning we had a Spirit-filled worship at Mansel Carter Oasis Park in spite of the lower-than-originally-anticipated attendance. We had between 60 and 70 physically present, and about 12 families tuned in for the entire service via Facebook Live. God was indeed present, and that’s what matters the most!

At yesterday’s service, I announced that we would likely continue a scaled-back version of in-person worship. Yesterday afternoon that all changed when the CDC put out a new guidance recommending that gatherings of 50+ be either postponed or cancelled for the next 8 weeks. The guidance itself doesn’t mention religious services, but based on my reading of the guidance, religious services are implied as being included. There are also restrictions for groups as few as 10 when the group includes people who fall into the at-risk categories. Our Governor tweeted out support for these measures and I anticipate our Bishop will be sending out something today or tomorrow with further guidance for our churches. I’m anticipating we will have to suspend all in-person worship and many small group gatherings and meetings, which probably means relying on technology a whole lot more. Eight weeks takes us to the middle of May…we could resume in-person worship on May 17 (assuming next Sunday is week one) unless the CDC extends its recommendation. At this point, we are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.

In light of all this, I am spending today working with our church and worship leaders and staff in order to figure out what we’re going to do. It’s possible Facebook Live isn’t the best option for us when it comes to live-streaming our worship service, so we are evaluating that. We’re also working on recommendations and options for small group meetings and creative worship opportunities.

In order to do all of this, I need your help and your opinions:
1) First, be well and safe. You know your own risk based on your own physical health conditions. Practice social distancing, but know that social distancing DOES NOT mean isolation. We are creatures who are meant to be in relationship and in community with others, so reach out to each other. If you know of someone in the congregation who lives alone, give them a call and let them know you are available to them, even if it’s just to offer a listening ear by phone.
2) Second, please provide me with some feedback on possible ways we can remain connected as a congregation through worship during this time. Obviously these restrictions mean we will not be able to celebrate the Resurrection on Easter as usual. It’s possible we may not even be able to celebrate Pentecost at the end of May. We just don’t know. So please send me a reply to this email with your responses to the following questions:

  • If you stayed at home yesterday morning, did you try connecting via Facebook Live? If you did, were you successful? If you weren’t successful, can you describe why?
  • Are you aware that you don’t have to be on Facebook in order to connect to a Facebook Live presentation?
  • How likely are you to tune into online worship on Sunday mornings during this time?
  • Would you be interested in gathering with a small group of church members?
  • Would you be willing to host a small gathering on Sunday mornings at your home?

I look forward to receiving your responses to the above questions as quickly as possible, preferably today if at all possible.

I am working with our Congregational Care Ministers to set up a system for checking in with our members and regular attenders. So if you receive a call from one of our CCMs, don’t be alarmed…this is one way we are working to remain connected as a congregation during this time, so we can share our joys or concerns, and identify ways we can help each other out.

In addition, those participating in the Tuesday afternoon Lenten Study…we will not be meeting in person this week, but instead we’re going to experiment meeting using an application called ZOOM. I will be providing instructions on how to log into a ZOOM meeting tomorrow morning. If you would like to join this week’s class meeting, please send me an email letting me know you’d like to participate this Tuesday at 1pm so I can send you the invitation.

I also happen to know that many of you don’t check your email very frequently. During this time, please do me a favor and check your email at least twice a day, in the morning and in the evening so you can stay in touch with any updates from the church. Same thing goes for those of you who are on Facebook, as I’ll be posting updates there as well.

If you know someone in the congregation who does not have email or is not on Facebook, please reach out to them and let them know about our communication efforts and offer to contact them when you receive one of our emails so they can remain connected as well. If you do this, please let me know so I can notate that in our database and can be assured that individual is receiving care from you.

And last, I will be doing a lot more working from home in the coming weeks, as I – like many of you – fall into that high risk group of people over age 60 (!). Plus I have lung disease, which increases my risk as well. I WILL NOT be holding off-site office hours, but may be at the church from time to time. So if you would like to reach me, the best way is by email (). If you try to reach me through the church office, it could be as many as 24 hours before I get the message.

As we enter into this unprecedented time, let’s remember what we learned from our “Unafraid” series about fear. Let’s remember that God does not want us to live our lives in fear. In order to do that, we must:
1. Face our Fears with Faith
2. Examine our assumptions in light of the facts
3. Attack Your Anxieties with Action
4. Release your cares to God.

May God be with us all during this challenging time. As always, if you need anything from me, please don’t hesitate to call.

I look forward to hearing from you with your responses to my questions above.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jody