COVID-19 Update

May 29, 2020

Church Family, please know that “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,” (Phil 1:3-4). Social distancing hasn’t stopped my care and concern for you. This Sunday (May 31) marks the 12th week since we last met in-person due to the COVID-19 virus. It’s been a very difficult season for many of us with fear and uncertainty swirling around, new financial and relational pressures, struggles with mental health, the upheaval of working/learning from home, and limited interaction with loved ones. With the Safer-at-Home order lifted in Wisconsin, the Elder board and other church leaders have been discussing when and how we should restart in-person meetings. We received valuable input from you (church survey), other local pastors, the EFCA, the CDC, and our local health officer in Appleton. Our transition plan is outlined below, but I have to emphasize that our plans will change if/when health risks change.

The good news is we don’t need to “reopen” the church — because as a church, we never closed! We kept preaching, praying, worshipping, giving, studying the Bible, loving, serving, reaching out, and sharing good news. In fact, God did some amazing things to broaden the reach of our ministry during these hard months. I’m very pleased with how so many of you responded in such a crisis. However, we do need to restart in-person meetings again as we are able. Ministry works best in the context of relationships and online-only relationships are far from ideal…can I get an amen?

I understand that some of you might be unsure about coming back to in-person worship services right now. That’s ok. The church survey showed that people are all over the place in how they’re feeling right now. Regardless of how you feel, there are people in our congregation and the broader community who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and we should be rightly concerned for their health (particularly those over 65 years old or of any age with underlying health conditions). Also, there are unique challenges for churches to consider: The primary way COVID-19 spreads is through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes (or sings), which is why we highly recommend wearing a mask and will change how we do communion and shared food. Also, little kids don’t do social distancing very well at all. Thankfully, kids don’t seem to be at higher risk, but they can increase transmission to those who are, which is why we will not have childcare during phase 1. 

However, we can be thankful that the number of COVID-19 infections has remained relatively low in Appleton (59 active cases as of May 28). And it does appear that new cases are slowing around the US. Though there are always risks when people gather publicly, the changes outlined in our plan will reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

So as you and your family weigh the risks and benefits of meeting in-person, know that we love you, miss you, are praying for you, and we can’t wait to see you again. We will work hard to provide a clean, safe environment as we help people find stability and hope in this crazy world by sharing good news every week. We will share new volunteer needs for in-person worship in the coming weeks. Please let me know if you have any questions. We are here for you.

– Pastor David

Transition Plan

Phase 1

Public risk of COVID-19 remains low in Appleton even as cases increase slightly. More and more businesses,  organizations, and other churches are reopening. Perceived danger is moderate to low.

  • Restart in-person worship on June 21
  • Keep online sermon broadcasts on YouTube
  • Keep a shorter service format (1hr max) to limit exposure
  • Deep clean the building on June 14 from 2-4 pm
  • New cleaning team to clean/disinfect common areas every week
  • Social distance seating, 50% max capacity in the worship center
  • Masks and hand sanitizer will be provided and their use strongly encouraged
  • No childcare but kids are welcome in the service
  • Nursing mother’s room will be available
  • No coffee or shared food but you can bring your own coffee
  • New communion format without shared bread/cup
  • Limited physical interaction encouraged (avoid hugs/handshakes)
  • Zoom will be used for online groups, classes, and meetings
  • People must stay home with COVID-19 symptoms in their household

 

Phase 2

Public risk of COVID-19 remains low in Appleton and cases are plateaued or in decline. Businesses, organizations, and other churches are mostly open. Perceived danger is low.

  • Worship services will continue in-person and online
  • Keep a shorter service format (1hr max)
  • Normal seating in the worship center
  • Childcare will be available with new disinfecting procedures
  • Building regularly cleaned/disinfected
  • Masks and hand sanitizer will continue to be provided
  • Coffee will be served (no self-service) but no potlucks or other shared food
  • Keep new communion format
  • No limitation on physical interaction
  • Groups, classes, and meetings will be in-person or via Zoom
  • People must stay home with COVID-19 symptoms in their household

Church Volunteer Signup

In preparation for restarting in-person worship services on June 21st, we have some new volunteer roles that need to be filled for the summer. We will not need hospitality or childcare initially, but we do need people to serve on our Welcome, Cleaning, and Worship Teams. For more info and to sign up, click here: