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COVID-19 Updates

(click date to see original posts)

3.17.20 at 10:07 PM

Earlier this week, we were weighing the merits of identifying creative ways to continue worship gatherings in groups of 50 or less people, but after the President urged all Americans to stop meeting in group of more than 10 for at least 15 days, it became quite clear that we would need to suspend all activities at the church facility for the remainder of March.

We will re-evaluate at the end of the month, but for now, nothing will take place at the facility. That being said, we are looking forward to finding fresh ways to maintain our church fellowship and worship. We had a great staff meeting today and clarified 3 areas of focus for the rest of the month in terms of ministry.

FOCUS #1 CARE

We want to make sure that congregational care is still taking place. Even if we can't manage to see each other in person, we still want to maintain relational contact. We have a plan to stay in contact with everyone and hear what their needs may be. This will be easier to accomplish with those of you who are regularly on Facebook, so our strategy puts extra energy into calling those who are elderly, not on Facebook, living alone, or otherwise in a more challenging situation. I'd encourage you all to stay active in your care for one another.

FOCUS #2 CONNECT

We want to connect with you as a congregation on a spiritual level too. We're all going through something very strange here. We want to help you process this from a Jesus-centered perspective. I'll be sharing some video-devotions that build up to our Sunday sermon. On Sunday, we will have a teaching video available in the morning as well as some links to corresponding YouTube worship videos and pastoral prayers from our staff. We plan to continue sharing praise and prayer requests and will even have a prayer emphasis day. In other words, Facebook is going to be a very busy place for our church for the rest of the month. While God didn't cause this virus, God is able to use this terrible situation to accomplish some good things. We should use this time to re-connect in our marriages and families. We should also use this time to deepen our relationship with God through prayer and scripture. Difficult circumstances can help us straighten out our priorities.

FOCUS #3 COMMISSION

We would love to be able to serve our communities in creative ways during this time. How do we do that in a quarantine-like situation? There are lots of ideas floating around and we'll consider anything, but the best thing we can do in the meantime is be prayerful and listen to the needs of those around us.

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3.15.20 at 3:10 PM

Based on the Niagara County update this afternoon and the decision to cancel school indefinitely, we are suspending all Wednesday activities until further notice. This includes Family Dinner, AWANA Clubs, Youth Group, and Adult Bible Study.

In addition, The Sunday School Hour between morning services will be suspended, as well as Fellowship Soup Cafe.

At this time we will continue the 8:45 and 11:00 AM Sunday Worship Services. We will make additional changes to our schedule if necessary as more information comes to light.

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3.14.20 at 2:46 PM

Our Sunday Morning Services will continue as scheduled tomorrow, with some modifications that align with guidelines from the CDC. We will also be cleaning certain areas between services.

If you are feeling healthy but desire to stay at home, please do not feel any pressure to attend services. Refer to our update from earlier in the week (link below) for more information about our current action plan.

As always, please let us know if there is something we can do to help!

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3.12.20 at 11:22 AM

Hello Church Family! (Update on COVID-19)

I wanted to take a moment to address the growing COVID-19 concerns in our community, nation, and world and how it relates to our church fellowship and gatherings.

Fear is an emotional reality. It even has a place and a purpose. But we should never allow our fear to prevent us from taking the next helpful steps in a situation. With all the media attention surrounding this particular strain of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), some people have responded to fear with panic. Others have responded via denial. The reality is that COVID-19 is a real virus that is both contagious and dangerous (especially in certain demographics like the elderly or those with certain pre-existing medical conditions). We should not equate taking necessary precautions with panic. That said, there are wise steps we can take to limit the risks.

I think it is wise for us to take the steps recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for Community and Faith-based organizations. They have 3-levels of response (preparedness, minimal to moderate, substantial) depending on the level of community transmission in a given area. Given the lack of known COVID-19 cases in our community, we should at least rise to the level of preparedness. Here’s a summary of what the CDC recommends for faith-based organizations:

- Know where to find accurate information. I would recommend the Frequently Asked Questions section from the World Health Organization (WHO) https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses

- Know the signs and symptoms. Let me share directly, here, from that WHO FAQ page: “The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.”

- Identify safe ways to serve those at high risk. At some point, if members of our congregation become affected by COVID-19, our church CARE TEAM may develop an action plan to serve those who are suffering from the virus in as safe a way as possible.

- Encourage staff and members to stay home when sick. I cannot emphasize enough… check that, I CANNOT EMPHASIZE ENOUGH how important it is to STAY HOME FROM CHURCH WHEN YOU ARE SICK AND POTENTIALLY CONTAGIOUS. I’m preaching to myself here, too (I’ve been guilty, in the past, of coming when I shouldn’t have). God is not impressed when we endanger others.

- Encourage hand-washing and respiratory etiquette. I’m sure you’ve heard this many times by now, but keep washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Do it frequently.

- Clean frequently touched surfaces. Our cleaning staff does a great job going through the facility multiple times each week. That said, we would love to have some volunteers who would like to volunteer their time to do some extra ‘wiping down’ of frequently touched surfaces over the next few weeks. Contact me if you’re interested.

- Ensure hand hygiene supplies are readily available in building
We have plenty of soap and hot water available in all 6 rest-room facilities. We also have hand sanitizer available at the Welcome Center (with the necessary alcohol content). Additionally, we have tissues available in each row of pews. Please make use of all of these resources during your time at the church facility as necessary.

Should cases of COVID-19 emerge in our area, we will implement the CDC’s advice for the ‘minimal to moderate’ level of transmission. This includes reducing the amount of social activities on the church calendar. Since our gatherings are less than 250 people, the CDC does not consider it necessary for us to cancel our worship services. That would only be the case if community transmission became large scale. For now, here is our specific plan for Hess Road (subject to change as the situation unfolds):

- We will be suspending the official ‘greeting time’ in our worship services for 1 month. We will be using that time to pray for those who are sick and scared, doctors and nurses, researchers and caregivers, etc.


- Additionally, I will not be shaking hands at the door after service, though I will be readily available to chat near the back of the sanctuary.


- We will only cancel Wednesday night programming IF the school cancels due to COVID-19 concerns. Formerly, we only cancelled if the schools cancelled for weather related activity.


- We will attempt to keep the church family updated on changes to this plan going forward as the situation evolves.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read this. I’ll be praying for us that we stay healthy and active as a congregation while ministering to our community in any way possible.

 

In Christ,
Matthew

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