An Update on Re-Entry Plan - July 10, 2020
To the Missional Partners of South Reno UMC
We know that there is much interest around re-entering the South Reno Campus, and we want to update you on the work we are doing to prepare.
First, our primary concern is the health and safety of our church family. Our Board has been meeting weekly over the last four months, discussing the impact of COVID on the church and developing an approach to re-launching on-campus services while leveraging the investment we have made in our on-line ministry. The on-line ministry will continue in some format for those who are best served that way while we open our doors for in-person services.
The guidelines and protocols for meeting in-person have been extremely fluid. Only recently have we begun to gain clarity around attendance caps, sanitization protocols, registration, social distancing requirements, and staggered entry/exit procedures. We are still awaiting specifics regarding several vital aspects of our ministry.
- Singing. Congregational singing is a high-risk activity. Though further research is being conducted on the safety of singing with masks, clear guidance, and a green light has not yet been provided on this matter. Currently, live singing is strongly discouraged due to the increased likelihood of transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets.
- Children's Ministry. At this time, all on-site children’s ministry is prohibited. Therefore, we have taken Vacation Bible School on-line, hence, VBX (Virtual Bible Experience.) We are continuing conversations and putting together a plan to be able to re-launch safely. It will most likely be a staged approach, with the health and safety of our church family as our priority.
- Fellowship. Current social/physical distancing requirements preclude any meaningful fellowship time. Coffee or other foodservice is prohibited.
Rest assured, our team is working hard on all of the details related to our re-entry strategy. Plans and mechanisms are underway to protect staff, volunteers, and attendees, but we still need to evaluate stages and timelines carefully.
As you are aware, there is no going back to the pre-pandemic normal. Instead, we are entering a new stage in the life of South Reno; things will be different.
To successfully navigate this time, we are looking for some incredible people. I know you are one of them. Please consider participating in our “Difference Maker” campaign and continue your strong support financially. The most significant impact on our community and the next generation will come from the people in the seats rather than the people on the stage. Let us help you become a difference-maker and, in the process, help us prepare for the future.
Thank you for your prayers, patience, and faithful financial support as we navigate this next season together. Until we meet in person, I will see you on-line!
Grace + Peace
Update as of Sunday, June 14, 2020
Many of you know that President Trump announced that churches should be open for in-person worship because churches are essential. I deeply appreciate that the President recognizes the important and essential role churches and other religious institutions play in communities throughout our nation. While I sincerely miss gathering in person with you for Sunday worship but at this point, South Reno UMC will continue not to gather in person for worship on Sundays, for now at least until the end of June.
One reason is that the authority for opening our church rests with our Bishop and our Bishop has discerned that United Methodist Churches in our Annual Conference is not yet ready to open safely at this time. A second reason we are not returning to the South Reno campus for worship relates to the current safety restrictions. At this point, the necessary measures make it impractical for us to open even if we were permitted to do so.
We are in the process of developing and implementing the necessary protocols to ensure an environment that is safe and clean. I don’t know when we will be able to return, but we will as soon as we are certain that we can offer a worship experience that is engaging and inspiring for those who can gather. Even then, we will continue to offer worship online for those unable to attend on-campus.
In these anxious days, let's remember, the church can shine as a light of hope, care, faith, patience, and prudence, demonstrating for the world how our faith provides true assurance against worry and fear.
Grace + Peace
Update as of Wednesday, April 22, 2020
- Our leadership team has been meeting regularly on Monday evenings to stay abreast of issues related the current pandemic. After much discussion, we have decided to continue the Campus closure at least to the end of May, and we will continue to monitor the situation.
- We will continue our Sunday services, small groups, and meetings online-only during this time.
- The Board's action is in alignment with Governor Sisolak's orders as of Tuesday nights press conference.
- We are living through an unknown, much like the wilderness period for the people of Israel.
- It is so reassuring that God was with them every single day in the wilderness – their path wasn't straight, but it was the path where God was leading.
March 25, 2020
6 Things We Did Immediately Because of COVID-19
These are challenging time for us. But what does that mean specifically? Here are six very specific leadership steps we have taken:
- We honored the community call to action. When the call came from government and health officials to limit large gatherings, we heeded that call. We canceled our physical gathering as a matter of loving our neighbors.
- We are reaching to our mission partners. One of the first things we did was to reach out to assess needs and to determine how we could help. Every church, large or small, not only has resources to give but also a heart to do so.
- We changed our Sunday series. We were in the midst of a series titled “Fully You” focused on getting a clear view into the true you. To continue with that series, important as the topic was, would have been culturally tone deaf. We kept the title and general focus, but we changed the application focus to “faith” and moving through the current crisis.
- We moved everything online. Churches everywhere are doing what it takes to try to have some kind of online weekend presence for their services. We have gone into full online mode for… well, everything. Every week, we are sending out videos, experiences and online events for the various age groups within our children’s ministry. We are now looking to online interactive events and experiences are happening within our middle school and high school ministries as well. The Foundry is using Zoom to continue offering current classes as well as launch new ones. Our online campus is looking to amplified staff presence in the chat room, prayer request service and more.
- We re-tasked staff and volunteers. When you cancel weekend services for the foreseeable future and go entirely online, you have staff and volunteers who find themselves out of a job. Think facilities teams, Guest Services, children’s ministry, and more. Many can simply retool—as I mentioned, our children’s ministry is doing this by developing online resources that can be used by families at home. But some staff and volunteers must be re-tasked to serve points of greatest need. In an “all-hands-on-deck” situation, where you previously put the hands often changes. (Please let us know if you can assist us.) We identified four key areas of need:
- staffing/serving the online campus;
- social media production and responding / monitoring;
- video/curriculum development and production for online consumption;
- and personal community engagement (via phone/email).
- We outlined potential stages. Fear and anxiety is usually based on the unknown. For that reason, we outlined to our staff the “stages” we felt could be in front of us and what each stage would mean. Here is what we outlined:
All of this flows from two big ideas: 1) we want to do everything we can to serve people during this time; and 2) we want to do everything we can to keep people engaged as a community of faith.
Not from a position of fear, much less worry, but from a position of faith that prays for wisdom.
March 17, 2020
To the South Reno Family:
We are called by God to treat others as we would want to be treated and to serve and love those around us. While most of us are not at serious risk from COVID-19, we have many in our community who are—namely the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions. If the spread of the virus is not quickly contained, not only will it put many we know and love in danger, but our medical system will be overwhelmed and unable to serve the vulnerable in need.
To provide the necessary social distancing for the spread of this virus to slow, the Washoe County Health District has asked the following:
- For 15 Days starting 3/16 – all events or gatherings of 10 or more people are to be canceled or postponed.
- For eight weeks starting 3/16 – all events or gathering of 50 or more people are to canceled or postponed.
As you know, our Sunday gatherings and many, if not all, of our smaller groups and events exceed one of both of these limits.
As a result, we will be canceling all on-site Sunday services and offering all of our Sunday services exclusively through our Online Campus, starting March 22. (We expect to provide on-site Sunday services again beginning Sunday, April 19.) Also, through Tuesday, this same timeline, all weekday and weeknight classes and events will be canceled, postponed, or go online. (The Church Office will remain open throughout this time.) We believe this action to be the most caring and loving response we can make for our community.
But just because we’re taking a break from physically gathering together doesn’t mean we’re taking a break! Through our Online Campus, you will be able to experience a full service. You will be able to give online, interact with others as well as a pastor in the chat room, submit prayer requests, and more. So gather your family together and experience this Sunday’s service online.
I know that many of you are feeling anxious about the events of late. All of us should take appropriate caution, but as followers of Christ, we should never give in to fear—instead, we are to meet all things with faith. Many of you know that one of my great historical mentors and heroines is Corrie ten Boom. I am reminded again of these wise words she once offered: “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.” So reflect on the truth of these words from the Bible:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7, Msg)
We will continue to monitor this situation carefully and keep you abreast of any additional changes.
It’s a privilege to serve as your pastor.