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Hope’s Re-opening Plans and COVID-19 Update

06.19.20 | by Hope Lutheran

    Dear Members and Friends of Hope - How are you? It’s been a long three months since we’ve been together in person - I hope and pray you are well, even as we face so many challenges in our world today. God mercy is new every morning and His love for you endures forever! (Lamentations 3 and Psalm 136). I am writing to share an update regarding our response to COVID-19 and developing plans for the future.

    CLICK HERE for a PDF version of Hope’s Re-opening Plans and COVID-19 Update - June 19th, 2020 - or read below.

     

    Dear Members and Friends of Hope -

    How are you? It’s been a long three months since we’ve been together in person - I hope and pray you are well, even as we face so many challenges in our world today. God mercy is new every morning and His love for you endures forever! (Lamentations 3 and Psalm 136).

    I am writing to share an update regarding our response to COVID-19 and developing plans for the future.

    You may have seen that today King County was approved to move to Phase 2 of Washington’s re-opening strategy. Among other things, that means that churches are now allowed to have outdoor events with 100 people and indoor services with up to 25 % of their building capacity  or 50 people, whichever is less. Both outdoor and indoor events are ONLY allowed if event organizers comply with a five page list of requirements aimed at reducing spread of COVID-19 among attenders. If you are interested in learning what these particular requirements are, you may view them online by CLICKING HERE.

     

    What this means is that we can hold some events again. The question is whether and when we should hold in-person worship services and when. There are a variety of factors involved in making that determination:

     

    1. Congregational Survey: A few weeks ago, 85 people completed a survey with a variety of questions about our re-opening strategy - these are some of the highlights:

    * Once in-person worship is allowed inside, preferences were evenly split:

    * 29 % said to resume immediately

    * 30 % said to start with smaller groups for a few weeks

    * 28% said to to keep everything online only to see what happens with the virus

    * Slightly more than half (58%) said they will return the first opportunity we have, with 35% saying that will be with some concerns and precautions

    * 39% said it will be several weeks to a while before they come back

    * 59 % are ready to worship in a mask

    * 93 % are OK with having their temperature checked

    * 70 % said we should use all precautions listed in the survey

    • 55% said they would still attend if we did not have singing
    • 69 % have watched our online service 4 or more times

    Thank-you to those who responded to the survey!

     

    2) Preparedness to Comply with Washington State Regulations:

    Our staff has begun crafting a written plan to comply with the re-opening requirements, but we are not yet ready to comply with the re-opening requirements. We will need a number of volunteers to carry out the requirements at each event or service we hold, and in between services. To that end, please prayerfully consider volunteering to serve on a rotating basis. Tasks include things like taking temperatures with an infrared thermometer, welcoming and directing people, sanitizing surfaces in between services, and providing masks to people who don’t have one, among other things. If you are not in a high risk group for COVID-19, then please contact us at or 206.937.9330 to let us know if you are willing to volunteer.

     

    3) Hope Leadership: Hope’s staff, Board of Directors, and Board of Elders have also discussed various aspects of our re-opening strategy and have concurred on the following:

    * As much as we long to be gathered in person for worship again, our even greater desire is to express love for each person that is part of the Hope community by making decisions that maximize the safety and health of our people.

    * To that end, we will first experiment with an outdoor prayer and worship gathering sometime in mid-July as there is lower risk of virus transmission outside.

    * Once we have enough volunteers in place to fully comply with Washington state re-opening regulations, we will evaluate the most recent guidance on the status of COVID-19 in our area as well as as best practices for mitigating virus transmission, and determine whether and when it makes sense to re-open for in-person, indoor worship. We anticipate making a decision on that by the end of July. Even once in-person worship begins again, we may need to suspend it again if virus infection numbers increase again at some point.

    * Whenever indoor worship does begin, it will be quite different than in the past and may include various changes including the following: required social distancing of households, wearing of face-coverings, advance reservations, no hand-shaking, no passing of the offering plate, no coffee or refreshments, no singing, and either no communion or communion offered on the way out of the building.

    * People in higher-risk groups including those age 60 and older, as well as people of any age with pre-existing health conditions, are encouraged to not attend in-person gatherings out of love and care for their health.

    * Video worship services will be continued indefinitely, even after in-person worship resumes.

     

    I know this may not be the news you are hoping to hear. I am also sad about missing out on seeing and gathering with all of you during this surreal time.

    Our staff is looking at additional ways to create online gatherings for Hope people for conversation, study, encouragement, and prayer, even as we continue to make plans for eventual re-opening of in-person events. Also, we will be facilitating an opportunity for you to celebrate the Lord’s Supper from your home during our video worship service this weekend and in the future — see our weekly email for more information on that. Please pray for our staff as we work to make preparations for re-opening.

    The great news is that Hope church has never closed because the church is not a building - the church is people filled with the life-giving spirit of the risen Jesus! Even as we gather virtually and connect in different ways for a time, the work of God’s kingdom goes forward and His love continues to transform lives. This is good news!

    I look forward very much to the day when we can gather in person again - until then, trust in Jesus each day and receive the good news of His love for you in Jesus!

    In His Strength and Peace,

    Pastor Peter