COVID-19 Update 5/21/2020

Dear ACC Family,

We are grateful for your continued to support over the last two months as we navigated these uncharted waters. As was mentioned in the sermon on Sunday, there is no roadmap, but we are grateful for the Spirit who has been guiding us every step of the way. As we look forward, we have prayed for guidance and discussed both big picture and little picture details for how we might safely come back together.

Our congregation’s demographics play a big factor in our planning. At least a third of our members are in the vulnerable age group. We also have a large number of families with children. Given that Gov. Holcomb has encouraged churches to follow their school districts lead on reopening children’s activities, we have decided that Sunday children’s and youth programs, including our nursery, will not resume on-site until the fall. As we consider when to come back, we are asking the question, who will be joining us for an onsite worship service given the limitations and risks?

There are a few very practical concerns informing our current plan as well. We know that not everyone will be ready to return to in-person worship when we reopen for various reasons. As a church that deeply values our Christian commitments of welcome, hospitality, and inclusion, we know that we must continue to offer virtual worship alongside our on-site worship as a permanent addition to our ministry moving forward. This requires new technology which we currently do not have. We had applied for, and just learned today that we received, a “Connect Through Tech” grant from the Center for Congregations. We will now proceed with ordering equipment that will allow us to continue to offer virtual worship opportunities after we resume on-site worship, and hope to receive these items, install, and configure them by mid-June. We have also been considering what must physically be addressed in our building in order to return. In addition to gathering cleaning supplies that will be available for sanitizing between activities, we have ordered touchless hand sanitizing units to be placed at various places around the church. These have an expected delivery date of late June/early July.

Given all of this, we believe at this time the earliest we could return on-site for large group worship is July. This goal of returning in July gives us time to fully prepare our building for a safe return for large groups and ensures that we can offer both on-site and virtual worship.  This goal also aligns with Gov. Holcomb’s Back on Track Indiana plan, with his hopes of a full reopening by early July. We know that in this plan we are exercising an abundance of caution. Taking extra time not only allows us to strategically plan and prepare, we can also watch and see how reopening in our state impacts the number of cases in our community.

Knowing that across the country, some churches have reopened only to close again due to outbreaks at their church, we believe that to best love and serve God and each other we will take the cautious approach.

Currently, we are slowly beginning to transition back into the building in a “Hybrid” phase. This allows for small groups of no more than 16 to meet in the fellowship hall following appropriate social distancing and other guidelines outlined by the Reopen Steering Group. Groups may also meet outside while also practicing social distancing. Virtual worship will continue to occur Sunday mornings. Once we have obtained the technology needed, we will begin to record and live stream worship from the sanctuary on Sunday mornings with our pastors and a small group of musicians and worship leaders. We will continue to offer adult and children’s education and other small group and fellowship opportunities online. Additionally, Pastor Paula is working on a virtual VBS opportunity for our children this summer.

As we consider the way forward, we acknowledge that none of us were prepared for this possibility, but somehow, we managed to transition the church beyond the walls of the building almost overnight. Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering are always working with churches to help them develop an emergency plan before disaster strikes- too often however that plan is forged on the ground as the flood waters rise or as the wildfires rage. We did not know it, but we too have created a plan on the ground. While it is our hope that once we gather again we will not have to revisit this plan, it is best to map it out in case circumstances require us to once again adjust how we gather as a congregation.

Virtual phase– All activities of the church occur online/over the phone/remotely. Pastors and lay leaders record worship from home. Staff work from home except for essential activities. Lay leader presence in the building for essential maintenance and building care activities only.

Hybrid phase– Small groups may meet in person as appropriate at the church following social distancing and sanitizing protocols (including wearing masks), small group meetings will accommodate members who continue to stay at home by offering a virtual option, virtual worship will continue online, possible larger on-site events with appropriate social distancing may be possible. Once technology for live streaming is obtained, worship will be filmed on-site with worship/pastoral team. Staff will continue to work from home and may begin to work in office again as needed.

Gathering phase– Worship and other activities can resume in person with appropriate precautions for distancing and hygiene. Sunday morning worship will be live-streamed, and bible study/small groups/committees will offer both virtual and in-person meeting options. Staff will work in office with accommodations for those who are members of vulnerable populations.

In all these phases each member of the congregation is encouraged to use their own judgement concerning when they feel comfortable returning to participate in group activities.

As we look forward, we are excited by the ways our ministry will be transformed through some of the things we have learned during this time. We are excited about the possibilities of helping members who were already not able to worship with us in person every Sunday connect to the church in new ways. We are excited about all the ways we can share the Gospel and grow in our own faith by offering virtual worship and Bible study opportunities.

Looking forward to gathering in person together again whenever that may be!

Peace,

Rev. Danielle Cox

Rev. Paula Pettis-Garrett

Reopen Steering Group

Avon Christian Church

Church: (317) 839-6231

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