Hope Council Message Regarding COVID-19

A Message from Council Regarding Church Policy on the COVID-19 Outbreak

Hope Lutheran Church 
Council Actions 
Response to COVID 19
Mar 20, 2020

This time last week we were canceling services for 2 weeks.  In the last 3 days it has become apparent that we will not be holding services for at least 60 days.  Council has held 2 conference call meetings to address the most urgent matters and create resolutions based on local, state, and national executive and national health orders (which are temporary law during a declared state of emergency): 
1. Reaching out to the whole congregation at least one time to make sure they know of cancellation
2. Establishing best practices within the law for employees.  
These have taken considerable work as the standards have shifted dramatically about every 36 hours.  Upon each decision, before full implementation could be made, it was irrelevant.  
This document is to outline the minimum standards for our congregation, council, pastor, and staff.  

First and foremost:  we are a people under the law even as we live in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.  In all things we shall extend grace to one another as this virus moves through the land.  This includes the council, staff, and pastor. If one of these becomes ill with the virus, the congregation will be notified, offered an opportunity to fill the gap,  and will support in the best and healthiest ways possible.  

The current Emergency mandates of California as of 20 March 2020 state that we are to remain home and only essential personnel are exempt.  Churches and their staff are not in the 16 categories of essential sectors considered exempt. For the congregation of Hope Lutheran this means:
-No one is to report to work on premises.  Work that can be achieved at home will continue to be done.  Employees are given an opportunity to gather their essential documents and return home.  Council has now approved procedures, guidelines based on insurance and synodical guidance, and necessary costs adjacent to this shift.
-No visitation to one another, including at hospitals or to shut-ins.  This includes the council and pastor. 
-No funerals.  This is currently considered an exposure and is NOT exempt.  
-No worship in person on the premises.  
-No gathering of any kind. 

Considering the level of activity at Hope Lutheran, these four (4) remaining areas were identified as needing address and resolution as of 20 Mar 2020 and remaining concerns such as safety and upkeep of the property and expenses and income will be addressed in the following week.  
Alternatives to Worship
Alternatives to Pastoral Care
Council meetings and mode
Communication to congregation

Alternatives to Worship: 
Recognizing the congregation has a wide variety of access to digital resources, and with no ability to mail items to the congregation, creating a home based worship is the goal.  A home based worship will be e-mailed to the congregation on Saturday March 21. All members will be encouraged to worship weekly from the safety of their space and will also be invited to use technology to join in worship online.  There will be a live feed on facebook (requires an account) and youtube(does not require an account). The pantry remains open to those in need of food and old LBW (green) hymnals are available to take home during that time for free.  
There is a tremendous discussion on the theology of “online- live” communion.  A further letter will follow regards to this matter. In the meantime, the pastor will lead in the way to which she is called by the Spirit, through The Use of the Means of Grace (a formal document in the ELCA), her commitment to her ordination vows, and the needs of the community.    

Alternatives to Pastoral Care: 
The pastor will make every attempt to offer pastoral care within reason for the health and welfare of all concerned
The pastor will NOT endeavor to put herself or others in harm’s way for the sake of in-person care.  We trust the Holy Spirit is with us and is seen in the actions of all humanity in many ways. All possible care will be offered via technological means to include phone, email, and social media. One-to-one meetings may be done via telephone, webcam, or email.  The pastor shall reach up and out for her own personal and spiritual health and well being; spending as much time as necessary to remain a non-anxious presence.  

Council Meetings and Mode: 
In this time of crisis, we must carefully identify what our roles are, and if possible, adjust them to meet the original intent. 
The council will continue to manage the policies, procedures, and business of the congregation.  However, “congregational life” at this time is largely suspended. There is currently not a council member overseeing social justice matters, however as long as there are volunteers, food, and need, the pantry will remain open every Monday and Wednesday from 9:30-Noon.  All volunteers will be required to sign a waiver of health and acknowledgment of risk each day. The pastor will do the same. Council will communicate with the congregation on matters of finance and decision making in as timely a manner as possible, recognizing that information and subsequent decisions are rapidly changing and should our bookkeeper become ill, information may not be as timely.  Council will communicate weekly with the congregation through telephone tree and email through the office manager.  

Communication to the Congregation: 
While it is our desire to offer continued care and community at the level and in the manner to which we are accustomed, that is not possible at this time. 
The council and pastor are neither health care nor government leaders and as such, should not give advice on health and public safety matters.  All members should rely on the CDC and public health entities of our local government for this information. A list of recommended resource links will be included with this document.  The council, pastor, and office manager are encouraged but not mandated to share public documents for management of the COVID-19 virus and outbreak and should include the source of such information.  

Members are encouraged to reach out to one another often in order to sustain a sense of community and care.  
The office manager will continue to manage office correspondence, financial secretary duties, and dissemination of council and pastoral news via technological means.This means there will NOT be mailed letters at this time due to the restrictions of attending non-essential jobs in person.  Currently, no one on staff has sufficient ability to mail letters to the entire congregation without breaking the law which is set in place for our health and welfare. Email will be encouraged for all members and the few that have absolutely no computer access will be called more often. All information disseminated on social media in written form will be available via email.  Members will be given a link which does not require an “account” to follow live worship. Of course, anyone is welcome to reach out to the council or pastor should they desire more communication. The most recent directory is being shared as an attachment.  

In the meantime, what can we do?  Firstly, pray. The Lord hears our hearts and accompanies us in even the darkest of times. LIft up your hearts to the Lord often.  
Secondly, praise.  We have been given a life full of beauty and joy.  This is a hard time and we will know grief in it. None of that diminishes the joy and beauty.  So cling to it and praise God for it. 
Thirdly, call or write.  Send a note to a companion or fellow member.  Call them to check in. Offer them space for whatever they are feeling and do not diminish their feelings.  Just let them feel with you. Offer them a word of hope and grab some scripture together.  
Speaking of scripture, dive in.  You have all the time to read it all the way through.  Discover the Bible again. Find comfort and lament, praise and prayer. Renew your understanding of the story of God with us.  
Finally, live now.  There is enough pain and sorrow for tomorrow.  Enjoy and love today (of course within health standards right now).  Dance like nobody’s watching, love like it is the last time, smile and give this day all the joy it deserves. 

The times ahead are fraught with danger and fear.  Do not let them win. Instead lean not on your own understanding, but on Christ Jesus.  In him, there is hope and promise.  

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