COVID: A Letter from the Continuity Committee

COVID: A Letter from the Continuity Committee

A Letter from the Continuity Committee

May 16, 2020

Dear OSLC Congregation,

2020 certainly has been a year we won’t soon forget. In January we started to hear about the COVID-19 virus on the other side of the world and by March the unthinkable was happening as we shut down schools, businesses, and our church in compliance with a stay-at-home order from the Governor of Virginia.

We have learned a great deal in the past months and continue to learn more each day. Our lives will be impacted at some level for the next 18 months or longer. We did the responsible thing when we shut down the facility and prohibited all in person meetings. Now we continue to take responsible actions based on the best knowledge we have and the data before us. Our goal is to grow and improve OSLC no matter the circumstances in a responsible and safe manner.

In March, we formed the Continuity Committee of OSLC to help us prepare and to implement a plan for the church. Many things were done in very short order with the best information available at the time. We have regularly consulted the Virginia Synod, Local and State Health departments, the office of the Governor and the Centers for Disease Control. The committee members include Brad Stewart, Cathleen Cogdill, Catherine Miller, Jerry Hoke, Laurie Sanders, Mark Knisely, Michael Church, Terri Church and Troy Stansell.  It leverages talents from worship, first responders, medical, finance, business, education, online capabilities, and music.

This committee meets weekly and spends significant time researching the latest advice and implementing time critical responsibilities to ensure we are operating in a safe and responsible manner to minimize risks. Many actions taken by this committee, council, finance, and countless others have allowed OSLC to continue to be a community of Christ during this pandemic. We can’t thank everyone enough.

There were tough decisions being made in short order as situations dictated.  On March 1, no one could imagine not having services and on March 15, 2020 we went live on FaceBook.

In the OSLC Response to COVID 19, you will find a Summary of Actions Taken to date, and a status of Where We Stand Today. The Near-Term Highlights and Longer-Term Highlights talk about where we are and where we are going in the future.

As I write this, I want to remind everyone that the situation is fluid and we will adjust our plans as needed. Sometimes that may move things forward and quite possibly move things back. This is the nature of the problem we are dealing with. We will always have the risk to our congregation balanced as the situation changes. If, for example, cases start to rise again we may have to delay our next step or even step back. Our goal is to have an actionable plan for moving either direction.

I invite anyone with comments, concerns or talents to lend to please contact me, or any other member of the committee, by phone or email.  We have people learning new talents and ways to give every day. We constantly pray for God to guide us, our community, and the world, through this crisis. And, with God’s help, we will not only survive, but thrive.

In Christs Grace,
Brad Stewart
On behalf of the Continuity Committee

OSLC Response to COVID 19

(as of May 16, 2020)

Summary of Actions Taken

  • Decision on suspension of services
  • Development of worship team COVID-19 procedures
  • Implementation of overhauled website and weekly Friday communications email
  • Development of an online service for our community
  • Virtual and Online Worship group providing weekly services
  • Creation of an emergency phone tree
  • Making masks for local businesses, members, and healthcare facilities
  • Creation of a YouTube channel
  • We have children’s lessons on the website and our Facebook page
  • Supported the planning and providing of Holy Week Services
  • Determining procedures for office hours and the food pantry
  • Working with FCCC to allow for essential personnel child care in our facility
  • Continuation of personal care including visiting (virtual)
  • Held virtual Congregational Meeting to vote on CARES Act loan
  • Providing an online funeral service
  • Increasing our ability to take donations via mail and online giving
  • Applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program loan ensuring we can pay our staff
  • Virtual Bible Study
  • Started a Prayer Circle
  • Various ad hoc requirements

Where We Stand Today

Suspension of In-Person Activities – In keeping with the guidance from CDC, we have closed the church to all in person meetings with the exception of the Pastors meeting with individuals, operating the food pantry, and limited worship team actions for the services.

Office Hours – The OSLC office is open most of the week, but official open times for the public are Tuesday through Friday, 9:30 am-2:30 pm. Come by for the Food Closet, offering drop off, or stop in to pray. Please wear a cloth mask. Don’t have one? We’ll give you one to keep!
(FYI, because FCCC is providing child care in our Fellowship Hall, the only available restroom is in the nursery.)

FCCC – The council approved allowing Fauquier Community Child Care to operate an essential day care facility utilizing the main bathrooms through the back of the church. At present this activity is sealed off from the front of the church to prevent any interaction. FCCC utilizes the side door by the playground and OSLC uses the front door.

Weekly Worship – The worship team presents the service on Sunday morning under strict social distancing rules, utilizing mask at all times except during the actual service and limiting the entire participation to 10 or less people. This allows OSLC to provide a Sunday Service over FaceBook.

Staffing and Donations – OSLC has continued to pay the staff through your generous donations. We have applied and been approved for a Paycheck Protection loan, and we are receiving donations from FCCC while they occupy our facility.

Virtual Activities – Some groups including the choir, Voices of Praise and others are meeting via ZOOM, and while not singing at the meetings, it provides much needed social interaction. Pastor Michael has also begun a Bible Study via ZOOM. In addition, we provided an online funeral service and other meetings such as Council, Finance Committee and even our first on-line congregational meeting. This is a good start but we understand it sorely lacks in many areas especially during the stressful time and considering we will be in an altered state for many months to come.

Near-Term Highlights

Saturday Night Service – OSLC is pleased to announce the return of the Saturday Night Contemporary Service beginning May 23, 2020.  Now I wish we could all be physically together but that isn’t possible at this time. The service will be produced and shown as a FaceBook premiere video at 5:30 every Saturday night. We purposefully designed it to be a little different given the times we are in. Highlights include Voices of Praise singing, prayers, lessons read by our friends from their homes, and a message from the one of the Pastors. Since the service is recorded, everyone will be online during the video so we can comment back and forth.

Virtual Potluck – Immediately following the service we will have a ZOOM Virtual Potluck. The potluck presents an opportunity for all to join for some catching up.  Its strictly social and easy to join. More details to follow in the next week so watch your email and FaceBook.  See you virtually Saturday May 23, 2020 at 6:30 pm.

Phase 1 Implications – Warrenton is expected to reach Phase 1 on May 15, 2020.  Phase 1 allows some small changes and is expected to last several weeks. We have been busy mapping out our spaces to determine how we can use our spaces as we progress through each phase. We are working through the administrative and health procedures required including reservations, rules for use such as temperature checks and mask requirements, coordination with FCCC and facility modifications. As we complete these actions over the next two weeks and if phase 1 continues without negative results, OSLC is planning on implementing several actions.

Safer at Home – First, Phase 1 is Safer at Home. We cannot encourage strongly enough that everyone should understand the risk of going out. We will continue to offer most activities online and encourage all to use this method as their primary tool. High risk groups should carefully consider any participation.

Small Group Meetings – Several internal groups would like to meet in-person and understand the need for social interaction is a true need. These will start in outdoor areas of the church at first. We are balancing this against the risks based on the Government and CDC guidance.  With strict rules we believe we can again allow some small groups to meet with social distancing. These meetings will be limited to groups of less than 10 people. Shortly we will finalize the rules in order to make this work safely such as reservations, signing in, mask usage, seating arrangements, and sanitizing rooms.

Potential Drive-In Service – Phase 1 offers the potential for Outdoor or Drive-In Person Worship.  We are looking into the possibility of a drive-in worship service in the future. We have some technical details to work out, such as an obtaining an FM transmitter, but we are working hard on the details. The main idea is that we want to continue to offer new and better options for our community.

Longer-Term Highlights

Online Capabilities – Online services will remain a permanent feature of OSLC.  Given that we may have additional outbreaks or new situations this capability just makes sense. We have already seen both the necessity and additional benefits. Online has allowed us to continue in the short term but also opened up our services to people who couldn’t make it to church. People are watching who no longer live in the area or are unable to attend for health reasons. Even without COVID-19, we had a group that could only participate via online and we are happy to see them as part of our community. Fun fact – We have had online participation from several states and countries around the world.

Phase 2 and 3 Planning – Even though we don’t know when Virginia and Fauquier County will enter Phase 2 and 3, OSLC is planning for how we might implement additional improvements to our community including potential solutions to safely worshiping again in our sanctuary, Sunday School and other activities. We would certainly have social distancing and have already mapped out our spaces to see how we could accomplish this.  Again, what was unthinkable is now in the realm of the probable. For example, our sanctuary would be severely limited in seating so we might have to ask you to have an advanced reservation because knowing the size and types of groups is critical. A family of 3 is different than 3 individuals for social distancing and it effects our capacity.  How do we handle singing, bulletins and cleaning between services? It gets complicated and, as we work through these issues, we will certainly keep everyone in the loop. The planning now will allow us to be ready when that glorious day arrives and we can be together again.

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