As we continue through our Lenten wilderness theme, I keep thinking: I wish the wilderness were easy. I wish it was always safe and comfortable and calm. I wish like Nicodemus, that it did not leave us with more questions than when we started.
In this 2020 season of Lenten Wilderness – with a global pandemic – in this disorienting season of Lent, we are called to show up for one another. When the world devolves into fear and division, we remember that this wilderness is never meant to be survived alone.
To that end, our OPCC Board of Directors has been discerning how we, as a local congregation, will respond to the concerns of this global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, and how we continue to be a light in our community. We have an opportunity to respond in calm and informed ways and to practice loving kindness by taking this situation seriously, and by choosing to take measures that will help the vulnerable among us – something we learn from Christ himself. The prayerful, thoughtful, and realistic plans are included in this communication, so please take time to read this in its entirety.
In this plan, we have taken into account health news from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as pastoral and congregational recommendations from denominational leaders, local and state health officials, and trusted colleagues across the community. As a place where we celebrate an open table, we want to be sure that all feel safe, and that we invest in one another’s health and well-being. In that Spirit, we share the following precautions:
EDUCATION & CAUTION
We do NOT want to contribute to panic or anxiety, because neither is warranted. Nor do we want to contribute to any racist tropes that have accompanied the spread of this virus. The risk of contracting the disease remains extremely low, and many who contract COVID-19 most often experiences mild symptoms. Though it is tempting to rely on social media outlets for the most-up-to date information, be aware that misinformation is frequently shared through these same outlets. In other words, do the research with accredited professional organizations utilizing evidence-based science.
At the same time, we do NOT want to dismiss this situation as “overblown” or unworthy of preparation. The risk of severe cases is much higher for certain groups of people, including many of our own, all of whom are beloved children of God. Therefore, we will take a variety of precautions to help keep our entire community healthy, and served, to the best of our ability.
- As always, our cleaning service sanitizes surfaces throughout the building as they clean.
- Please also contribute to this cleaning each and every time that you use space in our building. We are doing our best to provide the necessary cleaning products so that you can.
- Regularly disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched, like doorknobs and your cell phone.
- We have hand sanitizer available at the entrance to the sanctuary and in the Fireside Room. We are buying more as we can.
- On the occasions we still have worship, we will be instituting a different communion and offering protocol until novel coronavirus/COVID-19 is no longer a significant public health issue. We may also eventually have to worship differently. Please be patient, and have grace with these changes.
- If you are sick, please do not come to church. This is for your health and an ethical consideration for those in the community who are most vulnerable.
- If you have a pastoral need, please let one of your elders or Rev. Laura know.
- If you have a condition that compromises your immune system, or are in a high-risk group, please follow the advice and instruction of your physician, and the CDC, including not coming to church.
- Likewise, if you have a pastoral need, please let one of the elders or Rev. Laura know.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose, and eyes. If you do touch your face, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately afterward.
- Please observe “Coughing Etiquette,” by coughing into your inside elbow, not your hand.
- Wherever you are, please wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. (Try saying the Lord’s Prayer while you wash your hands to help ensure you’ve adequately washed, andpray while you’re at it. #washandpray)
- Practice social distancing, avoid hand-shakes, hugs, and touching. Sit and stand a little further apart than feels natural. Check-in on one another by phone, text, or card, and pray for our communities.
Our identity as OPCC is rooted in our service to the community, those on the margins, and the vulnerable.
- We are doing our best to make sure that we can still serve our OPCC Food Pantry and Interfaith Hospitality Network clients, even if it is in very different ways.
- We are also hoping to keep our building open for community building/weekly meeting users whose social isolation could be equally as detrimental to their mental health.
- We have been instructed to temporarily halt our Garden Terrace worship service, until Garden Terrace deems it safe again. We will proceed at their direction
- We have postponed the youth rummage sale fundraiser. More info will be shared at a later date, once we know more. For right now, keep your things at home if you can – we would love them in the future!
- Part of the way that we can continue in this service is by the financial support we receive from our community. Please consider giving to OPCC online or directly through your bank by electronic check, so that we can continue these important ministries without disruption.
There is currently much that we don’t know about novel coronavirus and the disease COVID-19, but we do know that one of the things we are called to be as a church, is a sanctuary in a storm. It is our hope that this information and these precautions are helpful for you to maintain a non-anxious presence in the ministries we share together. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me via cell phone or by email.
What I do know with great certainty? Each wilderness journey is temporary. It does not last forever. When we have the courage to stick it out, to keep walking, to lean into discomfort, to keep trusting that the Spirit is the one who helps us find our way, then we do leave the wilderness different than how we entered it. We learn that the wilderness makes us more holy and more human, and it shapes us into who we’re called to be.
Rev. Laura Ann Phillips,
and The Leadership of Overland Park Christian Church