COVID-19  RESPONSE

May 15, 2020 - Updated at 4:00 pm

COS Family and Friends,

Over the past few weeks, our leadership team has been making plans to relaunch in-person worship times.  We anticipate that time to be sometime in June if present conditions continue.  That being said, many things will be different.  Some of those are known to us and other details we are still navigating and plan to have resolved by the end of next week.  Even as I write that some things are known to us, we are aware that our context may change at any moment and require us to be flexible in new ways.  At the heart of all of our decision making is prayer as we discern what is best for us to do as we not only care for our own congregation, but also model for our community what it means to love our neighbors in every way possible.  Following some updates pertaining to our relaunch, you will find a short survey asking your thoughts on relaunching live worship. This will better help us gauge the congregation’s hopes and plan for the future.
 
Here are some things that are known to us:
  • We will limit the number of persons in our worship area(s) to 25% capacity to allow for social distancing.  Our worship area will be pre-set to allow persons from the same household to sit together and practice social distancing for all others.  This will require adding additional worship services and determining a way for us to prevent overwhelming a single worship time.
  • Our Café will be closed, and we will not be providing food service.
  • Our weekend volunteer teams and staff will have new training to prepare us for entering and exiting the building.
  • We will be encouraging anyone who is sick, at risk, or who does not feel safe to continue to worship with us through our online campus.  
  • The way we participate in offering, communion, and passing the peace will look different.
  • The number of musicians on the stage area will look different, and the choir will not be initially present.  
  • A plan for reporting and tracking COVID-19 contacts has been developed, and we are finishing our sanitization plan between services.
  • The building will be open only for worship services initially.  This will allow us to deep clean during the week and provide a means to return to a “normal” church family life as soon as possible.
 
There are still other plans and decisions to be made regarding the relaunching of live worship, mid-week ministries, and the eventual full opening of our facilities. You can help us with those plans by completing a 14 question survey.  

By completing this survey, you are helping our staff and leadership team gather important information that will directly impact our plans in both the short and long term.  I want to encourage each adult in your household to complete the survey individually.  

Please know, we will continue to offer online worship, online small groups, and online prayer groups.  We anticipate continuing to sponsor our pop-up food drives 1-2 times a month and continue delivery of groceries to families in need with our partner schools.

I am certain that you have other questions, and I hope to address many of those next week and provide a more precise time of when I believe we will resume in person worship.  Feel free to reach out to me or any of our pastoral staff with your questions or concerns.  We will be happy to answer them to the best of our ability.  We are all in this liminal space together.  
 
As we continue to be the church, know this truth: God is still God.  God is still at work.   I am convinced that God is using this time to grow His church, to transform our lives, and to use us as His people in this community.  I’m thanking God for you today, and I’m grateful to be your pastor.

Pastor Jon

May 8, 2020 - Updated at 12:30 pm

March 20, 2020 - Updated at 1:00 pm

COS Family and Friends
There was a phrase we used to say at camp meal times just to focus the campers, draw us together, and remind us why we were together. The leader would say, “God is good” and the campers would respond, “all the time.” Then the leader would say, “all the time,” and the campers would respond, “God is good!” While we are not at camp together, many of us are camping out at home and we are all sharing this experience together. We all need to remind ourselves, that in all times and all places, God is good and God is with us.

This is a new and different time for us and while some may grow anxious and afraid, we, as followers of Jesus, have an opportunity to lean on God and to practice being the church. It is time to put into practice all those things we have heard in Sunday School, countless sermons, and bible study about who God is, and who we are as followers of Jesus. What does this look like? I’m glad you asked. This eNote is a little longer than most, but it’s full of important information. I hope you’ll stick with me and read to the end!

Worship God
Our God continues to be worthy of our praise and worship. Join us each week as we worship online. Share the worship link with others and invite many who may not have a church home or a church family who is worshipping online to join us as well. This week, our worship will look much like the podcast we shared last week, with Pastor Danny sharing the message. Next week, we are adding music and other components to allow us to experience the fullness of worship together. This week we will also feature an online option for Soul Street on Sunday morning on Facebook and on our COS Kids webpage. Our Student’s will be meeting online as well to allow all of us to stay connected and grow together. You can follow them on Facebook, as well. Be watching for the best ways to join those online conversations.

Meet Together (Online and In Our Homes)
The Apostle Paul reminds us of the importance of continuing to meet together as the body of Christ. It is extremely important for us to stay connected to God and one another. This week, Pastor Ben has been training small group leaders how to meet online with their small groups. One of our centering prayer groups met together for prayer as we shared a pilot project of how to do this. Many of our small groups will begin meeting this way next week. If you need help getting your small group together online contact Pastor Ben (ben_rush@coswired.org).

If you are not already part of a group, watch our website on Monday for the links to join a bible study with Pastor Adam on Tuesday evenings or a Centering Prayer time with Pastor Ben on Wednesday afternoons. Anyone can join these groups. Invite your friends to come be a part and share the links with others. If you know someone who is not online, there is a link they can join by phone and be part of the conversation. Just share the phone number and meeting id with them. Think of the enormous impact you can have for the kingdom of God during this time of disruption. This is an amazing opportunity for us to be the church and share the hope and truth of Jesus with others.

Prayer
We are a people who believe in the power of prayer. Pray for the health care workers, first responders, grocery store employees, and delivery workers who are all helping us in critical ways in this time. Pray for community leaders to make wise and difficult decisions. Pray for families who are without work. Pray for those who are ill – whether it is with the virus or from another illness. Pray for each other.

Because we are a people of prayer, I invite you to join with me and the other pastors for prayer each day at 7:00 am and 7:00 pm. You can join us online through the links below or be in prayer at home or at work during this time. Together we will share a scripture and a time of prayer with each other (approximately 10 minutes). Myself and Carol will lead the morning prayer times, and Pastors Adam, Danny, and Ben will lead the evening prayer times. Feel free to share this link and invite others to join us during this time of prayer

7:00 am Prayer Time - Click on the link to join the prayer gathering, or call +1 -253-215-8782 and enter the Meeting Id #336 368 617.
7:00 pm Prayer Time - Click on the link to join the prayer gathering, or call +1 -253-215-8782 and enter the Meeting Id #788 456 257.

Care for One Another
We want to encourage you to reach out to each other during this time. Not just your church family and friends, but your neighbors as well. Encourage each other. Help one another out. We as a church staff and congregational care team will be joining with you in this. If you become aware of a need or prayer concern, fill out a prayer request form here or contact Robin Long (Robin_Long@coswired.org) or Pastor Carol Meyer (Carol_Meyer@coswired.org).

The Church Scattered
Whether we are gathered or scattered, we are still the church. Our church office and building are currently closed, but the church is more than a building and a place. The church office phones are ringing in our home offices, and we continue to respond to mail and e-mails. This is a new time and we are responding in new ways. We are continuing to respond to needs as they arise.

We are in constant communication with our ministry partners in the community. We are in conversation about how we will begin feeding families on free and reduced lunches next week. While we are not developing the plan, we are working to become part of the solution. COS members are being trained to become part of the St. Charles County emergency call services. We are hearing daily of the ways many of you are responding and being the church. I am so grateful for each one of you in this time.

Practice Generosity
Consider all the ways that you can be generous with what God has shared with you. In your words, through your actions, with a smile and wave, practice God’s grace and love at all times. If you are able, support those small businesses by purchasing a gift card that you can use later as a way of helping their current cash flow needs. Continue to support the ministries of COS with your online giving or by sending a check through your bank or by mail. Support our mission partners who will be on the frontlines of meeting these needs. As you use our website or church app to make a donation, you will notice some new options on our giving button. One for Mission Donations is intended to support and assist our mission partners and emergency needs in this time. The second, are names of other church(es). Many churches in our region do not have an online giving option and their members will be giving to their church ministries through our portal. Just another way to say, we are the Church together.

Together, we are the church. Scattered, gathered, in the face of difficult times or in moments of joy and laughter, we are the church. Let us live our faith boldly in such a way that when this season has passed, people will look at us and say, that was a moment when God moved mightily among us. See what wonders He has done.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

- Pastor Jon

March 14, 2020 - Updated at 1:45 pm

Please take a moment to listen to the following message from Pastor Jon.

A few reminders:

No in-person worship this weekend! We’ll continue our current message series online beginning tonight at 5:00 pm. The message will remain available to view on-demand. You can watch through the Church of the Shepherd UMC app or online at ChurchoftheShepherd.com/worship.

All church activities are also canceled through March 27.

The church office will also be closed during this time, but phone messages will transfer. Please be patient, as it may take a little longer to get through.

If you have a prayer request, please include it on our online connect card while viewing worship on-demand, or email it to office@coswired.org.

March 13, 2020 - Updated at 2:30 pm

COS Family and Friends,

I want to invite you to just say these words out loud:

We are a people of hope.  
We are a people who believe in God who is always with us.  We are never alone.
We are a people who believe that God loves us and we are called to love each other at all times and in all situations.
We are the church, the body of Christ in the world as a sign of love, hope, grace, and truth.  
We are all these things and we will continue to be these things through Christ who lives within us.


We need to say, hear and believe these things today and in the days ahead.  The world around us is anxious, fearful, frustrated, and confused.  We, the church, are called to live as those who are sure of God’s love and care and be people of hope.  We are called to live responsibly sharing the grace that has been shared with us.  Just what does this look like in the face of COVID-19?  That is the question on all of our minds and one that our COS Leadership Team has been wrestling with over the past three weeks now as we have been praying, discerning, and planning through the “What ifs” we might be faced with.

Some of those “What ifs” have become realities.  As of today, after prayerful discernment and many, many conversations, we have concluded that the time has come for us to suspend many of our ministry activities.

Worship and Social Distancing
We are a people of love and compassion.  Out of this love and care for our neighbor, we have concluded that the best way to love our neighbor is to discontinue meeting together for public worship, small groups, student ministry, kid’s ministry, and Fish Fry Fridays.  We are learning along with everyone else that the best way to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to practice social distancing and limit the ways in which we gather people together.  These ministries will be suspending beginning today, March 13 – March 27, 2020.  We will be moving to online worship only. As we move towards the 27th, we will continue to monitor the situation and will keep all of you informed through our website, Church of the Shepherd UMC app, and through e-mail blasts like this one. 
In addition to our ministries inside the walls of COS, we have also curtailed our congregational care visitation teams and community service leaders.  We are a people of love and compassion and social distancing does not mean isolation.  Our pastors will continue to make critical hospital calls.  Our congregational care teams will be reaching out to those who are in need or alone.  We will continue to receive and respond to prayer requests.  This is a wonderful time for all of us to be generous in our love towards others.  Take a moment today to write down the names of people you want to stay connected with.  Talk to them by phone, e-mail, Facebook, or Facetime.  We are called to be the body of Christ and it is vital we stay connected.

Worship On Demand
We will continue to meet for worship online.  Our worship will look different.  This week, we had pre-recorded a message in anticipation of not being able to gather together.  That message will post out on your Church App (if you have not downloaded it yet you can do so by searching for Church of the Shepherd UMC in your app store) and on the website (ChurchoftheShepherd.com/worship) this weekend.  Gather with your family or neighbors who are well and watch the message together.  Let us continue to be connected to one another in this time.

Church of the Shepherd Office
Just as we want to encourage each one of you to practice being well, we will be encouraging our staff to do the same.  The Church of the Shepherd Office will be officially closed.  You may contact the church office, follow the prompts, and your phone call will be forwarded to that staff member.  The good news about technology is that those calls will be routed to our phones no matter if we are in the office or not, and we will answer if we are available or respond as quickly as we are able.

Time to Practice Generosity
This is a time for us to practice generosity to one another.  Be generous in the ways you love and encourage one another. Be generous in how we continue to support the ministries of COS through your prayers and your giving (you can give online here).  Be generous as you live as a person of hope and love.

Remember who we are and whose we are. I invite you all to live confidently with me into this new reality.  Our God is able.
Grace and peace to you,

Pastor Jon

March 13, 2020 - Updated at 11:30 am

Church of the Shepherd cares deeply about our community. Our favorite thing about Fish Fry Fridays isn’t the food, but meeting our neighbors and forming relationships with them. Your health and safety is important to us, and the best way to continue extending that care to our community is to suspend Fish Fry Fridays until further notice.

Please check our website and our social media pages going forward for any updates. We appreciate your understanding and help spreading the word.

March 12, 2020

We take the health and safety of our congregation and our larger community seriously. Currently, we do not see an immediate need to significantly alter or suspend worship services due to the COVID-19 concern. However, we want to communicate some precautionary measures, many of which are already part of Church of the Shepherd's standard operating procedure.

As of right now, we will still offer in-person worship on the weekends, and our Fish Fry Fridays and other activities will still take place. However, if you feel sick or feel nervous about attending any of these events, please stay home! We will continue to offer online worship experiences on Sunday mornings at 9:15 and 10:45 am through our website and Church of the Shepherd UMC app. We encourage you to worship with us there.

Other precautionary measures currently in place are:

  • Custodial staff will provide extra and thorough environmental cleaning and will keep restrooms stocked with antibacterial soap. 
  • All staff and volunteers serving during weekend worship will wash their hands prior to serving and will sanitize their hands prior to serving communion.
  • All toys and surfaces in the Nursery and on Soul Street are sanitized on a frequent and regular schedule. Hand sanitizer is readily available throughout our kids' spaces.
  • We will have ample amounts of hand sanitizer and facial tissues available not only for people serving, but for congregants as well. Specifically, hand sanitizer will be available near the coffee stations and we will add a hand sanitizer station leading up to each communion station.
  • A common cup will not be used during Communion.
  • We will not shake hands during our greeting time.  A great wave is just fine.
  • We will not pass offering baskets, but will use stationary baskets instead. You can also give online here, or through the Church of the Shepherd UMC app on your phone.
  • Again, we hope that you will stay home if you are not feeling well or experiencing illness symptoms -- you may always join us online either on the website  or on our Church of the Shepherd UMC App. And of course, if you're not feeling well, we hope you will let us know, so that we may care for you.

We hope this has helped to alleviate any immediate concerns you may have related to attending worship at COS. Rest assured that we are staying informed and will be following recommendations of the CDC and local health officials as they pertain to large group gatherings. As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to us.

While times like this can be scary and uncertain, they remind us of our connection to one another and provide an opportunity to demonstrate our faith and trust in God.

COS staff asks you to join them in prayer. Please pray for those affected by COVID-19. Pray specifically for the victims of this disease, their families, and for those providing care to the afflicted. And pray boldly, with confidence for the cessation of the virus' spread.