We Have Returned to Online-Only Gatherings

After multiple reports of COVID-19 among our staff and members, we are canceling in-person gatherings and returning to online-only gatherings for the near future.

Late during the week of June 21 we became aware of a staff member and church member who were present during our first limited gathering and tested positive for COVID-19. We are also hearing of other potential cases in our community as well. After consulting with local health experts, we think it’s best to return to online-only gatherings in the near term as transmission of the disease seems to be rising in our area once again.

With that in mind, we are canceling the limited gatherings we planned to hold over the next few weeks, and won’t return to in-person gatherings of any kind until we believe it is safe to do so.

While we’re disappointed that we have to wait a little while longer to gather in-person again, we’re grateful that God’s work isn’t limited to the walls of our buildings. We encourage you to continue your digital and socially-distanced gatherings, seek God daily, and look for every opportunity to love your neighbor as yourself during this season.

When will full gatherings and other activities resume?

Everything hinges on the health of our community and the CDC’s recommendations. We have to be more cautious about how we reopen due to the size of our gatherings, so we plan to return to limited socially-distanced gatherings this summer, and hope to return to our full gatherings and normal weekly schedule soon after.

 

What will the limited gatherings look like?

When we return to limited gatherings during the next phase of our reopening plan, we’re taking every precaution according to guidance from the health department:

  • Pre-registration is required to attend services, and check-in is required before you can enter the building. (This is a private, church-only event registration that will allow us to contact you in case we receive reports of a COVID-19 patient who attended the same service)
  • We are limiting services to 50% capacity.
  • We’re arranging chairs in groups of 5-6 so families can sit together, and these seating clusters are distanced from others.
  • Next generation ministries like LH Kids and LH Students are not meeting, and on-campus Life Groups are not meeting.
  • Unless on-stage, all volunteers and staff are instructed to wear masks.
  • All attendees are encouraged to wear masks.
  • Bathroom access is limited to 1-2 individuals at a time (and we are disinfecting restrooms often).
  • We aren’t currently serving coffee or food.
  • Parking trams are not running.
  • We’re using drop-off containers instead of offering baskets.
  • All attendees are asked to self-screen before attending.
  • Anyone experiencing fever, cough, or other COVID-19 symptoms should not attend.
  • Vulnerable populations should not attend.

 

Why will you require registration for the limited gatherings?

Like many churches nation-wide, after consulting with health experts in our church and community, we’re planning to start our reopening process with limited gatherings that require pre-registration to attend. We know this isn’t ideal, but it provides an opportunity for those who want to attend in-person gatherings sooner with a chance to do that in a way that honors the health guidelines that are still in place.

Pre-registration is required for two reasons: First, it allows us to limit the capacity of our worship centers so that we can properly distance those that come to worship with us. We’ve decided to temporarily limit the capacity of our worship centers by 50% until we can to return to full gatherings, and we need to know in advance when we reach that limit.

Second, pre-registering and using check-in allows us to contact attendees in the event that we learn of a COVID-19 case from someone else who attended the same day. We referred to this as “contact-tracing” in the earlier email, but we’ve since learned that this term has been used in a variety of ways in various news reports and articles where it has a different meaning.

Here’s what our pre-registration process looks like:

  • Those who want to attend a service can pre-register their family on our website in the days leading up to the Sunday service. This registration is free and completely private, just like registering for any other church event in the past. Only our staff has access to it for check-in purposes.
  • When you show up Sunday morning, we’ll welcome you and quickly check you in at any entrance.
  • In the event that we learn of a COVID-19 case from someone else who attended the same day and service as you, we’ll let you know so you can take the necessary precautions at your own discretion.

What we are NOT doing with the pre-registration process:

  • Tracking you automatically with your phone.
  • Partnering with the government to track you, or sharing your attendance data with the government (or any other business or organization).
  • Keeping and/or sharing a record of your health data.

Please keep in mind that this will only be a temporary measure until we can return to our normal, no-registration required Sunday services.

 

Will regular activities look different when they return?

While we expect our in-person gatherings to feel the same once we fully reopen, like the rest of society, we expect that the way we interact with each other will look at little different for a while. We’re going to continue to modify the parts of our services that required physical contact before (such as passing offering buckets and greeting each other with handshakes), and we’re doing everything we can to keep our facilities clean and safe.

Even if you see more face masks (and a lot more hand sanitizer), when we gather together again in-person, we hope it will feel like coming home.

 

What about regular yearly events?

In the near term, some of our events will gather as an online-only event, and some will still meet in-person (but look a little different this year). Student Camp is a good example; we’re hoping to hold a reimagined version of camp as a special in-person weekend event later this summer.