Dear Covenant Family,
I had planned to write a letter communicating Covenant's plan for moving forward, but in order to best explain our roadmap ahead, I've created a video. In it, you'll hear about the parameters that will inform our decisions as well as the things that Session approved last night.
We are eager to get back together and to do so safely. I hope you'll take a few minutes to watch the video below.
Dear Covenant Family,
For almost two months, our congregation has practiced physical distancing. Certainly, one of the reasons for this has been to comply with the advice and orders of government agencies and officials. However, as Christians, it has also been a form of loving our neighbor during this pandemic. While we typically identify love and service with physical proximity, in this season it has been to have empty churches, office buildings and schools. Loving our neighbors in this way has come at a price for us, our families and our community. Yet despite the costs, we have committed to serving our city and caring for the vulnerable by remaining physically separate.
This week, our governor announced that Texas would begin the slow and complex process of reopening. Churches are included as essential organizations that are able to begin meeting on campuses. The governor also gave strict guidelines for how this can be done as safely as possible. Our COVID Task Force has reviewed the plans for reopening Texas, made a recommendation to Session regarding the immediate implications to Covenant, and last night the Session unanimously accepted this recommendation. While we are all very much desiring to return to campus, we need more time to understand how to safely reopen. Therefore, our campus will remain closed and worship will continue online until at least June 1.
While people will not be on campus for quite some time, we will continue to journey with hopeful expectation regarding how we encounter God and embrace His call upon our lives. This coming Sunday in worship, we begin a three-week series titled, “What Never Changes,” which will focus on living into hope even in the midst of challenging circumstances. Also on Sunday, we will celebrate communion together. Every household needs to prepare by having bread or crackers as well as red juice or wine. You will need to have these items before the service begins so be prepared this week as you make your shopping lists!
Friends, God’s purpose for life, and the call to love our neighbors, is as strong today as ever. We ask for your prayers as our Session discerns the complex path ahead. I am grateful to be on the journey with each and every one of you and look forward to worshiping with you on Sunday!
Dear Covenant Family,
I am writing to you today to give an update on Covenant’s response to the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation. As we mentioned last Sunday in worship, I trust that you have found ways to draw close to the Lord in solitude and to know that you are not alone. I hope you continue to seek out community and to check in on one another even in these days of social distancing. And I know many of you are seeking avenues of service to others where you live, work and play. We know who we are and what we are called to do so let us not waver.
The leadership of Covenant continues to hold God’s call upon our congregation in prayer. As many of you are aware, Mayor Adler has banned gatherings of more than 10 people until May 1. Therefore, our campus must remain closed to all gatherings for that time period. However, the life and mission of Covenant will move forward in the following ways:
Friends, we will continue to update our website and social media pages with all this information. As I close, I urge you to meditate on these words from the Book of Joshua for they are as applicable today as they were for the Hebrew people when facing uncertainty about the future, “be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Dear Covenant Family,
It was good to gather together yesterday for online worship. I am grateful to our Communications Team who worked incredibly hard to pull that off.
As many of you are aware, on Saturday night Mayor Adler made the decision to ban all gatherings of more than 250 people until May 1. This means that for at least 7 weeks we will continue to find ways of being the Church without being able to come together in large numbers. Our Staff, Session and COVID-19 Task Force are all working hard to discern how we continue the ministry and mission of Covenant in these difficult circumstances. Here are several things I want you to be aware of:
Friends, as we read yesterday in worship from Luke 6, we need to continue to live into the call of God on our lives – to seek His voice in solitude and be reminded that we are not alone, to reach out to one another and build community, and to serve our neighbors in love. In all of this, God will meet us and He will use us to be a Love Letter to impact others wherever we live, work and play.
The Lord bless and keep you.
Tomorrow morning, we will worship together online. We invite all to visit covenant.org/worship-online at 9 a.m.
Covenant has suspended all on-campus activities until Saturday, March 21, and we are practicing “social distancing” to further prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, we can still come together as a faith community to worship God and to pray for our world.
Again, the link will go live at 9 a.m. Please plan to join us tomorrow (Sunday, March 15).
After a great deal of thought and prayer, as well as discussions with local officials, we will not be worshiping on campus this coming Sunday, March 15. In addition, our campus will be closed for all activities until Saturday, March 21.
This has been a very difficult decision to make. Thankfully our congregation is blessed to have medical experts and emergency responders who are serving on a newly appointed Task Force to help us navigate this most unusual time. Task Force members unanimously recommended that canceling all on-campus activities is the best course of action for the time being. The Task Force will meet again next Wednesday morning to assess the current situation and recommend to Session how we move forward. As soon as decisions are reached, we will communicate with you.
Please know we are not making this decision from a place of fear but rather, we are doing so as an expression of our faith and values. It is clear that the Covid-19 virus represents a unique threat to all of us but most specifically to older adults and people living with underlying health conditions. We do not want to spread a virus that may eventually overwhelm our healthcare system here in Austin. We believe that not meeting on campus, at the present time, is the most effective way to be a love letter from God to our city.
The call to be the Church has not changed. With this in mind:
Friends, in these times of uncertainty and change, God is with us, will not leave us, and His call on our lives is as real as ever.
This week, Covenant created a Coronavirus Task Force made up of medical professionals and first responders, a group that understands medical issues and can translate that knowledge into institutional decisions. The group will meet as needed to discuss and recommend different ways to protect our members and friends, and staff from contacting and spreading the virus.
One change that will go into effect this coming Sunday, March 15, is the way we collect the offering. Offering plates will be available at the doors to the Sanctuary and FE 200; we invite congregants to drop their offering in the plate as they leave worship services. Covenant ushers will be at the door to assist in this process. Another alternative is to give online.
Covenant will not hold this month's VISIONS lunch, which was scheduled for March 17. Beth Daniel, Parish Associate for Older Adults, said the change was made out an abundance of caution and in keeping with CDC guidelines regarding older adults.
As we continue to hear news of COVID-19 Coronavirus, Covenant is taking steps to prevent its spread. At this time, public health officials believe the risk to Austin is low and that gathering in public presents no higher risk now than during normal influenza seasons. We will continue to monitor the situation.
Experts recommend these simple actions to prevent the spread of any disease:
On campus, we are taking additional care to uphold our high standard of cleanliness, including extra efforts to sanitize our children’s and high-traffic areas. Our bathrooms will be well-stocked with soap, and we have added hand sanitizer stations in the Fellowship and Education Building. We will also alter some elements of our life together, passing the peace with a greeting and slightly changing how we practice communion.
While precautionary measures are top-of-mind, we are called to pray for the spread of the disease to be limited, for the health of those who are ill, and for the protection of those who are caring for people in need.
CDC Coronavirus Summary
CDC Coronavirus Information for Travel
World Health Organization
Austin Public Health