ELDER UPDATE REGARDING GOVERNOR LEE'S LATEST EXECUTIVE ORDER - 12/22/20
Since reopening our worship services at the end of May 2020, Grace Church has been afforded a remarkable run of “Covid-19 free” church life among our members and regular attenders. We thank God for that but we knew that it would likely not stay that way. We have remained steady with minimal changes in our protocols to date and that is something we can all be thankful for.
As we all know, the spread of Covid-19 has reached an apex across our nation and specifically in our great state of Tennessee. The daily positivity rate has reached 24% which is up from around 7% before Halloween. Less than 10% of all hospital beds are available on any given day across the state of Tennessee. That is approximately 175 available beds across all hospitals in our state (118 total hospitals = 1-2 beds available on average). This rise in infection has led Governor Lee to issue a call to limit social gatherings to 10 or less people for the next few weeks. A social gathering is defined as a “gathering of mixed households with no specific social distancing or mask protocols enforced.” Though Governor Lee does not classify “churches, weddings and other ceremonies” as social gatherings, he does encourage churches to utilize every resource available to better limit the spread of Covid-19 through our communities and protect the most vulnerable as well. We are thankful that Governor Lee has sought to encourage Tennessee residents to live responsibly without any further stay at home or lock down restrictions.
Beyond the Governor’s latest executive orders, as of Monday, December 21, the elders can confirm that we have 4 families with a member who has tested positive in the last 2-3 weeks, three of which are progressing well through a period of quarantining. To our knowledge, none of these cases came about as a result of a church gathering. Nonetheless, we are likely looking at some tough weeks ahead as we likely see more cases pop up in our church until we get some distance between us and the holidays
In light of this data, the elders want to remind everyone that we are under Code “Yellow”. Though we desire to stop short of a mask-mandate, we want to also rise above a placid recommendation. While we have and will continue to work hard to preserve space for sincerely held convictions on masks, for those who are conscientiously able, the elders are asking our church to be hypervigilant as we seek to be physically distant and wear a mask, especially during the holidays and the weeks to follow. In the same way that you would throw a mask on when entering a grocery store or other public space, we ask you to do that same at Grace Church as well. The elders strongly encourage those who attend any worship service at Grace Church to wear a face covering. This is a commitment that we hope we can all embrace together for the good of our church and neighbors so that we can continue as normally as possible in our life routines, including church routines.
What does this look like ideally? We are asking everyone to wear a mask as they enter and move about the building as well as exiting the building. Masks may be removed once seated. Those with existing health conditions or children 12 and under are exempt from wearing a mask according to the Tennessee Pledge created by Governor Lee back in August.
The Elders desire to walk the fine line between “personal freedom” & “corporate responsibility” and will continue to do so. We are thankful that the members of Grace Church have appreciated this approach thus far. But our mission is clear...we are called love God & love neighbor. Romans 14 is clear that we should be willing to give up our personal liberty (at least for a season or for specific contexts) for the good of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Right now, loving our neighbors (inside and outside the church) is a big and often unpleasant task but it’s part of our call of Christ-followers.
In the same way that Governor Lee is “asking” but not “mandating” masks, the elders wish to do that same. Join us in this effort as we press through these last few remaining months of our war with Covid-19.
PLEASE BE MINDFUL OF OUR BEST PRACTICES EACH SUNDAY:
- If you or a family member have any symptoms related to COVID-19 or have tested positive for the virus, please forgo attendance for the upcoming Sunday. Please enjoy watching the service from home on our Live Stream. If you have had an elevated temperature of 100.4 within 48 hours prior to Sunday, please do not attend.
- Though we do not REQUIRE masks they are RECOMMENDED while indoors at this time. Masks are not full proof, but can aid in limiting the spread of germs as we share common space together each Sunday.
- Please maintain a safe distance as we move about the building and please do not share a pew or row of chairs with another family if at all possible.
- Please limit fellowship time to outside the building before and after services.
UPDATE - November 18,2020
With the increase of infection rate across our area and it's affect on our community in Rutherford County, the elders want to remind those who attend Grace Church that we are at PHASE YELLOW (See explanation below). We have suspended Sunday Morning Bible Study through November 29th and will evaluate its status on a week to week basis through end of the year. We are encouraging our church and guests to take extra measures to safely join us for worship on Sundays including safely distancing yourselves as you move about the building and wearing a face covering. Facecoverings are recommended but not required.
GREEN- No Safety Protocols in place - All programming proceeds as Normal
YELLOW - Social Distance Accommodated Programming with a masks recommended especially as we egress through the tight corridors of our building.
ORANGE - All restrictions for Yellow in addition to requiring a mask for all Sunday Programming inside the building including during worship services. This would be implemented if we experience 2 or more (approximately 10%) of our families quarantined for confirmed a Covid-19 case within a 14 day period.
RED - All Programming moved Online for a minimum of 14 days in the event we experience an outbreak of Covid-19 within the church of 5 or more families. (Approximately 20% of our Sunday Morning Attendance).
UPDATE - September 3, 2020.
The Elders are moving the church to a 4 Color Phase System to help our church make adjustments in protocols as we move into the Fall/Winter and Flu season. You can find out more about these system by reading the latest Elder Update HERE.
Starting SEPTEMBER 13th, our church will begin at Phase Yellow. Please see below for details about Phase Yellow.
UPDATE - July 22, 2020
Here is the latest update from Pastor Tom and the elders regarding our ongoing response to Covid-19. Due to the Executive Order put in place by Bill Ketron requiring citizens to wear masks in public and seeing no compelling Biblical reason to exempt ourselves of this mandate, masks are presently required for worship in our Sanctuary at 10:30. For those who desire to NOT wear a mask, we will provide limited space in Fellowship wing for a Live Stream service at the same time. For more details, you can read a letter prepared by the elders that expands on our reasoning for this decision.
or you can watch this 17 minute Video.
June 18, 2020
Here is the latest update from Pastor Tom regarding moving to Phase 2.
June 2, 2020
As of this date, our church completed three sunday gatherings observing Phase 1 of our Reopening Plan. The Elders have decided to observe the current protocols through June 14th. On June 20th, we will begin Phase 2. Here is a PDF of those guidelines.
In short, on June 20th, those who are comfortable with doing so, we will worship primarily in the Chapel but devote a volunteer "SAFE OVERFLOW" space for those who wish to continue to worship with maximum social distancing. All of the other protocols and expectations will be remain in effect through July 2020 (approximately 6 weeks). The goal is to safely restart Sunday Morning Bible Study (All Ages) and the Worship Care Nursery in August.
Last Minute Preparations for Reopening Sunday Gatherings
By now you have probably heard that we plan to reopen our Sunday Gatherings at Grace Church. We do with a great sense of joy yet with a great sense of responsibility to do so as safely as possible. Tune in to this video to better prepare yourself for Sunday, May 17th.
As you arrive on campus, please observe the following guidelines:
- Stay in your Family Unit at all times. Please communicate this to your children. Masks are recommended but not required.
- Please proceed to your designated worship space based on the first letter of your last name. Families with last names beginning with A-J will be worshiping in the Fellowship Hall and those with K-Z will worship in the chapel for May 17th. We will rotate from week to week. First time guests will be reserved space in the Chapel.
- When you enter the building, please proceed to a pew or row make yourself at home. Do not roam about the building rather fellowship from your row. The hallway connecting the Chapel and Fellowship will not be open accept for nursing mothers.
- We will not be having a greeting time during the service and we ask that you please refrain from physical contact. Let's find fun non-contact ways to greet one another.
- After service has concluded, please exit the building one family at a time and enjoy some time to fellowship outside maintaining 6ft of social distancing between family units. Again, we ask that children remain with their parents and that we refrain from physical contact.
Pleaes watch this special message from Pastor Tom below:
May 11, 2020
"On Caution & Courage...Mandates and Guidelines."
May 4, 2020
After reviewing the latest guidelines from Governor Lee and consulting with the deacons, the elders have concluded that we will target May 17th to reopen Sunday Worship gatherings with specific health protocols in place. You can a "One Sheet" overview of our guidelines here.
Additionally, Pastor Tom has produced 3 short videos that we are asking our members and attendees to view in preparation for gathering on May 17th. These videos will be posted on May 5th with the following Links:
Video 1 -Our Plan
Video 2 - Our Responsibility
Video 3 - Our Unity
One of the most important factors that will be considered in order to meet on May 17th is whether we have a fully staffed CLEAN & SANITATION TEAM. We need a minimum of 12-15 volunteers. Please contact Paul or April Tigert here to join the Team
May 1, 2020
The elders continue to monitor data and guidelines released by our state and local authorities. As such, we met this past week to discuss the latest guidelines for churches. We believe we can meet those guidelines in the very near future. We are developing a plan and will meet with our deacons this Sunday afternoon to make plans to implement it.
It is our hope that by Monday, May 4th, we will be able to announce a date to reopen. Until then, stay tuned to our Facebook and Instagram feeds and plan to join us for our live stream gathering on Sunday at 10:30, May 3rd, 2020.
Hope to see you all very soon!
April 17, 2020
The elders are continuing to monitor the developments for the Executive Ordered Quarantine. It is our hope that we will be able to worship together again soon. Until then, we have several opportunities for our church members and guests to connect throughout the week through online-community. Though this is not optimal, we do recognize that these mediums provide us a way to continue to encourage one another. Please join us on our Facebook Page or here on our website for our Live Stream Service @ 10:30 am. Click here for more options throughout the week.
March 17, 2020
Dear members, guests and friends of Grace Church,
Recent days have taught us that we should not take for granted the gift of meeting together as churches, family and friends. Friends, though these are tough times, we are not without a strong Savior in Jesus. We also need to remember that this is not the first time the church in America has been forced to make tough decisions regarding public health. Just over 100 year ago, churches and other civic organization faced the real threat of the Spanish flu. Caleb Morell, an Assistant Pastor at Capital Hill Baptist Church, wrote an excellent piece on that historic moment which is available on 9 Marks website. I encourage you to read it.
As the elders have been praying and receiving counsel on how to respond, we want to touch on a couple of fundamental questions.
First, are we sinning by not meeting together according to Hebrews 10? The short answer is no. This passage is applied to the willful absence from the corporate gathering due to elevating non-biblical priorities frequently. This particular situation falls in the category of "providentially hindered" from gathering and not willness absence. Our hope that this suspension will allow us to biblical mourn the loss of biblical communal interaction and produce both a greater thankfulness and a deeper yearning for us to gather again soon.
Second, are we being forced to not meet? The clear answer is no. Even so, we believe that to try to manipulate the recommended ordinances for social distancing in such a way as to still gather would be missing the spirit of the ordinances. This would be contrary to any true biblical reason to engage in civic disobedience. Additionally, the call for social distancing does not single out Christians nor churches but is being recommended for all spheres of life. We should seek to be good neighbors by joining our neighbors in these social efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
With that said, our elders have come to the conclusion that we will suspend weekly services on a week to week basis expecting this health crisis may continue for several weeks. Nonetheless, we are putting several measures in place to help our congregation connect and serve one another well as well as our neighbors who need to our love and care in the days to come that will span the next 6-8 weeks.
OUR CONGREGATIONAL LIFE
- Our Weekly Gatherings will be suspended on a week to week basis. We will suspend our public worship gathering for March 22. We will host a Livestream Service via Facebook Live @ 10:30 am on Sunday with a follow up Zoom Community Call led by one of our elders for prayer & reflection on the sermon during the week. Expect that to be implemented next week.
- Our DNA groups fall under the recommended guidelines of 10 or less people. So our DNA Groups have a couple choices. 1. Our DNA group leaders can move DNA gatherings to Zoom Calls or other mediums at their leisure. 2. DNA Groups may meet at private residences in groups of 10 or less but we urge extreme caution. We suggest meeting outdoors if weather permits and observe social distancing rules. Our DNA Leaders will communicate with their group members to set this up. Zoom is not complicated and can be easily downloaded onto your computer or you can find the app on any smart phone or tablet. We suggest you prepare for this by downloading now
- Online events will be promoted weekly in order to encourage one another through word and prayer. Be on the lookout in your email and on social media for these opportunities.
- Pastor Tom will be keeping regular hours at the church office. If you are in need of someone to talk to during this time or if you simply want to grab a cup of coffee, please contact Pastor Tom @ firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a time.
- Our elders will also be available for prayer and counsel. They will be checking in on our members through phone calls and texts but will also promote times via Facebook Live or Zoom to have open invite times of prayer.
- Lastly, we are working on providing online materials for you and your family to use in place of normal classes. You can find excellent learn materials from Ligionier Connect for only $9 per month. We are also working on a congregational subscription to RightNow Media which will allow us to collect video resources for all ages, especially for stay-at-home parents who want their kids to do more than just play video games. As soon as that is set up, I will send out a link that will grant you access to use RightNow media under the Grace Church Subscription. Be on the look out for an email or notice on Social Media for some recommended online resources.
WHAT CAN YOU BE DOING TO SERVE EACH OTHER AND OUR NEIGHBORS WELL?
- SERVING THOSE AT RISK - Monda Bradley and Lucas Hutchinson will be seeking ways to help those inside or outside of our church. We will be focusing on serving our elderly and most at risk members as well as the aging congregation of First Free Methodist. Pastor Ryan will be contacting his people and then sharing their contact info with us so that we can include them in our care plan. One specific opportunity is to go shopping for them. In some cases, you may have to go to 2-3 stores to get the items they need. If you are young and are available to do this or know of needs in our church and community, please contact Monda Bradley or Lucas Hutchinson.
- SERVING THOSE WHO ARE LONELY - Many of our friends and neighbors will need our love and care as well as our confidence in Christ during these difficult times. If you know of anyone who is interested, please feel free to include them in any of the online meetings listed above.
- SERVING THROUGH FAITHFUL GIVING. Unless you are being adversely affected in your job, please consider giving at the same pace as you have thus far. If your job is affected, please let us know so we can try to serve you during these lean times. If you normally give during the Sunday morning service, you can send your check or cash to our UPS Box (479 Sam Ridley Parkway, Suite 105/339) or the church building (1004 Hazelwood Dr.). Our Stewardship Team check these boxes each week. You can give online at here.
Church family, this response plan is fluid. It will change as time goes on. This is our first attempt to think through how best to love and serve you during these days. Know that your elders and deacons love you and we are here to serve any way we can.
May God pour out His richest blessings on us all in the days to come!
(On Behalf of the Elders of Grace Church)