COVID-19 Impact

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Dear Church Family,

This week both Johnson County and the Governor of Kansas have released their plans for reopening community activities. Johnson County has also extended the stay-at-home order through May 10. Up to this point we have been following the guidelines issued by medical and government officials. We intend to continue to follow those guidelines. The elders believe that following the guidelines is the best means to care for the vulnerable among us, love our neighbor well as ourselves, and be a faithful witness for the gospel of Christ.

The plans for reopening the community are laid out in several phases. There still is uncertainty on how these plans will be implemented because there is no definitive timeline for when phases will be implemented and the officials say changes can be made at any time. Seeking to match the phased approach, while maintaining adaptability, the elders have developed a phased plan for the reopening of in-person ministry at Oak Hills.

Before sharing some details of this plan, let me exhort you toward graciousness, flexibility, and intentionality. First, we need to be gracious toward one another in all these matters. While we are a small church, we are a diverse community of various vulnerabilities, sensibilities, and needs. Passing judgment on others’ decisions in these matters is unacceptable. Second, we need to be flexible with plans and activities as guidelines and timelines will need to be adjusted. We will do our best to communicate clearly and thoroughly, but please keep in mind things may change. Third, we need to be intentional in our faith. We need a steady diet of the Word of God (Matt. 4:4; 2 Tim. 3:16). We need to be steady in our prayers (Col. 4:2). We need to watch out for one another (Heb. 3:12-13). We need to stir up one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24-25). The elders have sought to provide opportunities for all of these needs through means that follow the guidelines. Every Christian has the responsibility to fight the good fight of faith. Your church is here to fight with you. Be intentional and join with us.

The elders have drafted a four-phase approach to the reopening of in-person ministry at Oak Hills. Here is a sketch of the four phases.

Phase 1 – To Begin Concurrently or Near when Johnson County Enters Phase 1

  • Livestream worship on Sundays at 10:30am continues the same
  • Most group gatherings (Life Groups, Bible studies, Youth Group, etc.) continue to meet through Google Meet.
  • Weekly Communion Service is Offered at the Church on Wednesday evenings
    • The 20-minute service will be offered four times at 30-minute increments
    • A sign-up process will be available to ensure maximum of 10 people in attendance for each service.
    • Social distancing and other appropriate guidelines will be followed
    • Those with vulnerabilities are encouraged to stay home
    • Those with symptoms of illness are asked not to attend
    • Procedures will be implemented to ensure the cleanliness of the church facility before and in-between services.
    • We hope to begin Wednesday, May 13. More details will be available next week.

Phase 2 – To Begin Concurrently or Near when Johnson County Enters Phase 2

The State and County have differed in their plans on their limits of group gatherings. The Governor has said the local governments cannot be more lenient than the State regulations. So, we follow the State guidelines.

  • Two Sunday Worship Services in the Building Offered at 9:00am and 10:45am
    • 30 or fewer people per service: Sign-ups for services may be necessary
    • Spread out seating
    • No Nursery or Promiseland
    • Children’s Sermon will continue in service
    • We are still undecided about Communion in service
    • Offering Box available in the back of the sanctuary
    • Social distancing and other appropriate guidelines will be followed
    • Those with vulnerabilities are encouraged to stay home
    • Those with symptoms of illness are asked not to attend
    • Procedures will be implemented to ensure the cleanliness of the church facility before and in-between services.
    • Livestream (at 10:45am) will continue
    • This will begin no sooner than May 31, after I return from sabbatical.
  • Wednesday evening Communion Services may continue, depending on plans for communion in Sunday service
  • Other group gatherings may resume in-person meeting, if guidelines can be followed

Phase 3 – To Begin Concurrently or Near when Johnson County Enters Phase 3

  • Two Sunday Worship Services in the Building Offered at 9:00am and 10:45am
    • 90 or fewer people per service
    • Spread out seating
    • Limited Childcare (what’s appropriate to be determined)
    • Communion in service with appropriate safety precautions
    • Offering Box available in the back of the sanctuary
    • Social distancing and other appropriate guidelines will be followed
    • Those with vulnerabilities are encouraged to stay home
    • Those with symptoms of illness are asked not to attend
    • Procedures will be implemented to ensure the cleanliness of the church facility before and in-between services.
    • Livestream (at 10:45am) will continue
  • Other group gatherings may resume in-person meeting, if guidelines can be followed

Phase 4 (or Phase Out) – To Begin Concurrently or Near when Johnson County Enters Phase 4

  • Return to normal services and activities
  • Some changes may be needed on a more permanent basis.

We share this phased plan recognizing that details still need to be ironed out. We will do our best to communicate next steps as soon as plans become clearer. We look forward to seeing you, hopefully, soon.

Thank you for your prayers on behalf of the elders. We love you and are praying for you. Please do not hesitate to let us know if there is any way that we can be praying for you.

God bless,

Pastor Dale, on behalf of the Elders

 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Hello Friends-

I wanted to give you an update on our plans for Sunday mornings. We are following the recommendations to avoid large gatherings of people. Therefore, the building will not be open for people to gather together for worship. 

We will, however, still hold our worship service at 10:30am on Sunday. It will be available for you to watch and participate in via livestream on our Facebook page. You do not need to have a Facebook account to access this. Please plan to join us for worship, even inviting friends to check it out.

The bulletin is available on our website. You can download it on your phone or tablet and follow along with the liturgy while watching the livestream. You'll notice that we will not be serving communion as we do not have the means to distribute the elements.

We are hesitant to make plans too far in advance, as the situation seems to evolve almost daily. We expect to conduct our service only via livestream for the next two Sundays, but will revisit plans for after that. We will continue to communicate as much as possible.

Pastor Stephen is preparing an activity sheet for kids that he will email out separately. 

In addition to participating in our worship service on Sunday mornings, let me also encourage you to reach out to other members and friends of Oak Hills. This forced isolation highlights how much we really need one another in the body of Christ. Get creative with phone calls, video chats, emails, and other connection points to "love one another with brotherly affection" (Rom. 12:10). 

God bless!

Pastor Dale

 

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Church Family,

New regulations seem to be rolled out every day, but for the most part, a new normal has settled across the world. Avoid gatherings. Stay home as much as possible. And wash your hands. As a reminder from Psalm 121, my sermon text on Sunday, lift up your eyes to the Lord, your keeper and help. As Christians, we are assured of God’s faithful, never-failing presence and protection. “So we do not lose heart. Though the outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

In addition to the encouragement of Scripture, let me exhort you in these ways:

  1. Set aside time each day for your family to read Scripture and pray together. Some of you may already have this habit. Praise God! If you don’t, now is as good of a time to start as any. It doesn’t have to be complicated or long. A good place to start is to read a Psalm aloud and then pray. As is appropriate for your family, share prayer requests and have multiple people pray.
  2. Resist the urge to consume more of the news media and social media. Cultivate, instead, habits of Bible reading, petitionary prayer (forming a list of people and praying for their needs by name), and Bible memorization. Of course, use the extra free time at home to enjoy your family.
  3. To the best of your ability, worship with your church on Sunday mornings. Sundays are still the Lord’s Day. On this day we are called to “observe a holy rest” and engage “in the public and private exercises of his worship” (WCF XXI.8). We will continue to hold worship services at Oak Hills every Sunday at 10:30am. Regulations may prohibit the gathering of a group of people in our building, but, during this period, we will continue to livestream our service.
  4. Love your neighbor as yourself. Christians do not hoard the world’s goods and ignore the needs of others (cf. 1 John 3:17-18). I have already seen and heard the people of Oak Hills loving others in deed and in truth. Praise God! Pray that God would give you opportunity and courage to meet needs of those not only in our church body, but also in your neighborhood.
  5. Continue to support the ministry of Oak Hills financially. Like any small business during this turbulent time, Oak Hills will have much of our normal, ongoing expenses. Providentially, we have just enabled online giving from our website (I’ll explain this more in a separate email). Through whatever avenue you choose, prayerfully be consistent in your support of the ministry of your church.
  6. Do not hesitate to reach out to your church family if you have a need. The elders and I are praying for you. Please share any specific requests you may have. If you need help in some other way, let us know.

I love you, church family. Be encouraged, God will sustain us.

God Bless!

Pastor Dale

 

 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Dear Church Family,

Over the last 72 hours, it has been unbelievable all that has transpired related to the COVID-19 pandemic. I know you have been bombarded with information and emails addressing the impacts of this outbreak. The elders have met and discussed how the recent developments will impact Oak Hills this week. Here are our plans for tomorrow:

  1. We will hold our worship service at 10:30am.
  2. We will do extra sanitizing in preparation. Hand soap and hand sanitizer will be available.
  3. We will not have Sunday school, Promiseland, or Nursery available. In these situations, with close proximity to children, it is near impossible to ensure the recommended safety precautions for prevention.
  4. We will serve communion, but service will be altered. There will be no common loaf bread. We will use communion wafers placed into individual mini cups (like the ones used for juice and wine). People will still come forward to receive the elements. We will prepare communion in a diligently sanitized manner.
  5. We will not pass offering plates. They will be in the back of the sanctuary for people to leave their offering. A deacon will be nearby to safeguard the offering collection.
  6. We ask anyone who is ill or showing symptoms to stay home out of love for the greater community. We continue to encourage following the CDC’s recommendations for prevention. This includes extra caution for those who are immunocompromised.
  7. We intend to live stream our worship service on Facebook. You can join us online at facebook.com/OakHillsPCA.
  8. We will share more information about other Oak Hills’ gatherings early next week.

The elders will continue to monitor developments and discuss any further actions.

I have decided to take a break from our sermon series on John this week. I will preach Psalm 121, where the psalmist declares, "The Lord is your keeper." During this turbulent time, we need to be reminded of God's faithfulness and never-failing care. I pray that we would rest in a God who is our rock and fortress and refuge and deliverer.

Please let us know if there is any way we can serve you. We are praying for you.

The Lord Bless You and Keep You!

Pastor Dale

 

 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Dear Church Family,

I know we are all bombarded with news and reactions about Coronavirus (COVID-19). I wanted to let you know that the elders are closely monitoring the ongoing outbreak and discussing its impact. As of right now, we do not plan to alter any of our worship service but encourage our people to be vigilant in following the recommended preventive care. Depending on the severity of the situation, we may adjust our plans.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has additional information and a summary of the situation, as well as reminders on how to practice disease prevention through good hygiene.

While we continue to hold our normal worship service on Sundays, we are not binding the conscience of our members. If you have concerns and choose to stay home, that is absolutely appropriate. Likewise, if you show symptoms of illness (e.g. cough, runny nose, congestion, fever, etc.), we are, in fact, asking you to stay home out of love for the greater community. To our seniors and those with underlying medical conditions, a healthy (and highly sanitized) pastor and elder can come to you to share a word from Scripture and serve you communion. We are asking no one to be stubbornly foolish, and precaution is absolutely appropriate.

Let me also encourage you from Scripture. The well-beloved Psalm 46 reminds us that God is our sweet refuge in the midst of any trouble. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way.” In the fourth verse of A Mighty Fortress is our God, Martin Luther reflects on the source of this courage:

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever

Our courage in the face of life-threatening diseases is rooted in the surety of God’s word. In Christ, nothing can separate us from the eternal promises offered in the Gospel. That truth sustains us as “the earth gives way.” So, as Psalm 46 concludes with an exhortation from God himself, I leave you with God’s abiding word: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

God Bless!

Pastor Dale, on behalf of the Session