Dear members and friends,
Thursday the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a decision striking down the Governor’s safer-at-home order, thus lifting restrictions on businesses and public gatherings. At the same time, the Court urged our state legislature to work with the Department of Health Services to avoid the potential chaos and health devastation of a reckless and uncontrolled reopening. While the City of Appleton and Outagamie County initially reinstated the safer-at-home orders, they have since been rescinded, leaving us with no clear governmental guidance.
It’s been helpful to consult with the Wisconsin Council of Churches and follow their recommendations that churches continue to refrain from in-person worship or other activities in our church building until the public health gating requirements are met as helpfully set forth in the Badger Bounce Back Plan. On Thursday new cases were up again, and we have not yet met the criteria for moving into Phase 1 of the plan.
- In Phase 1, worship gatherings would still be unwise and would place our congregation, families, and communities at risk. Some small group gatherings would be permitted as long as social distancing was observed.
- Phase 2, coming after several weeks of continuing public health progress, would allow for gatherings of up to 50 people with social distancing and health precaution protocols in place. This would be a time when our building users could be welcomed back with a plan to address cleaning needs and distancing protocols.
- Phase 3, again coming after several more weeks of meeting public health goals, would remove attendance limits, though crowding in worship would be discouraged. Our office functions would resume as normal and Sunday School could resume.
What we want you to know right now:
- The health of our congregation, families, and communities will continue to be our top priority in our life together.
- We will continue to offer online worship on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and on weekdays through our Noon Prayer Chapel.
- We are weeks and perhaps months away from resuming in-person worship. When it does resume, it will initially be with a 50-person limit in attendance.
- Health protocols around worship will remain in place even after attendance limits are removed; in fact, they will be in place for the foreseeable future.
Please know that we will carefully communicate with you as we progress through the steps outlined above. And please don’t hesitate to ask questions or share concerns. I have been so proud of the ways in which this congregation has continued to bind together in worship, prayer, outreach, stewardship, and mission through this difficult time. May God bless us with the patience born of deep Christian hope. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “… suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
And let us look forward to that joyous and glorious time when we can gather together again as God’s people and Christ’s body that is First Congregational UCC.
“I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob,
I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.
I will put them together like sheep in the fold;
Like a flock in the midst of its pasture
It will resound with people” (Micah 2:12).
Your friend and fellow minister,
Rev. Steve Savides