Dear Members and Friends of First Congregational Church,
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during these days of late Autumn. These have been days of grief, uncertainty and fear. Please know that your church is at work to offer comfort, hope, and a powerful witness to the resurrection power that comes to us especially in the darkest and most difficult moments in our life and in the life of our community.
It will not surprise you to know that our Church Council, at the recommendation of our Public Health Advisory Group, has decided that our building will remain closed to in-person worship through March 15 at the earliest. You have been following the news, so you know how the Third Wave of Covid-19 has been raging through our state and our community. Very concerning are facts like the one this graph reveals – the sharp upward surge of hospitalizations related to Covid-19 in Outagamie County. The news from Calumet and Winnebago Counties is just as dire. We believe that our church’s first obligation is to the health and safety of our members and community. The decision to remain closed honors that obligation.
This decision becomes particularly difficult when it comes to hosting small weddings, funerals, and baptisms. A public health professional in our congregation shared this:
“… a five to ten-minute car ride, a small funeral with a few people, a talk with a family member at their house… The list goes on and on and the situation is a little different every time. What I am seeing is that the time of exposure is pretty short, and people are still getting COVID. People desperately want to attend a brother’s funeral or go to a sister’s wedding and may be willing to sacrifice the safety of others to make this happen. I’ve spoken to two people in the past week who attended a funeral with very slight symptoms of COVID (a stuffy nose and the other with sinus pressure and a headache) and they were positive. The family and the staff at the church were then potentially exposed. With all of these important events, people usually meet beforehand and/or after. It seems the church would only be encouraging people to gather outside of the event. Is there a way our church can still honor a loved one without also potentially hurting another?”
Though it pains us to say so, we believe the best way the church can love our neighbors and best serve our members and community right now is to offer on-line services of baptisms, weddings, and funerals, and keep our building closed to any in-person services. Specifically, our policy is this:
- The church building will remain closed through at least March 15.
- The only event we will be holding in the building is our weekly on-line worship service and will keep the number of worship leaders to 10 or fewer.
- We will offer other services such as prayer chapels, baptisms, weddings, and funerals as on-line offerings through Zoom or other platforms.
- Church staff will be masked when they’re in the building except when they are alone in an isolated office.
- We can continue to hold outdoor events as long as folks are masked, maintain appropriate social distancing and are in groups of ten or fewer (i.e., drive-through communion, distribution of Sunday School materials, mission collections, etc.).
These policies will continue to be monitored by Church Council in consultation with our Public Health Advisory Group.
Thank you for your understanding and for your support as we seek to continue to be the Church of the Open Door even with a closed building. We will continue to offer multiple on-line services, prayer and small group opportunities, creative at-home Sunday School experiences, and increased mission presence in our community. And we will continue to echo Christ’s call for each of us to be witnesses of love in this time of isolation, peace in this time of uncertainty, and active outreach in this time of quarantine.
God bless you,
The Church Council