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September 18, 2020

Dear friends,

Six months ago, we spent our first virtual Sunday on Facebook Live with the staff gathered in the chapel as a make-shift production studio. We sat too close, talked too long, laughed at ourselves, and wondered what the world it would be like to have to do this all the time?! Never in our wildest dreams did I think I would be sitting in my home office writing this letter to you while my daughter is in her home classroom across the hall in science class. Never did you imagine wearing face masks everywhere you go. Never could we have dreamed about Sunday school by Zoom or Finance Committee meetings on our home computers. Last week I learned how to be a virtual volunteer with the La Amistad program for after-school tutoring we began last year. We have been able to worship throughout the week. If you look back, our ability to pivot and adapt these last six months is remarkable.


Keep up the good work! As we continue to monitor COVID-19, we continue to work our re-gathering plan for opening our facility and restarting some in-person activities. You’ll remember that at the beginning of September we crossed the threshold of 2 weeks in the orange zone according to our plan, so we are currently in Phase 1. In this phase, small groups can begin to meet again outside at the church. The building is not yet open, so restrooms are not yet available, and reservations for groups meeting must be made through Laura Briscoe in the church office. Once you have reserved a time and space with Laura, she will give you a tool to help your group sign up for the gathering. Groups should be small at this point—between 10 and 15 people. 


PHASE 1 begins when DeKalb County has 2 consecutive weeks in the ORANGE ZONE* (https://globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression/: the website used by our bishop & cabinet to monitor the rise or fall of case numbers across the Annual Conference and the state of Georgia. It contains a map that assigns each state and county to a color-coded zone referring to the number of cases [15 cases per 100,000 people] on a 7-day moving average. References to color “zones” relate to this guide.)

  • outdoor, church-related gatherings in small groups. Every person will be asked to record their attendance so that we can practice responsible contact tracing should anyone in the group(s) test positive for COVID-19.

  • virtual/online worship continues

  • participants are required to practice social distancing(at least 6 feet between themselves and anyone else not living in their household)

  • participants are encouraged to bring and use their own hand sanitizer

  • masks are required at all times for people aged 5 years and older; children 3-5 years old are strongly encouraged to wear masks when it is feasible

  • anyone experiencing one or more of the following should stay home:

  • feeling sick,

  • believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19,

  • having any symptoms similar to COVID-19 symptoms, or

  • waiting for a COVID-19 test result


As a reminder, here are the guidelines for getting to Phase 2:

PHASE 2 begins when DeKalb County has 2 consecutive weeks in the YELLOW ZONE*

  • church and community gatherings of up to 50 to include worship and small group church activities

  • some online option for worship continues

  • participants are required to practice social distancing(at least 6 feet between themselves and anyone else not living in their household)

  • hand sanitizer is available throughout the facility and at hands-free stations when possible

  • masks are required at all times for people aged 5 years and older; children 3-5 years old are strongly encouraged to wear masks when it is feasible; masks will be provided for anyone who arrives without one

  • anyone experiencing one or more of the following should stay home:

  • feeling sick,

  • believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19,

  • is having any symptoms similar to COVID-19 symptoms, or

  • is waiting for a COVID-19 test result· frequent hand-washing with soap for at least 20 seconds is necessary, especially after using the restroom or touching frequently used items or surfaces

  • frequently used items and surfaces will be cleaned and sanitized by our custodial service provider following building occupation

Please be patient with church staff and leadership as we live into these phases. We will not get everything right. We will make mistakes and have to take a step back to evaluate. We want you to be safe. We want to help stop the spread of COVID-19. We also understand that some will not be comfortable coming inside the church building and will offer outside activities, such as drive-in worship, when at all feasible. You may hear with very short notice that we are going to have an in-person gathering for worship. Sign-up will be required, and the window to do so may be small. Also, cancelling such an event may happen quickly if case numbers spike up again. We will do our best to stay on top of communication as we move through these phases and offer more and more opportunities to re-gather for worship, service, and growth. Remember that everything we do is to welcome all into a nurturing community of faith, to serve others, and to grow in Christ. Getting back together in-person AND making places for new folks to come into the faith community, especially in a time when so many hard things are happening in the world—it is all for the purpose of increasing our love and knowledge of God in Christ and sharing that with the world.


And one last word of gratitude: THANK YOU for being flexible and supportive throughout these last six months. I am grateful beyond measure for your steady presence, support, and nimble approach to what we are experiencing now. We have learned that we do not need a building to be the Body of Christ. We have also learned how helpful a meeting space can be. We have learned how much we love and value each other and how important community is. So take care. Be safe. Pray for each other, our community, our nation. Pray for the communities living through the fires in California, the victims of the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and any in our community and beyond who are suffering in these difficult days. We will get through it with the love and grace of Jesus Christ. We will get through it together.


With love and appreciation for you,

Susan

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Embry Hills United Methodist Church

3304 Henderson Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30341

(770) 938-0661

office@embryhillsumc.org