COVID-19 Update

A Message from Pastor Jay Shailer

Hello Friends!

Last week we promised that we would let you know how the new (and unexpected) COVID and mask guidelines would affect our life together as a congregation.
 
Of course, if we’ve learned nothing else in the last 14 months, we’ve learned that all of our plans need to be labeled as “tentative.” The situation can shift suddenly. So please recognize that these decisions may need to be shifted depending on the circumstances.
 
Please understand that regardless of the lifting of these limitations, Epiphany will continue to encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated to wear masks for their own personal safety and for the safety of children and others who are unable to be vaccinated.
 
Effective immediately, we will drop the worship guidelines and COVID restrictions for indoor and outdoor worship services.
 
  • Masks will be optional for those attending worship, ministries and events.
  • Seating configurations will return to normal, and physical distancing restrictions will be removed.
  • Masks will be optional for musicians who are leading worship.
  • The staff will continue to wear masks in the church building WHERE the Preschool and Morning Care programs are in session. We encourage others to do the same around our young people.
  • Hand sanitizer and masks will continue to be made available at worship entrances.
 
Stay tuned for further changes to be communicated in the future. As we gradually start back other ministries, please contact staff before making plans to restart. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Worship Changes Beginning May 16

A Message from Pastor Jay Shailer

 
Happy Easter, Christ is Risen!
 
It’s been a spirit-filled season of resurrection. Thank you all for making the celebration of the empty tomb so powerful and inspiring in worship these last six weeks. I am humbled by the outpouring of help by volunteers to keep worship possible, as well as our staff, who have continued their excellence by using their gifts to ensure that worship at Epiphany is meaningful and focused on giving thanks and praise to Christ.
 
I want to thank you all for being so understanding and willing to adapt through this period of pandemic. It has not been easy, and it has not been the way in which we want to live out our calling to share the Gospel. Yet, through your grace and support, we have been able to continue to keep the heart of our identity intact through live streaming and in-person health measures.
 
While we are not finished with all measures to ensure the safety of our congregation, through the vaccination efforts of our community and new guidance from the government, we will be able to relax some worship restrictions. I want to remind you all that your safety is important to us, and we continue to ask that you evaluate worship opportunities to make sure you and your family are comfortable and safe. The live stream at 10:30 a.m. is a permanent fixture of our worship life, and it will always be available if you are unable to be present in person. We are excited to continue to work towards opening worship back up in new ways and hope that we will see you soon in worship.

Here’s the news on worship starting May 16:
 
For all services:
  • We continue to alternate the contemporary praise and traditional services between the 9 and 10:30 a.m. services.
  • Reservations will no longer be required.
  • We will no longer check your temperature before entering worship.
  • Bulletins will be provided.
  • We will continue the communion cup/wafer combo we’ve been using, and we will continue to bring communion to you.
  • We will not yet pass the offering plate, which will remain at the entrance/exit. We continue to encourage online giving.
  • We will no longer transmit services on FM to the parking lot.
  • We will continue to limit bathroom use to two people at a time.
  • We will continue to use hand sanitizer stations placed at both indoor and outdoor worship services.

This Sunday, May 16, we move the 9 a.m. service to the Outdoor Chapel.
  • If you are fully vaccinated, masks will not be required for outdoor worship.
  • We ask that people continue to observe physical distancing between households/families as much as possible.
  • We will post a notification to social media and website homepage if the service will be moved inside for inclement weather.

Indoor worship continues in the Far Hills Sanctuary at 10:30 a.m.
  • Masks are still required indoors.
  • We ask that people continue to observe physical distancing between households/families by finding a seat behind the numbers in the pews.
  • Hymnals will be placed in the pews.
  • Singing will be permitted with a mask.
  • We will not have overflow seating in the Celebration Center, as the space is prepared for the summer musical.

Livestreaming continues at 10:30 a.m.
  • As always, we value your health and wellbeing, and we want you to worship in person only if you feel comfortable.
  • We encourage you to worship from home if you or someone in your family is not feeling well, are exhibiting symptoms, have conditions that put you at risk, or if you just don’t feel comfortable worshiping in person just yet.
  • We will no longer email bulletins on Fridays, but the bulletin will continue to be posted on our website Friday afternoons.


In Person Worship Returns March 7

A MESSAGE FROM PASTOR JAY SHAILER
 
Good News! I am excited to announce that Epiphany will resume in-person worship at the Far Hills Campus starting March 7.
 
Epiphany’s congregational council, along with the guidance of local health and medical professionals, has determined that it is possible for us to worship together using the health guidelines that were developed in the fall of last year. As always, we value your health and wellbeing, and we want you to be able to come back only if you feel comfortable. Please know that we will continue to livestream the 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship service, and we will continue to offer individual times for communion throughout the week if you are not yet ready to come back on Sunday.
 
We will communicate the health guidelines that we used previously in the coming days. We will also begin in-person worship by using the online reservation system, which will open Tuesday afternoon, March 2.
 
One addition to last fall is that we will have the Celebration Center open and available for overflow. The service will be streamed into the Celebration Center, and you will be able to receive Holy Communion along with those in the Sanctuary.
 
I would also like to share that we do not want anyone to let their guard down too early as we move back toward public worship. While we strongly feel it is safe to worship together using our guidelines, if you continue to gather offsite for small group or breakfast after worship, please be safe and look out for each other as we are our brother’s keeper.
 

We have missed you all dearly and look forward to worshiping our Lord Jesus with you all very soon!

 

Peace, Pr. Jay


Shift to Online Worship Only

A Message from Pastor Charlie, Pastor Jay, Terri Quick

 
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
 
Do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
 
-Isaiah 41:10
 
Grace, peace and mercy be multiplied to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
 
The message of the angels, the prophets and Jesus, himself, throughout scripture is important for us to hear in the midst of everything else we are hearing: Do not be afraid. God is with you. God is with us! We will get through this together.
 
This is the same message we shared eight months ago, in mid-March, when we shut down in-person worship. We have been able to open our doors again for worship in a safe manner, but over the last few weeks, the number of COVID cases have skyrocketed.
 
Montgomery County Health Department has issued a stay-at-home health advisory until mid-December for the county. Pastor Jay and I met with the Congregation Council officers Wednesday evening, and we all agree that what is best for the care and well-being of the congregation is to shut down in-person worship. As much as this is a difficult decision, and one we wish we didn’t have to make, we feel the call to do what is best for our neighbor is to shut back down.
 
Again, as I shared back in March, your pastors and staff continue to field questions you might have. We are keeping up with news from our health officials as well as the Southern Ohio Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for guidance and direction moving forward.
 
At Epiphany, “We Love Jesus by Serving Others.” As Bishop Eaton would say, while we should practice physical distance, with today’s technology we can still connect socially and compassionately. We encourage all Christians to put love of neighbor first.
 
Worship will continue to be online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Starting November 29, we will be live streaming from the Far Hills Sanctuary. Thank you to our amazing Stream Team for putting things together, and all who gave to the streaming fund. We are excited about the upgrades to the technology.
 
We give thanks to God for you for your support of the ministry and mission of Epiphany. Your generosity has been amazing, and we thank you for that. We ask that you continue to support Epiphany through your regular giving.
 
We encourage you to reach out to your neighbor in safe ways. We invite you to participate in the Adopt A Family program as one way of carrying out our mission of loving others.
Hear again God’s word to us today: Do not be afraid.
 
God’s love is always with us. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have the gift and promise of new life. That is the promise of the Gospel. That is what we will continue to proclaim.
If you have any questions, please contact us.
 
Peace,
Pastor Charlie
Pastor Jay
Terri Quick – Council President


In-Person Worship Suspended

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Grace, peace and mercy be multiplied to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

God bless you all for your notes and calls and emails and texts. We miss being together!

Last week we received this mailing from Bishop Dillahunt of the Southern Ohio Synod:

Dear Partners on this Journey,

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”  – Matthew 22:36-40

Last week, Governor Mike DeWine unveiled a new ‘Public Health Advisory System’ created by the Ohio Department of Health based on several key indicators the team has been tracking during the pandemic. According to the ODH Coronavirus website, ‘The Public Health Advisory Alert System is a color-coded system designed to supplement existing statewide orders through a data-driven framework to assess the degree of the virus’ spread and to engage and empower individuals, businesses, communities, local governments, and others in their response and actions.’

So, as good Lutherans, we ask, ‘What does this mean?’ It means we are in a new phase of the pandemic in which, as Governor DeWine said, we are ‘living with COVID’ and need to adjust our daily lives and worship gatherings accordingly.

Currently, Butler, Franklin, Hamilton and Montgomery counties are listed at a Level 3. Governor DeWine recommends that congregations in counties at a Level 3 should worship online and limit in-person gatherings. This is a recommendation, not a mandate. Your pastor(s) and leadership team should work together to decide what is the most loving response for your congregation in light of the Public Health Advisory level in your county.
 

Because of this recommendation, we will suspend outdoor worship offerings until things begin to trend in the right direction and Montgomery County returns to Level 1 or 2.

I believe this is the right thing to do. While frustrating, the safety and health of members and staff are our priority.

Please know that we will continue to offer online streaming every week with the same rotation of one week contemporary/praise and the following week traditional.

We hope to be able to worship in person again soon.

The Public Health Advisory Alert System is to be updated each week on Thursday. When the level in Montgomery County returns to Level 1 or 2, we will begin the process of preparing for the return of in-person worship, which will take a few days to put into motion. 

Thank you again for your understanding. I invite any questions you might have.

Continue to join us for online worship every Sunday at 10:30 am. Stay connected with the daily devotions that I write for each day. And reach out to your brothers and sisters in Christ and check in on one another.

God bless you all!

 

Peace,

Pastor Charlie



In-Person Worship Returns

  • ONLINE WORSHIP WILL continue EVERY SUNDAY at 10:30 a.m. 
  • OUTDOOR WORSHIP will begin June 21 at 9 a.m. at the Far Hills Campus and continue through the summer.
  • OUTDOOR WORSHIP will begin June 28 at 9 a.m. at the Austin Campus and continue through the summer.
Yes, both outdoor services will happen at the same time.
 
These outdoor services will be communion services. There will places to sit in the pavilion, on the lawn (bring your chairs and tailgate tents), or IN YOUR CARS, as we will have an FM broadcast available.
 
Each week a praise service will be offered at one campus and a traditional service at the other. The following week we will switch.
 
Because we use electronics, weather is an issue. IF we have a passing shower at 9 a.m., worship may be delayed a few minutes. IF there is considerable rain and it is not safe to worship, the outdoor service will be canceled for that day. This will be a game-time decision!
 
Next week, we will share all the details for what to expect and how it will all happen.
 
EVERYONE is welcome to come to worship. Those with a compromised immune system or a member of a high-risk group or those who are not yet comfortable being present in a group setting are invited to continue to watch the live stream service, or worship with the drive-in option.
 
Online worship will continue but will change in format. Instead of a blended offering, one week will be a traditional service and the following week will be a praise service.


Protocol for In-Person Worship

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
 
Grace, peace and mercy be multiplied to you from God Our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
 
Together with my fellow pastors, staff and council members, I wish you God’s blessings and express my deepest thanks for your patience, prayers and support in these uncharted times. We are very thankful for the gifts of technology that have given us opportunities for worship and education, fellowship and care. While we have had some hiccups along the way, we learn as we go, thankful for God’s forgiveness and grace (and yours too!).
 
The staff and church council officers have been meeting weekly, and the full church council has been meeting monthly to monitor our efforts and make plans for in-person worship, when that time comes. Yet the more we discuss it, the more we realize worship will not look or feel the same in many ways for quite some time. Together with colleagues from across the country, I have been in conversations and meetings about what we can and cannot do, what we should and should not do, and when it might be safe to step forward. We have listened to bishops, doctors, scientists, government and health officials and each other. We will continue to do so. Read more…


Worship and Ministry Updates

Dear Church,
 
Thank you for your continued support of the mission and ministry of Epiphany.
 
While we cannot be together physically, I continue to hear from many of you, offering words and prayers of support for our efforts. I am thankful for the technology we have, so that we can reach out through our weekly worship, weekly Bible Study and daily devotions. A new Bible Study offering is coming next week – more information can be found below.
 
SUPPORTING THE MINISTRY
 
Thank you for your financial support as well. Many of you have turned to online givingtexting to give, and setting up regular giving through your bank accounts. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
 
I know that many of you are experiencing financial constraints due to job furloughs and lay-offs as well as the impact this crisis has had on savings and portfolios. If there is a need to reduce your giving, we understand.
 
We continue to support the staff of Epiphany, who have shifted their responsibilities to focus on what we can. Read more…


Worship and Building Closure

Epiphany’s buildings at both campuses, and fields at the Austin Campus, are closed until further notice.
 
Epiphany will not hold public worship services, but we will live stream the 10:30 a.m. service each Sunday on our YouTube Channel.
 
Epiphany Lutheran Preschool is closed through April 5. Contact Director Heather Phillips with questions.
 
Epiphany’s Morning Care is closed through April 5. Contact Director Tonya Johns with questions.
 
Do not fear, for I am with you,
    do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
 
–Isaiah 41:10


Early Protocols for Coronavirus

Because we care, I want to take a moment to cover the topic of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) as it affects our church community.
The Ohio Department of Health recommends the following precautions. 
 
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Avoid contact with people who are sick.
• Get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals.
• Wash hands often with soap and water (20 seconds or longer).
• Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry your hands.
• Cover cough with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands or after touching surfaces.
• Clean and disinfect ‘high-touch’ surfaces often.
• Call before visiting your doctor.
• Practice good hygiene habits.


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