Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates

Your physical and spiritual health are important to Epiphany Lutheran Church. We’re using this page to share status updates about Epiphany’s response to the situation. 
 

May 28, 2020

 
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.
 
Before I go any further, I give you my word that these are my guiding principles:
 
  1. The reason I am a pastor and the reason we exist as a church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have continued to do this throughout these challenging days. That will not change.
  2. The safety and well-being of the members and visitors and participants of worship and activities at Epiphany Lutheran Church facilities, and off-site activities associated with Epiphany Lutheran Church, will guide every decision we make.
 
In addition to these two items, we will consider legally-binding orders, recommendations from health officials, recommendations from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Southern Ohio Synod office, insurer loss-control recommendations and our insurance policy, and phased approaches to opening of businesses and community activities in our state and country.
 
It is also important to note that each congregation is different. As congregations around our community and across the country make plans to open, each congregation must take into consideration many factors, including amount of space, number of congregants, age and health of the congregation, worship practices and more.
 
To plan for worship in person again, we have established several phases, as well as many protocols to be followed so that worship is as safe as possible for all who attend.
I shared this information with church council last Thursday, and we unanimously agreed that we will continue to remain closed, and we will continue to monitor the situation to determine when it will be prudent and safe to open once again.
 
When that time comes, here are the protocols we are considering:
 
PROTOCOL FOR WORSHIP AT EPIPHANY LUTHERAN CHURCH
 
Congregants 65 and older and those with a compromised immune system or are considered to be in a high-risk group will be encouraged to watch the live stream from home. Also, those who are not yet comfortable being present in a group setting will be encouraged to join in our live streaming worship offerings.
 
  1. Congregants will make reservations online. Reservations will be limited at each service.
  2. Face coverings that cover the mouth and nose will be required for everyone age 2 and older. Congregants will be asked to bring their own mask. Masks will be available on site for those who come without. No one will be permitted to attend worship without a face covering.
  3. Congregants will be requested to arrive early.
  4. All doors will be propped open so congregants can avoid opening and closing doors.
  5. All spaces will be clearly marked with a 6 ft radius of other family units/people.
  6. All unnecessary items in worship spaces have been removed to avoid cross contamination, including hymnals, bibles, envelopes and pens.
  7. A large receptacle will be available for congregants to place offering envelopes. All congregants will be encouraged to either give online or text to give.
 
During Worship
 
  1. All staff and worship servers will wear a face covering that covers the nose and mouth. Staff and worship servers will be instructed to avoid touching their face and instructed on proper hand washing techniques.
  2. X’s will be placed on the ground both inside and outside to mark locations for maintaining a safe physical distance. Ushers and greeters will encourage congregants to abide by the six-foot physical distance.
  3. A worship server will be available in the parking lot to direct congregants upon arrival and at dismissal.
  4. Congregants will be checked in by door greeters, who will check temperature and well-being of those attending.
  5. Seating arrangements, benches and pews will be clearly labeled so ushers can direct congregants to a specific area.
  6. Congregants will be asked to limit bathroom use. Bathrooms will be limited to one family at a time.
  7. High touch surfaces will be cleaned before, during and after all worship services. Surfaces will be cleaned with a CDC-registered disinfectant.
  8. Pastors will come to the congregants to serve communion.
  9. Congregants will be dismissed one family group/person at a time and will be encouraged to practice physical distancing of six feet.
  10. Because of the nature of the virus, congregational singing and liturgical responses will not be included in worship at this time.
  11. Congregants will be encouraged to exit immediately upon being dismissed.
  12. Meetings in the building or parking lot will not be permitted.
  13. NO COFFEE OR DONUTS!
 
Post Worship
 
  1. Worship spaces will remain untouched for three days, and until all hard surfaces are cleaned with a CDC-registered disinfectant. All soft surfaces will be sprayed with a CDC-registered disinfectant and bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected with a CDC-registered disinfectant.
  2. The gathering spaces will be cleaned by wiping down all hard surfaces with a CDC-registered disinfectant and all soft surfaces will be sprayed with a CDC-registered disinfectant. Special attention will be given to high-touch surfaces.
  3. Trash will be removed from worship and gathering spaces by staff or worship servers. Staff and worship servers will be instructed to wear gloves while handling any trash and to follow the proper hand washing technique after discarding the waste.
 
 
PHASED RETURN FOR WORSHIP
 
As of today, Epiphany Lutheran Church remains closed. That includes all worship and other activities in and outside our buildings, including the soccer and baseball fields and volleyball court at the Austin Campus.
 
Our first step to returning will be worship, and that will happen in phases. Each phase will take into consideration the exhaustive list stated above, as well as a review of the processes in the current phase before we proceed.
 
Each phase will be an addition to the one before.
 
ALL phases up to the complete reopening will follow the protocol listed above.
 
Guidelines for activities and programs outside of worship will come at a later date.
 
Phase 1
Live streaming worship
Zoom education and fellowship activities
Limited staff office time
Building cleaning and maintenance
 
Phase 2
Outdoor Chapel worship
Limited seating in pavilion
Lawn seating (tailgate tents will be welcomed)
Short-range radio broadcast for those who wish to stay in their cars
 
Phase 3
Worship in the Far Hills Celebration Center
 
Phase 4
Worship in the Far Hills Sanctuary
 
Phase 5
Worship at the Austin Campus
 
Phase 6
Back to normal?
 
 
This is what we know. What we don’t know yet is when. We don’t know what the worship times will be. We don’t know how many people will be allowed to be in each worship space.
 
Finally, please note that this is new territory for all of us. Because of that, things change rapidly. The more we know, the better the decisions we can make.
 
We ask for your patience and grace as we continue to move forward.
 
As always, I welcome your comments and questions.
 
Thank you for your continued support of our mission and ministry together.
 
Peace,
 
Pastor Charlie

May 7, 2020

 
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 giving, texting 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. Many are making phone calls to members of the congregation to check in. Materials and meetings for our children, youth and their families continue. I have been invited to an “Ask the Pastor” event for our youth this weekend (wish me luck!). Others of our staff are keeping the church cleaned and prepped for the time we get back together (more on that below). And still others are busy working to make sure we can provide online resources for worship and study.
 
As faithful stewards of all God has given to us, the Church Council approved, and we applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). We received notice earlier this week that we are approved. The PPP will augment any lost loose offerings and fill in the gaps for anyone who has decreased their giving because they have lost their job as a result of this pandemic, and it will provide support in the coming months as we find ourselves in this time apart.
 
WORSHIP AND OTHER ACTIVITIES
 
We will continue to worship solely via live-streaming through the month of May. Worship and other gatherings at Epiphany will continue to adhere to current “stay-at-home orders” and numbers for group gatherings. These gatherings include any and all events at the church facilities, as well as gatherings of groups as an Epiphany sanctioned function, such as a small group or picnic or party. While we cannot mandate what members do outside of the functions of the church, our policies for church events and worship will be the same across the board.
 
The exact date when we will provide worship in our buildings and other gatherings has not yet been set. This decision is being discussed by the pastors and church council together, with careful consideration of the following:
 
  • The safety of the community and congregation
  • Recommendations from health officials
  • Recommendations from the synod office
  • Guidelines put forward by the State of Ohio and federal government
 
When the day comes that we are able to gather for worship and events, we will phase in slowly and carefully. There are many details to clarify, including the safe number and spacing of worshipers, cleaning before and after services, offering plates, bulletins, communion, singing, and more.
 
Again, we ask your patience in this. Together with my fellow pastors, church council and staff, we are committed to the safety and well-being of others. When we do come forward with a plan for each phase of getting back together, I ask that you look at the items put forward not as restrictions, but as safety measures. These measures will be foundational in carrying out our mission of Loving Jesus by Serving Others.
 
As we make plans and set times and guidelines, I will continue to share them with you. More updates to come!
 
In the meantime, let us continue to pray for each other, reach out to each other, and support each other as God has given us the ability.
 
CARE FOR OTHERS
 
Currently, our Pantry is closed. The close quarters of that space and the concern for the safety of our volunteers caused us to halt the ministry for the time being. If and when needs arise, the pastors are able to address those with the resources we have on hand. And we do have many who are willing to help if help is needed.
 
In the meantime, I encourage you to support the agencies that are open and need assistance. Great work is being done by our neighbors. Let us support them as we are able. At this time, all area agencies are seeking financial support only.
 
ELCA Covid-19 support is another area to which you can give. Through online giving, gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response can be designated for COVID-19, and you can also give to COVID-19 Response on the ELCA website.
 
WEEKLY ACTIVITIES
 
In addition to weekly online services on Epiphany’s YouTube Channel, there are additional ways to stay connected.
 
  • NEW! Weekly Bible Study – Wednesdays beginning May 13 at 11 a.m., all are welcome to a ZOOM Bible Study. I will lead a discussion on the Gospel lesson for the upcoming Sunday. Materials and directions will be coming to you early next week.
  • NEW! Prayers from the Porch – Beginning next week on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m., join me on my back porch for a short service of scripture, reflection, prayer and song. This will be coming to you every Wednesday on Epiphany’s YouTube Channel and will be available any time after that. This will replace the weeknight evening prayer services, which will end tomorrow, Friday, May 8.
  • Alone in the Wilderness Together – Daily devotions will continue to be sent by email, plus posted on our Facebook page and on our website.
  • Stop and Pray Every Day at 3:17 p.m. – Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to join us in prayer together at the same time every day. It’s always good to take time to pray!
 
Again, thank you for your support and partnership in ministry. I welcome your comments and questions. I miss worshiping with you and visiting with you in person. We know that day is coming again. Until then, peace be with you.
 
Peace,
 

Wednesday, March 18, Noon

Pastors begin an online, midweek, midday study called Get Together in the Middle on Wednesdays at Noon on Epiphany’s YouTube Channel at youtube.com/c/EpiphanyDayton
 
Pastors announce that Epiphany will follow the advice of the Southern Ohio Synod by not meeting for worship for eight weeks. The buildings will remain closed for the eight-week time-frame. 

Friday, March 13, 1:30 p.m.

Epiphany’s Worship and Building Closure in Response to COVID-19

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

Thursday, March 12, 1 p.m.

Morning Care Plan for Potential School Closing

 

Good Afternoon,

There is a lot of uncertainty right now about what the school districts will do regarding the COVID-19 virus. Our plan at Morning Care is to follow Centerville City Schools. If Centerville Schools close due to the virus, Morning Care will close.

We will continue to pay our Morning Care teachers. If you are so moved, we would welcome any donations to help defer the cost of their wages.

While we are still in session, please know that we are doing our best to clean and disinfect daily, and as needed throughout the day. We continue to practice and teach proper handwashing, and we ask that children who are sick do not attend.

Obviously, this is not an ideal situation, however, we will stick to our policy and follow Centerville City School’s lead. We pray for good health for all our staff, students and their families. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Thank you in advance for your understanding.

 

Tonya Johns

Director, Epiphany Lutheran Morning Care

937-750-6317

www.epiphanydayton.org

Thursday, March 12, 10:30 a.m.

Epiphany Lutheran Preschool Plan for Potential School Closing

 

Good Morning,

There is a lot of uncertainty right now about what the school districts will do regarding the COVID-19 virus. Our plan at ELP is to follow Centerville City Schools. If Centerville Schools close due to the virus, ELP will close.

We will continue to pay our preschool teachers, therefore billing will occur as usual. However, after we know how many days we were not in attendance, you can ask for your tuition to be prorated.

While we are still in session, please know that we are doing our best to clean and disinfect daily and as needed throughout the day. We continue to practice and teach proper handwashing, and we ask that children who are sick do not attend.

Obviously this is not an ideal situation, however, we will stick to our policy and follow Centerville’s lead. We pray for good health for all of our staff, students and their families. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Thank you in advance for your understanding.

 

Heather Phillips

Director, Epiphany Lutheran Preschool

937-433-8715

www.epiphanydayton.org

Thursday, March 5, 6 a.m.

Protocols for the 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. Click HERE to download a PDF of these precautions. Please share them with your loved ones.
 
• 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.
It is also recommended to get the flu vaccine if you have not already done so as the flu can mimic symptoms of the Coronavirus.
For Epiphany worship services and other gatherings:
• • When greeting each other and passing the peace, let’s refrain from shaking hands.
• If you are serving communion, please wash your hands before the service, in addition to using the antibacterial before serving.
• If you are ill, please stay home.
• If you are unable to make it to worship services, please watch live on Epiphany’s YouTube channel.
• If you are unable to make it to a worship service, you may also continue to give while you’re away.
• Give Online
• Give+ Text
• Mail a check.

For more information, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/.
Or the Ohio Department of Health at https://odh.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/odh/know-our-programs/Novel-Coronavirus/2019-nCoV.
 

 

Pastor Charlie Woodward, Senior Pastor

www.epiphanydayton.org