April 29, 2020
Good afternoon ROCC Community! I wanted to update you on our worship status, which I share with heaviness…
As you might have heard, Governor Abbott has begun the process of lifting restrictions on businesses and other organizations in Texas, beginning this weekend. I know that’s raised a lot of questions, so I wanted to share very transparently where we’re at as a leadership team. This might be more information than you care about, but I want everyone to be on the same page!
First, it’s important to remember that states are tending to be “extra gracious” in what they’re telling churches they can and can’t do right now, which has more to do with them not wanting to wade into the waters of church/state, and less about what we actually should be doing for safety. I say that to name that we will at a minimum abide by what the city and state leaders are saying, but just because we can reopen it doesn’t mean we should. We at ROCC will continue to meet virtually only for the foreseeable future… though we have no idea how long that “future” is. I want so badly to be back in-person, but what I want even more is to keep everyone healthy and safe. There have been so many stories of churches that have become “super-spreader events” – when everyone comes feeling well, then by the time one person is diagnosed, the overwhelming majority have gotten sick and some have died. I love you all too much to risk that right now.
I’ve spent the last two weeks reading everything I can find about re-opening and what that means for churches, so I wanted to share with you some of our thought process for why we aren’t doing that right now. I know some churches are beginning to re-open with limits of how many people can attend (given their worship space size), and here’s the reality of what keeping people safe means:
~ There should be NO congregational singing or special music (the virus travels further when we’re singing!)
~ A six foot distance should be kept at all times – even including elbow bumps!
~ All eating, including communion is to be avoided (if serving communion, changes to ensure safety need to be in place)
~ Restrooms should be closed (or, if it’s absolutely necessary for someone to use it, it needs to be sanitized immediately after use)
~ Because of that, it’s recommended that the service is shortened
~ No children’s classes or nurseries
~ Every other pew/row should be skipped, and every family unit/household needs to sit 6 feet apart from others. (With our space, that means that we could only allow about 15 people)
So while I absolutely am excited to be back in person – if we can’t sing, and can’t touch, and can’t have children’s classes, and can’t can’t partake in communion, and have to turn people away when the 16th person arrives, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t really feel like church!
Because of the nature of Christian worship, it is particularly difficult to meet together safely. That said, as it begins to become safer to meet together, there might be other things we could start with. Such as, continuing virtual worship, but maybe meeting in parks as shepherding groups or other small groups so we can see each other (again, the six feet of distance, no eating, and no singing would have to be maintained). Or maybe we get to the point where we can pack picnics for our own families, but sit spread apart at the park, or maybe even the parking lot at church. Or, maybe we allow a minimum number of people to gather for worship, but they watch the live-stream together instead of it happening live in the sanctuary, so music and communion could be included (though we’d still have to ask those physically gathered to not sing along!) Or we could begin letting groups of less than 10 meet for fellowship in the church building, in chairs spaced out throughout it. We’ll do what we can, when we can… and we WILL see each other again, friends!
Several weeks ago, when we knew we wouldn’t be together at Easter, I shared my vision of having a big “Easter” celebration when we can all be back together again! Looking back, it seems a little funny to think about what we “thought” things would be like just a month ago! We now know that there won’t be one day when everyone can first be together and church will be sort-of “like it was.” Re-opening will happen in waves, slowly. And that is incredibly sad – I remember telling the kids back in March that they needed to prepare themselves for things not being back to “normal” until June… and now, it’s likely to be much longer than that. And even then, it will never be “normal” the way normal was… So we’re making the best decisions we can with the information we have, which for now, is to hold off a little while longer.
I know it’s disappointing and frustrating – it is for me! – and if I can help at all with getting you set up to watch the virtual services or on Zoom, I would be happy to! Even if you can’t get on live, all the services stay up on the church’s page and can be watched any time. As a reminder, here is our Sunday schedule:
9:50am – Children’s Bible Story on Facebook Live (this is new!)
10:10am – Live Worship Video begins (you can click on it any time between 10:10-10:15 to get ready!)
10:15am – Worship service portion of the live video begins
10:50ish (immediately following worship) – Zoom Fellowship Hour
I’ve been in close contact with the board officers, elders, and pastors as we have made these decisions, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or one of them if you have any questions.
In prayer and community,
~ Pastor Sara
March 18, 2020
Good afternoon, ROCC family!
Wow… what a few days it’s been. Even since I last wrote you five days ago, it feels like everything has changed – there are more cases, more restrictions, more uncertainty, more fear. And even still, we worship a God of hope and love…
Last night the pastors and elders met online, and in consultation with the board officers, we have decided to suspend in-person worship for four weeks. As of now, we will plan on resuming worship on April 19, and will continue to assess the situation. Most current recommendations are for much longer than that, but right now there is so much we don’t know, we decided to not make decisions past four weeks. That applies to all of our activities, including the Palm Sunday Potluck and Maundy Thursday. Of course, unfortunately, that includes Easter Sunday as well. I know this is incredibly disappointing, and we will have some more information about alternative-Easter plans soon. Know that we are not taking any of this lightly, and all decisions about canceling are from a place of absolute love and hope for our congregation and community.
In the meantime, we will continue to livestream every Sunday morning and will continue to be in touch. It was so good to see so many of you online for worship last week – and I’d love to see more photos of your at-home worship space!
And of course, our rent and other bills continue to be due, and I greatly appreciate those who have already mailed in your regular giving. I will still be going to the church to check the mail and am passing those on to Anita, even though our plates are not being passed! I heard from someone that the PayPal link I sent last week didn’t work, so try this one: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?token=Q4QwdZtO6QpEPvz1DXYaKdXSHYq0ZkXkUlaLdCs42s74RuJrcc2k-mnF_Yt94nkKBsLMpW&country.x=US&locale.x=EN_US If that doesn’t work, you can go to the church website (Rollingoakscc.org) and there is a blue and red box that says “Online Giving” – you can click that box and it should take you to the correct link!
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns, and I look forward to “seeing” you in some way soon!
~ Pastor Sara
March 13, 2020
Dear ROCC Family,
I pray you are all doing well and staying healthy right now! As we’ve all watched the news unfold this week, it has been easy to feel frightened and uncertain. Information changes daily — even hourly — and we don’t know where it’s headed next.
So before anything else, I remind us all: God is always present with us, no matter where we are, no matter what is going on in the world. Take a deep breath and rest in that hope.
And even as we trust in God, we also know that God gives us wisdom and discretion, and that one of our responsibilities is to care for each other. Sometimes caring for each other looks like showing up with casseroles and shared tears; sometimes caring for each other looks like hugs to remember we aren’t alone.
Today, caring for each other looks like staying home.
Because of how quickly things are developing with COVID-19, even on a local level, we have decided to cancel in-person worship, at least for this Sunday (March 15) and possibly for the next few weeks. San Antonio has a new confirmed case, and we know that a person can be contagious for up to two weeks before showing any symptoms. Local schools have closed for all of next week. As of this morning (March 13), the San Antonio mayor’s office put out the following information:
If you are:
~ 60 and over
~ have heart, lung, or kidney disease; or diabetes
~ pregnant or were pregnant in the last two weeks
~ experiencing homelessness
Then you should:
~ not go to public gatherings of 10 or more unless it is essential
~ avoid people who are sick – even a cough
~ telecommute if you can
~ make a plan to prepare yourself if you or your family gets sick
~ know who will take care of you if your caregiver gets sick
~ talk to your doctor to have enough medication on hand
Now, just because we aren’t meeting in-person does NOT mean we stop being the Church! We will be streaming a shortened worship service at 10:15am on Sunday, so please set aside some time to log in and worship together, in the comfort of your living room! Communion will be a part of our service as always, so have ready a piece of bread and some juice (or even water!), so we can be at the “Virtual Table” together! Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, you can click this link and watch it! https://www.facebook.com/ROCC.SATX/ (There will be a box pop up telling you to login or join, but there should be a small X in the corner of that box, that you can click and it will go away!) I hope you’ll watch live on Sunday, but the service will be saved to the chruch’s Facebook page so you can watch any time after then as well.
We’re also actively making additional plans to keep us all connected as a church community, especially if this goes on for more than a week or two. Be on the lookout here and on our Facebook page for more information as available. This might look like activating phone trees, having conference calls (online or on the phone) for fellowship, Facebook Live devotionals throughout the week, and shared playlists of church music to listen to at home!
Keep checking your email and the church’s Facebook page for more information, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns — and particularly if you believe you might be infected with COVID-19.
I would also note that our rent and other bills continue to be due during this time, so if you’re able, please remember us in your finances! You can mail checks to the church, as I’ll continue to be checking the mail and passing those on, or by clicking the “Online Giving” icon on the side of this page (some of our members have automatic giving set up through PayPal, which is a secure way to give and not have to worry about forgetting!).
Finally, let us continue to pray for the sick, for those caring for them, for all our medical professionals, for our governmental leadership, and for the scientists working to develop vaccines and better tests – for wisdom, health, and safety as each needs. My prayers will continue to be with you all, and I ask for yours as well. The love of God extends far beyond the walls of ROCC, and we will continue to Be Church Together during this time.