Update on Thursday, October 8, 2020:
Lynn and Howard are grateful to have tested negative for COVID this afternoon, but they will remain in their quarantine for the required 14 days. Thank you for your prayers and concern for all the staff and their families, especially Donna and Randy.
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Dear Pierce Chapel Family,
It has finally happened! We had hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t. We were glad that until this week it hadn’t. But now it has, and we need to bring you up to speed with full disclosure.
One of our beloved Pierce Chapel staff members, Donna Pounds, and her husband, Randy, tested positive yesterday (Tuesday, October 6) for COVID-19. Randy awoke with fever, body aches, and fatigue, and they were both tested early yesterday afternoon. Donna has remained asymptomatic. They have been appropriately cautious throughout the pandemic, but we all know that this virus has often infected even the most cautious among us.
Most of our church staff, including us (Howard and Lynn), were with Donna Sunday morning for walk-through communion as well as later in the day. According to the *CDC, an “exposure” is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. Thankfully, because we followed established protocols, no one receiving communion was within 6 feet of any staff member for 15 minutes. Donna was at her spot on the piano bench, ministering from the stage, many feet away from other people. (Always the team player, Donna had volunteered to help serve supper to youth this past Sunday evening in the Youth Barn, so last night we alerted all parents of youth and all adult volunteers who were present this past Sunday evening, so that they can take proper precautions.)
Regrettably, following communion and during the Lovestream Sunday morning, Lynn was within 6 feet of Donna for more than 15 minutes. Therefore, we (Howard and Lynn) cannot pass our own “entry test” questions, and the responsible thing for us to do is to quarantine for 14 days. Though we are asymptomatic, we have appointments for a rapid test tomorrow afternoon. However, even if we test negative, we will honor our own protocols (based on *CDC guidance), which require that we not participate in activities at Pierce Chapel if we have been exposed to a COVID-positive person within the last 14 days. Doing so would only endanger the health of any who are around us, and we are simply not willing to take that risk.
Obviously, this means we will need to postpone the start of in-person worship, though we will pre-record the Lovestream (at a time when only our family members are in the building with us), and it will still be shown “live” on Sunday morning at 10AM. We will make a decision next week about whether to begin in-person worship on October 18. We regret this terribly, as does Donna, but we will follow all protocols to do as much as possible to mitigate the spread of this virus in our church family and in our community.
We realize some of you will be fully supportive and understanding of our decision to postpone in-person worship, while others may think we are being foolish. Whatever your perspective, we ask you to “look for our loving intentions,” as our HEART Principles remind us to do. Our hearts desire the best for all of you, no matter how you feel about COVID precautions. In addition, we promise to “tell you the truth with compassion.” We remain committed to transparency and honesty in all areas, but especially as it affects the health and well-being of our congregation and community. We are so grateful to Donna for her quick response, and for joining us in wanting you to know the facts so that all of us can take proper precautions. We love all of you, and we look forward to seeing you at the earliest possible opportunity.
In the meantime, what should you do? Pray for Randy and Donna, for our staff, for us, and for our congregation as we seek to be faithful even during a pandemic that has turned our world upside down. In-person worship or not, we know that God is still with us, and God is still at work in us! We encourage you to seek God with your whole heart. Be diligent in prayer, in reading and meditating on the scriptures, in reaching out to neighbors in safe ways, in seeking to know, love and serve Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Do not wait til things are “back to normal.” Let’s BE THE CHURCH NOW in every way possible.
We love you and look forward to "seeing" you on the Lovestream again this Sunday!
Howard & Lynn
September 2, 2020
Update On Our "Rolling Restart"
Good job, friends! Local conditions regarding the coronavirus pandemic are headed in the right direction, and experts are telling us that that’s a direct result of healthier behaviors on the part of all of us in this community. Kudos to everyone! The GA Department of Public Health gives us a great way to remember the three most important individual behaviors. We can call them the Three Ws.
1. Wear a mask.
2. Watch your distance (at least 6 feet).
3. Wash your hands.
Especially as we approach Labor Day and the resumption of in-person classes in the Muscogee County School District, we urge you to keep on practicing these THREE Ws. Our habits will remain crucial to controlling the spread of this virus and helping all of us resume as much of “life as we knew it” as quickly and safely as possible.
What does this mean for Pierce Chapel?
We are happy to say that according to the guidelines of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, current numbers indicate that we are on track toward Phase 1, marked by the re-opening of in-person small groups on our church campus. Training for group leaders will begin the week of September 8, and small groups can begin meeting on campus the week of September 13. These “small groups” can include anything from Bible studies to community groups to Sunday Connections classes, as long as they are 25 persons or less, with all groups practicing the prescribed protocols (including the THREE Ws) while on campus. Group leaders, let us know if your group wants to meet in-person on the church grounds! Group leaders will need to be trained by a member of our Safety & Sanitation Task Force (SSTF) so that your group can meet under the best possible conditions that we can provide. Email email@example.com to request a training opportunity as well as a space and time for your group to meet.
As urged by our public health officials, we encourage those with underlying health conditions (the “vulnerable population”) to act with great caution as you make decisions about whether to attend in-person activities at Pierce Chapel. (For more info on specific conditions, see www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/) While we would love to see you in person, we believe your health is of utmost importance.
If we all follow the Three Ws over the next few weeks (and don’t act crazy over Labor Day weekend!), we hope to remain on track to move to Phase 2 very soon, which means opening in-person worship! Our tentative plan is as follows:
October 4 - World Communion Sunday
You will have an opportunity to participate in “Walk-Through Communion” as we’ve done previously. You’ll be invited to sign up for a time to come between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. to receive Holy Communion inside the Worship Center. We’ll remind you of all the instructions later. The Lovestream will follow at 10 AM as usual.
October 11 - The TENTATIVE PLAN (unless local numbers have significantly worsened) is to begin offering an 8:30 in-person service in the Worship Center, with limited physically distanced seating (in family groups) and following all the designated protocols (including masks). Making reservations in advance will be necessary. Watch for more details as the time draws closer. Our Lovestream would continue at 10 AM, and we would aim to add an 11 AM service as soon as safely possible. Please be aware that we need to be prepared to “pull back” on some of these plans if local conditions worsen, so please DO YOUR PART to help keep numbers moving in the healthy direction!
Would you please pray for your church family? These decisions are not easy, and we don’t take them lightly. Our founder, John Wesley, directed his ministry to the whole person: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. We aim to do the same. We care about ALL aspects of ALL of you, and we trust God to create in us open, willing, loving hearts as we anticipate all that is to come. Make no mistake: God is at work in our lives, in our church, and in our world. We look forward to continuing this journey with all of you!
Lynn and Howard
August 14, 2020
Video Message from Howard & Lynn
Check out the video above to learn how Pierce Chapel leaders are making decisions about when to reopen in-person for small groups and for Sunday morning worship. The two graphs below illustrate our agreed-upon phases and corresponding "benchmarks" that will guide us about when to move from one stage to another. Questions? A member of our Safety and Sanitation Task Force (SSTF) will be glad to answer questions and address any concerns you may have. Please contact the team by emailing team member Kim MacDougall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 31, 2020
Dear Pierce Chapel Family,
We (Howard and Lynn) greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! We pray you are doing well and being diligent during these days to take care of yourself and your loved ones. These are clearly times when we need to be cautious and responsible for ourselves and each other.
We are writing to update you on where we are as a church in relation to resuming in-person, on-campus worship at Pierce Chapel. We remind you that your Administrative Council concluded in a June meeting that there would be no in-person worship at Pierce Chapel at least until August or until local community infections and hospitalizations show a 2-week decline --- with the goal of seeing a decline that would indicate we could hold services with a low risk of COVID-19 exposure. In the meantime, it was agreed that we would focus our attention on technical improvements to our “Lovestreamed” Sunday morning worship service with the goal of sharing the hope and love of Christ as widely and effectively as possible in a virtual setting.
As you are probably aware, local conditions continue to be very concerning. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 complications are very high statewide with our local hospitals at saturation levels, and rising case rates predict that COVID-positive individuals are likely to be present in any gathering with 50 people. Since many COVID-positive persons are asymptomatic (without symptoms) and unaware that they can infect others, many churches in our area have experienced outbreaks of COVID-19 from worship gatherings despite the best intentions to gather safely.
Additionally, you may have heard about the White House Coronavirus Task Force report* listing “21 red zone states.” Georgia is among the listed states with Columbus among the top 12 metropolitan red zone areas in our state. Last week the White House Task Force made the following recommendations to address the situation in Georgia.
Wear a mask at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance.
Limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer.
Do not go to bars, nightclubs, or gyms.
Use takeout or eat outdoors socially distanced.
Protect anyone with serious medical conditions at home by social distancing at home and using High levels of personal hygiene, including handwashing and cleaning surfaces.
Reduce your public interactions and activities to 25% of your normal activity.
In keeping with our commitment to safety and with respect for these recommendations regarding reduced social gatherings, we will not meet for in-person worship in early August, but your Administrative Council will meet virtually on Monday, August 10, and will revisit this issue to assess local conditions at that time. Our Administrative Council and our very dedicated Safety and Sanitation Task Force (SSTF, a sub-team of the Trustees which meets weekly to monitor local conditions and design protocols for our anticipated "rolling restart") will give us guidance as we move into the later part of August and September.
Would you pray for us? For your Administrative Council and SSTF? For your pastors? For your church staff? For your church family?
We are in fairly regular contact with other churches in our community and have watched some open up briefly only to close back down after one or two weeks because of the appearance of COVID-19 infections and the need to isolate. We hope to avoid that roller coaster ride.
In a recent Zoom meeting with other local pastors, I (Howard) commented that one thing I’ve learned in this process is just how strong and resilient the Church is. The Bride of Christ will not go away. It will change when change is needed and adjust to challenges it faces. But it will not be defeated because the victory has already been won. When we gather, by whatever means that may be, we gather to celebrate that victory. So we urge you to resist being consumed with discouragement. Look for simple ways to reach out to others with love and care. Be patient and faithful, and allow God to do whatever He wants to do with this time and with His Church. It all belongs to Him. We will continue to be the Church in every way possible.
God bless you!
Howard and Lynn
*For additional information on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, search for “Coronavirus Task Force Red Zone Report” dated July 26, 2020.
July 1, 2020
Have you heard of a COVID Traffic Light?
Imagine 3 different groups of people and how they view COVID:
Red Light - Stop
Those who are not ready to return to church because they believe it is not safe for them to do so; they are continuing to shelter in place as much as possible.
Yellow Light - Proceed with caution
Those who are cautious about getting out and will make some careful choices about what is worth the risk; they will return to church but perhaps not immediately.
Green Light - Go
Those who are ready to return to church immediately and would return without worries.
Dear Pierce Chapel Friends,
No question about it --- we are a “traffic light church”! That means that we have all three colors of lights represented at Pierce Chapel, and we know that so many of you are yearning to return to church inside the walls of our beautiful building. Our hearts hurt that we cannot open our doors wide right now! Even with all three "lights" represented in the virtual meeting held on June 22, your Administrative Council (Pierce Chapel's governing body) made the decision not to re-open for large group worship during the month of July as we had considered doing. Of great concern are the increasing numbers in Muscogee County of coronavirus-positive cases as well as hospitalizations. Just today (July 1), a representative from Piedmont Hospitals commented in a phone meeting, "We hit another record number of hospital admissions last night..." Calling it a "sobering trend," he concluded, "Things are manageable, but it is a serious time for our community right now as we approach another holiday weekend." Given the current local conditions and the restrictions we would need to abide by (including 6-foot social distancing, wearing masks, no singing, a relatively small number of worshipers allowed, etc.), the Administrative Council felt that for the health and well-being of our congregation and community, it would be wisest to postpone our first in-person worship service until at least the first week in August. We will re-evaluate in a few weeks and keep you informed as fully as possible.
In the meantime, please tune in to the weekly #Lovestream on Sunday mornings at 10AM as well as our Wednesday evening Refuel messages. (Our Sunday AM services are now available on YouTube as well as Facebook!) Thank you for being the kind of church where what pours out of us at times like these are NOT frustration and impatience, grumbling or complaining, but rather the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) --- the evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, unhindered by the constraints of a pandemic.
We love you and are praying for you,
Howard and Lynn
Saturday, April 18, 2020
30-Day Prayer Challenge
Prayer Challenge Beginning April 19!
In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, many of you have asked, "How can we help?" One way we can all help is to pray. It requires no skill, no safety risks, no human-to-contact---just heart-to-heart contact from your heart straight to the heart of God. God is listening. God is merciful. God has invited us to pray.
We challenge you to join your hearts with many others for this 30-Day Prayer Challenge starting Sunday, April19. May our prayers rise together for the healing of our world!
Printable PDF Calendars are available HERE.
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Dear Pierce Chapel Family,
We’re thankful so many of you were able to worship with us via Facebook Live on Sunday. If you missed it, you can still see it! Go to piercechapel.com and click on the “Watch Livestream Worship” link on the homepage. (You do NOT have to have a Facebook account to access it once it's posted to our website.)
As we watch the fast-changing developments related to COVID-19, we will keep you updated on what we’re doing at Pierce Chapel to support efforts to limit the risk for all, especially those most vulnerable (anyone over 60 and anyone with underlying health conditions).
HELP IS AVAILABLE
Pierce Chapel is full of kind people! If you cannot or should not get out to get groceries or prescriptions or supplies — or if you need an errand run — we have loving people ready and willing to assist you! Also, if you need any medical grade (N95) masks or CPAP supplies (masks, filters, hoses, etc.), let us know. (Some kind church members have offered these items.) Please email email@example.com to let us know you need assistance or supplies. This is the Body of Christ in action, loving and serving one another.
Yesterday Bishop Bryan asked all South GA UM churches to suspend all in-person services and activities at least through the end of March. Of course we will comply with that directive and make decisions based on the guidance of health professionals and governmental authorities. For now, we will livestream a Sunday 10 AM service, as we did this past Sunday, and we will reevaluate at the end of the month.
Church office hours will be modified for the next few weeks. (A number of our staff members have children who are not in school at this time.) We expect to be able to staff the office from 9:00-1:00 Monday-Friday, but please call before you come to make sure someone is there (706-327-9807, ext. 1). Feel free to email any of us, and we will respond as quickly as possible: Howard@piercechapel.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
We urge you to continue faithful financial stewardship during this time. You may give online at piercechapel.com, use the GivePlus app, mail a check to the church (5122 Pierce Chapel Road, Midland, GA 31820), or use our new mail slot that Rick Dorer graciously installed on the side door nearest the driveway at the church office.
Please continue to pray for all who are affected by this crisis, including these:
All who are ill with COVID-19 and the medical personnel treating them.
Children who will go without food and other services because of school closings. (We've asked Open Door and Fox to let us know if we can be of assistance helping children get access to meals during this time.)
The elderly and residents of nursing homes and senior living facilities who are isolated and cut off from family and friends.
Those whose jobs and incomes will be negatively impacted.
Please take good care of yourselves and each other. Call others to check on them (especially our older and more isolated members), and let us know of anyone who may need assistance. Continue to look for messages and updates via email and on our website.
We love you all,
Lynn and Howard
PS: Take time to meditate on Psalm 46. Be still, and know that He is God.
Saturday, March 14, 2020 - 5:00 p.m.
Dear Pierce Chapel Family,
After learning this afternoon of Gov. Kemp’s request that churches and similar entities not hold services (see article below), and after a call from our District Superintendent, Steve Patton, recommending that all churches in our district comply with the governor's request, we have decided to cancel physical attendance at all worship services and activities tomorrow, March 15, 2020, at Pierce Chapel UMC. We will, however, be livestreaming one 10:00 service via Facebook. More background information will be given at that time concerning this decision and more will be communicated about how we will go forward in the coming weeks.
As followers of Christ and citizens of this nation, we will work in concert with public health officials and all our governmental authorities as they work diligently to care for the common good, especially the most vulnerable among us. As we asked you to do in the email we sent last Thursday, please continue to be preventive, practical and prayerful in your response to this health crisis in our nation and world.
Please help us get this message out to the congregation and community in any way that you can. It will appear shortly on social media and on our website. We hope to have many of you join us tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. via Facebook Live.
We love you and are praying with you and for you,
Howard and Lynn
Excerpt from an article in the Gainesville (GA) Times earlier today:
Gov. Brian Kemp is declaring a statewide public health emergency effective Saturday, March 14....Following President Trump’s national emergency declaration, Kemp issued the following statement:
"Based on President Trump's emergency declaration, I will declare a public health emergency for the State of Georgia tomorrow morning. This declaration will greatly assist health and emergency management officials across Georgia by deploying all available resources for the mitigation and treatment of COVID-19."
Kemp also called on churches and 'similar entities' to cancel public events and services and urged elderly residents and those with otherwise compromised immune systems or health problems to follow recommendations for preventing transmission of the disease.
"Continue to support one another, be mindful of potential exposure, use best practices to prevent infection, and pray for your fellow Americans in the weeks ahead," Kemp said in the statement.
Thursday, March 12, 2020
PIERCE CHAPEL CORONAVIRUS PRECAUTIONS
Preventive - Practical - Prayerful
To increase safety and reduce anxiety for our guests, members, and staff, we are encouraging that we all practice these preventive, practical, and prayerful* measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. No events or services are being canceled at this time; however, this is an evolving situation. We will remain flexible and follow the guidance of local, state, and federal health authorities as well as our South Georgia Conference.
GREETING: Instead of the traditional handshake, we encourage you to greet one another with an elbow-bump or a friendly wave.
CHILDREN’S AREAS: Our children’s/nursery areas are being carefully cleaned with special attention given to sanitizing toys, surfaces and supplies more frequently.
COMMUNION: We will modify the way we offer communion to enhance the safety of all participants. More info to come later.
HAND SANITIZER: Though in short supply, we will make every effort to have hand sanitizer readily available at church.
ATTENDANCE: Please stay home if you do not feel well, and certainly if you are coughing, sneezing, or running fever. If you have underlying health conditions that would cause you to be more vulnerable, please consider staying home. If you have access to Facebook, we hope you’ll worship with us via livestream on Pierce Chapel’s Facebook page.
The most effective ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus and respiratory infections, including flu, are:
Stay home when you are ill.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve or a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw away the tissue immediately and wash your hands.
The world is watching a dangerous virus spread. While this can lead to fear and anxiety, as Christians, we want to be prayerful and lean into our faith. What a great opportunity to share with a hurting world the hope we have in Christ. Consider these prayer points as you pray during the days ahead:
Pray for researchers who are working diligently to develop a vaccine.
Pray for doctors, nurses and other caregivers who are on the front lines.
Pray for healing for those currently fighting the virus.
Pray for the Church in affected areas as they minister to the hurting.
Pray for peace in the midst of our fears.
Consider these words of Scripture as we listen for God’s voice:
1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
Matthew 6:34 (words of Jesus)
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Join us in praying as a congregation:
Eternal God, we thank you for your presence with us through all seasons of life. In the midst of anxiety and fear, help us care for ourselves and each other with love and compassion. Teach us to put our trust in you as we face an uncertain future. Remind us that our hope is in you, and help us be channels of grace and light to a hurting and anxious world. In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.
We love you and are praying with you,
Howard and Lynn
*3 categories patterned after info shared by Christ Church (UMC) in Memphis