Church Update on Covid-19 and In-Person Services

Dear Church Families:

We pray that you are all doing well. We wanted to take a minute and update everyone on the latest combined Church Council meeting and on progress of moving toward possible in-person church services. In our previous letter, we shared that the Church Council Teams approved moving forward with ordering all of the supplies that will be mandatory to have on hand when the time comes to move back to in-person services. Over the past month, all of these supplies; with 1 exception; has been ordered, received, and delivered to each of the churches. The item that hasn’t been ordered yet is Lysol/Clorox wipes or cleaning supplies. These continue to be Out of Stock on Amazon and many other retailers. We continue to monitor multiple retailers in hopes of being able to order them soon. If you happen to come across any, please let us know.

Also in our previous letter, we mentioned that the combined Church Councils would reconvene in the middle of July to reevaluate the Covid-19 situation in our communities. This follow-up meeting was held online via Zoom on July 16th. Our discussion began by talking about the continued rise in the number of Covid-19 related cases in our area[1]. The number of diagnosed cases are still continuing to rise; along with, the number of hospitalizations and deaths. We also discussed the fact that we are still mandated to follow the guidance provided by Bishop Taylor and the Covid-19 Task Force of the Holston Conference concerning safely reopening churches[2]. As outlined in our previous letter, these guidelines present numerous challenges for holding in-person worship services for our congregations.

The final item of discussion was an email that we had received from our District Superintendent, Kim Goddard, on July 14th. Recently, in addition to monitoring state and local health district Covid-19 databases, the Annual Conference taskforce on Covid-19 and the cabinet began using data from the Harvard Global Health Institute[3] to track numbers and cases. Here’s a little background on how to interpret the numbers that are presented on this website, and the guidance that we received from the district office:

The numbers that are being monitored are new cases per 100 thousand on a 7-day rolling average.  When a county goes above 10 cases/100k, that county is considered in the “Orange Zone” where stay at home orders and rigorous testing are advised. At a number of 10 or higher, you can expect instructions from the district office to close your church to both in-person AND drive-in services until new cases are again sustained below 10/100k.

According to the data provided by the Harvard Global Health Institute; Galax City (27), Carroll County (14.4) and Grayson County (10.1) are all above the average of 10/100k. Based on this information and the guidelines discussed above; the decision was made to close ALL in-person services, including drive-in services, for churches in the City of Galax and Carroll County for July 19th and July 26th. These closures will be reevaluated by the District Superintendent on July 27th. While this was a very difficult decision for the District Superintendent to make, it was made with the goal of keeping our congregations safe and healthy. 

In light of this mandate to be closed for the next 2 weeks, we decided that we would continue to monitor communications from the District and Conference offices concerning the resumption of in-person services; and to reconvene our Church Council Teams when the mandatory closure has been lifted. At that time, we will reevaluate the Covid-19 situation in our area and make a decision on what is best for our churches. A question was raised about possibly doing drive-in services when the mandatory closure is lifted. A discussion was held about the need for teams of people willing to help set up, run the sound and media, tear down, and sanitize everything that was used. We also discussed the need to purchase a FM transmitter so folks could sit in their cars and listen to the service. It was decided that we would poll our congregations on their interest in drive-in services and their willingness to be a part of these necessary teams. We will bring the results of this survey back to the Church Councils for discussion and consideration when the mandatory closure is lifted. This survey will be sent out via the One Call system to the folks at Mt. Vale and Savannah.

While we understand that not everyone agrees on the current state of things and not everyone will agree with every decision; the goal for the leadership of our 3 churches is in keeping everyone safe. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we continue to navigate these very fluid and unprecedented times together. We love and miss you guys greatly, we pray for you all daily, and we can’t wait until we can all be together again safely.

Blessings,

Pastor David and Pastor Ronnie



[1] https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard

[2] https://www.holston.org/files/communications/covid-19/faithfully+and+safely+2nd+edition.pdf

[3] https://globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression/