We have been monitoring the recent COVID information. There is positive news in that a potential vaccine is showing great promise. But there is also negative news that COVID cases are spiking right now, and there are concerns that the problem may get worse if and when people travel/gather at Thanksgiving.
We do not believe that the prevailing conditions require us to discontinue live worship services on Sunday mornings and return to a strictly skeleton service. Already, many of our members, out of an abundance of caution, are choosing to worship from home by watching the livestream. Indeed, we encourage anyone who is concerned for their health to participate via the livestream.
But we do not believe we need to impose additional restrictions at this time. Given the prevailing conditions, we already have light crowds in a very large auditorium. There is a great deal of room to social distance. Moreover, given the recent health news, we will police more stringently the requirements to wear masks and avoid close contact. We believe these precautions are sufficient to allow us to continue our Sunday morning services and to welcome any visitor, or member, healthy enough to attend.
However, out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to discontinue all other activities at the building at the present time. Hence, there will be no classes or life group meetings at the church building until the COVID situation clarifies. All such activities will be conducted via Zoom.
Christians were not meant to be alone. We need to meet together in person. But we also must act responsibly to protect our own health, and the health of our community. We pray that the situation will soon improve and that we can come together again in closer fellowship.
— From the Elders
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Older updates follow
Re-instituting Live Church Services and Programs
The health crisis has severely impacted our worship services, and other church programs. Since late March, most activities at the church building have been either discontinued, or severely curtailed. While these restrictions have been necessary, we believe that the current health situation is such that we can begin a phased re-institution of church life. Of course, should the health crisis worsen, we may have to retrench. But at this time, we believe it is safe to make changes with respect to a) worship services; and b) life groups.
a. Worship Services
Since late March, our services have largely been virtual. Originally, we locked the doors and allowed only about 10 selected individuals to participate in a live, skeleton service. We then either taped and uploaded, or livestreamed, that service so that our members at home could participate electronically.
In the summer, as the health situation changed and we gained greater experience in conducting services safely in the midst of the pandemic, we stopped locking the doors and selecting specific individuals to participate in the live services. Anyone could participate live. But we still strongly discouraged our members from attending live if they had any health concerns.
We now have more experience in hosting these services. Moreover, our members, and the community at large, have become more accustomed to wearing masks, social distancing, using hand sanitizer, and washing their hands frequently. Also, we have a very large auditorium. Even if all our members returned to services, we would still have room to spread out. Hence, we now believe that it is safe to encourage more people to attend our services.
But most importantly, we have just been apart too long. We need to come back together as a body.
Accordingly, we would like to encourage everyone who is not in a high-risk category to rejoin us for live services. For those who still believe that prudence requires them to worship from home, though, we will continue to livestream our services. For those who can join us, we will resend our guidelines on how the services are conducted, and how to participate safely.
Our Bible classes will still be conducted via Zoom and will not be live. However, there will be live classes for young children (God’s Flock/Little Lambs) during the worship service beginning this Sunday, October 4, 2020.
b. Life Groups
Several of our life groups have not been meeting during the pandemic. We are now encouraging these life groups to resume meeting. What that will look like may be different for each group. But we have reached out to the life group leaders and we have encouraged a reboot beginning this Sunday, October 4, 2020.
The group leaders will be discussing the form of these meetings with each group member. But we expect that groups may not choose to meet live, at least inside the cramped confines of a private home. However, our building is large and has a lot of spread space. Groups may choose to meet in person at the building. In fact, we strongly encourage that the groups do so, at least periodically, as there is no substitute for live fellowship. If we need to coordinate times for use of the building, we will work with the life group leaders to do so. But we believe that the space in the Fellowship Hall is sufficiently large that the life groups can spread out enough to allow them to come together safely and enjoy a time of live fellowship.
After much prayerful consideration, we have reluctantly decided to return to a more limited live service on Sunday mornings. The number of Covid-19 cases in Houston is ramping up sharply, and we must take all reasonable precautions to protect the health of our members.
Accordingly, on Sunday mornings, a skeleton crew of members will conduct services at 10:30 AM in the auditorium which will be live-streamed and recorded for other members who can participate from their homes via electronic means. (You can watch those services here.)
These live services will not be closed. Any member is welcome to attend. The doors will not be locked. During such services, all of the procedures we have had in place during our recent live services will be strictly enforced. Even so, we strongly recommend that members make the conservative medical choice to participate from home if they fall within any of the categories below. These categories include any member who
· is currently experiencing Covid-19 or flu-like symptoms, or have suffered such symptoms within the last two weeks
· is over 60 years of age or has any health issues which places the member at a higher risk, such as heart or lung conditions;
· lives in a home with, or has frequent contact with, persons at a high risk; or
· has been in recent contact with someone who has been diagnosed with, or is suspected of having, Covid-19.
Finally, even if you do not fall into any of these categories, we encourage you to consider whether the most prudent course may still be to participate from home. None of us should take unnecessary risks..
Not being able to worship and fellowship with our full church family is a great loss. But hopefully, and God willing, these additional precautions will only be necessary for a short time. On the plus side, however, this pandemic has forced us to upgrade our electronics and practice our livestreaming and video options. We are getting better at it each week. Also, we are learning ways to make worshipping from home more meaningful. To that end, we recommend taking the following steps to make virtual worship more rewarding:
· Gather your family, or whoever is living/sheltering with you, so that you can all participate together.
· Participate via livestream rather than watching the recording later. It is best to maintain the routine of worship at specific times on the Lord’s day, and to know that you are participating with your brothers and sisters in Christ all together, at the same time, even if not in the same location.
· Sing along with the songs.
· Take communion during the communion service. If you need communion supplies let us know and we will make it happen. And
· Encourage people outside the church to watch service or attend a life group.
Please be patient during these times of lockdown. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Phil 4:6.
Finally, recognize that each of you has a responsibility to maintain the bonds of Christian love and fellowship during these difficult times. The Church leadership pledges to do all it can to reach out to you, but you also must act. Participate in the online services and online classes. Join and participate in a life group. Communicate with your brothers and sisters in Christ safely via electronic means – Zoom calls, telephone calls, texts, emails. Before you ask how long it has been since someone from the church has contacted you, ask yourself how long it has been since you have contacted someone from the Church. If we use all of the tools available to us, we can grow closer together, even during this time of separation, rather than grow apart. That is our goal, but it takes effort. Do your part.
Let us all pray that the need for such precautions passes quickly and we can shortly and safely return to full, live, and participatory worship, and Bible classes, with our Christian family.
We will resume live church services in-person beginning Sunday, June 14, 2020. For the weeks or months to come, this will be a worship service only. We will not be offering any in-person Sunday school classes at this time. Moreover, we are striving to comply with all appropriate health guidelines to minimize any COVID-19 risks. (We will have Bible classes on Zoom; contact the church office for more info).
To that end, while all are welcome at Sunday services, we strongly recommend that any members that are in high risk categories, or who feel ill, or who have health concerns, play it safe and remain home. We will continue to offer our live-streamed services on the internet for those who cannot attend.
For those who can attend, we will have protocols for the service that will explain how we will proceed in an effort to comply with health guidelines. These procedures will also be posted at the building. But the most important points are as follows:
- Worship Only. The only portion of the building that will be open is the auditorium and the foyer, and we will only be conducting a worship service.
- Entry. Everyone must enter through the main auditorium doors on the Bissonnet side of the building. The intent is to funnel everyone past a check-in station where hand-sanitizer and masks will be available, and instructions will be given. As most of our parking is in the rear, this will, unfortunately, mean that you will have to walk around to the front of the building. For our healthier members, please leave the parking spaces nearest the front for visitors and folks who might appreciate a shorter walk in the sun.
- Start time. As we will be live-streaming our services to members who cannot attend, we will begin promptly at 10:30 AM. Moreover, we do not want people bunched up at the check-in station. Accordingly, please come early so we can all filter past the check-in station and settle in before 10:30.
We understand that ongoing concerns over COIVD-19 may depress our attendance this coming Sunday. But let us encourage you to make every effort to attend.
This past week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced there will be a carefully thought-out process for reopening Texas businesses beginning May 1. You may be wondering what that means for our church. For now, we plan to continue holding our services online. Although this is not how we like it, this has allowed us to remain safe while still being able to worship God at home. In the coming weeks, as the situation evolves and regulations change, we will provide additional updates.
A letter from the Elders
West University CHURCH OF CHRIST
Dear Church Family,
We believe that man was not meant to be alone. We believe that is critically important not to forsake the assembly. As Christians, we need to meet together as a body for fellowship, for mutual edification, for learning, for service, and for praise and worship.
However, we must also be responsible during this national, indeed this international, crisis regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Our foremost concern is for the safety of all of our members. But we must also be concerned about the sensitivities of our neighbors who may believe that if we continue to meet despite the current health crisis we may increase the risk for everyone.
Accordingly, it is with great regret that we have decided to suspend our regular worship on Sunday mornings. We do not know how long this will be required. As soon as it is safe to resume our services, we will alert you via email and via our website and our Facebook page. Please keep checking these sources so that you can be informed.
To be clear, until further notice:
• We will not be meeting as a body on Sunday mornings, either for class or for regular worship; and
• We will not be holding Wednesday night class/services.
However, our life group meetings generally involve no more than 10-15 persons. From the guidance we have received, meetings of this size do not pose a significant risk. We will leave to the individual life group leaders and members the decision of whether they wish to continue meeting. Moreover, if you are not currently part of a life group, we would encourage you to join a life group during this time so that you can maintain a strong connection to your Christian family.
While we will not be holding regular services on Sunday morning. We will be offering an online alternative. We intend to conduct a service with a skeleton crew that will be available online to all church members. information about how to access that service will be set out in a separate email and will be posted on our website and our Facebook page. We encourage you to follow these services.
We should not view this crisis as a holiday from worship. Rather, we should view it as an opportunity. Use this time to reach out to family or neighbors to participate in house church services. Participate in a life group. Demonstrate how Christians respond to times of emergency. Spend time in prayer and with your families. Also, do not forget our congregation in these difficult times. The business of the church will continue. The office will remain open and Susan will be a focal point for questions and information. Small groups are welcome to meet at the building.
To that end, the financial needs of the church will continue. Please remember that donations can be made online. One of the major impacts of this crisis is financial uncertainty. That is certainly something we recognize. But please remember to continue your support for our congregation as you are able.