Oak Hill United Methodist Church Return Plan

Dear Oak Hill UMC,


We know that you want to return to church, to re-establish personal relationships with other members, and to regain connection with the church community. To that effect, we have created a small team of OHUMC members to create a plan for our return to using our church building and campus, as well as to enhance our outreach and ministries in spite of the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed upon us. 

The Responsible Return Team met first on Monday, July 20, and consisted of Scott Broberg, Corinne Weisgerber, Jeff Kuhn, Susan McBride, Brad  McMahon, Pastor Stephen, and me.

We are closely monitoring recommendations from the Austin Public Health Authority, as well as other resources, but recognize we may have good reasons to be even more cautious before resuming corporate worship to reopen our campus faithfully, not just safely.

We have created a 5-stage re-opening plan outlined below that will guide our process of determining how and when we reopen our buildings and resume our in-person ministries. Currently we are in Stage 1.

As we reopen church, it will most certainly not be like it was four or six months ago. We will need self-screening procedures before people enter, social distancing, and masking. Singing, including the choir and congregation, may not be possible for a while; numerous studies are showing that singing tends to spread the virus much farther. Obviously, handwashing and availability of hand sanitizer will be important as well. Furthermore, we are investigating the air handling system in the sanctuary and in all buildings to ensure there is adequate air turnover to minimize risk when we do return.

Our church is not primarily a building; we are on a mission together.

We are fortunate to have pastors, music ministry, and other leaders who have done a tremendous job of adapting our worship to the online service. Many of you have let us know this is meeting your needs. Still some of us deeply miss being able to worship together in the sanctuary. Rest assured that the pastors and your Responsible Return Team will not resume activity in the sanctuary, and the various buildings of OHUMC, until we are confident in the safety of doing so.

We all often say that faith is a journey and we are on that journey together. The time of the COVID pandemic makes this statement deeply true.

Please feel free to contact your pastors, me, or any of the members of the team with your thoughts. We ask for your prayerful consideration and engagement as we move through this trying time together.

Sincerely,

Don Inbody

Chair, OHUMC Church Council
Leader, Responsible Return Team

 


STAGE 2
Limited Access
Limited Gatherings

COVID test positivity rate < 10 % (7-day running average)


New hospitalizations < 10 /week (7-day running average)

BUILDINGS:

  • • Worship in the sanctuary open for 25 or fewer individuals other than the Worship/Tech team
  • • Sanctuary open for prayer and meditation for individuals and groups of 25 or fewer (Please clean after yourselves – supplies provided)
    1. No congregational or choral singing
    2. Non-wind instruments permitted
    3. Soloists or small ensembles for singing or single wind instruments with distancing

  • • Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, and Children’s Building Great Room available for groups of 25 or fewer individuals
  • • Other access to and use of buildings on case-by-case basis approved by Senior Pastor on advice from Trustees

OUTDOOR AREAS:

  • • Labyrinth and Outdoor chapel usage available for groups of 25 or fewer with masks, separation & hygiene
  • • Parking lot available for tailgates - distanced gatherings of groups up to 25 by reservation (up to 5 of these groups in separate areas of the parking lot)
  • • Playground available for 10 or fewer individuals

OTHER:

  • • Distancing, masks & hygiene required
  • • High-risk people stay home
  • • Encourage/enable small groups meet via video conference (Church Zoom Account)
  • • In-person gatherings of 25 or fewer individuals (outdoors with masks, separation & hygiene )
  • • Committees meet via video conference or in-person outdoors in small groups
  • • Continue ministries as appropriate with size/location restrictions
  • • Social Bubbling - Patio / porch / back yard groups:
    1. Pastor joining groups for communion
    2. Watch Live Stream services together

  • • No Sunday School on campus
  • • No Children’s SS on campus
  • • No Childcare on campus
  • • No PreSchool

STAGE 3
Partial Return
Limited Gatherings

COVID test positivity rate < 10 % (7-day running average)


New hospitalizations < 5 for previous week (7-day running average)

BUILDINGS:

  • • Multiple Worship services in the sanctuary open for 50 or fewer individuals other than the Worship / Tech team:
    1. No congregational or choral singing
    2. Non-wind instruments permitted
    3. Soloists or small ensembles for singing or single wind instruments with distancing

  • • Sanctuary open for prayer and meditation for individuals and groups of 50 or fewer (Please clean after yourselves – supplies provided)
  • • Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, and Children’s Building Great Room available for groups of 50 or fewer individuals
  • • Other access to and use of buildings on case-by-case basis approved by Senior Pastor on advice from Trustees

OUTDOOR AREAS:

  • • Labyrinth and outdoor chapel usage available with masks, separation & hygiene
  • • Parking lot available for tailgates - distanced gatherings of groups up to 25 by reservation (up to 5 of these groups in separate areas of the parking lot)
  • • Playground available for 10 or fewer individuals

OTHER:

  • • Distancing, masks & hygiene required
  • • High-risk people stay home
  • • Encourage/enable small groups meet via video conference (Church Zoom Account)
  • • In-person gatherings of 50 or fewer individuals (outdoors with masks, separation & hygiene )
  • • Committees meet via video conference or in-person outdoors in small groups
  • • Continue ministries as appropriate with size/location restrictions
  • • Social Bubbling - Patio / porch / back yard groups:
    1. Pastor joining groups for communion
    2. Watch Live Stream services together

  • • Sunday School TBD
  • • Children’s SS TBD
  • • Childcare TBD
  • • PreSchool TBD

STAGE 4
Substantial Return
Limited Gatherings

COVID test positivity rate < 5 % (7-day running average)


New hospitalizations at, or approaching 0 for two weeks (7-day running average)

BUILDINGS:

  • •• Multiple Worship services in the sanctuary open for 100 or fewer individuals other than the Worship/Tech team
  • • Sanctuary open for prayer and meditation for individuals and groups of 50 or fewer (Please clean after yourselves – supplies provided)
  • - No congregational or choral singing
  • - Non-wind instruments permitted
  • - Soloists or small ensembles for singing or single wind instruments with distancing
  • • Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, and Children’s Building Great Room available for groups of 50 or fewer individuals
  • • Other access to and use of buildings on case-by-case basis approved by Senior Pastor on advice from Trustees

OUTDOOR AREAS:

  • • Labyrinth and Outdoor chapel usage available with masks, separation & hygiene
  • • Parking lot available for tailgates - distanced gatherings of groups up to 25 by reservation (up to 5 of these groups in separate areas of the parking lot)
  • • Playground available for 10 or fewer individuals

OTHER:

  • • Distancing, masks & hygiene required
  • • High-risk people stay home
  • • Encourage/enable small groups meet via video conference (Church Zoom Account)
  • • In-person gatherings of 100 or fewer individuals (outdoors with masks, separation & hygiene )
  • • Committees meet via video conference or in-person outdoors in small groups
  • • Continue ministries as appropriate with size/location restrictions
  • • Social Bubbling - Patio / porch / back yard groups:
    1. Pastor joining groups for communion
    2. Watch Live Stream services together

  • • Sunday School TBD
  • • Children’s SS TBD
  • • Childcare TBD
  • • PreSchool TBD

STAGE 5
Full Return
Back to normal full operations

COVID test positivity rate at, or approaching 0 (7-day running average)


New hospitalizations at, or approaching 0 for two weeks (7-day running average)


Widespread vaccinations available and/or effective therapeutics

Normal full operations

High Risk and 65+ individuals should take special precautions during all stages.

PROCEDURE FOR CHANGING STAGES

To provide guidance and transparency, the Responsible Return Team identified the 7-day Moving Average of New Hospitalizations, as provided by the City of Austin Health Department, as a valid metric to help determine when a move from a more restrictive stage, or to a less restrictive stage, should occur. The baseline metrics are shown for each stage of the return plan.

We will monitor the metrics weekly and decide whether a change is necessary and advisable. We will announce any changes via social media, the Cornerstone and Sunday morning announcements.

Because much is still unknown about COVID-19, these metrics are only guidelines that, combined with other sources of information, will be used by the Responsible Return Team to make any final decisions.

OUR 4 DRIVING VALUES

The decision on how and when to resume in-person ministries at Oak Hill was driven by the following 4 values:

SAFETY

Our number one priority in developing this reopening plan was a desire to keep everyone safe. This value is driven by one of John Wesley's “Three Simple Rules," the rule to do no harm.

COMMUNITY

Our plan was also driven by a desire to identify ways to gather together, to visit with one another and to nurture Christian community in safe, responsible ways.

MISSION

Mission work is important to Oak Hill and we wanted to ensure that we can continue caring for people in our community during this crisis. It therefore was important for us to identify safe ways for us to engage in mission.

FAITH FORMATION

The 4th value driving this plan was a desire to provide safe, responsible ways for us to gather together to nurture our faith and grow in our spiritual journey.

CONTACT US

If you have questions or concerns about our return to church plan, please send us a message using the form below. We will try to respond to your message in a timely manner.