Revised Oak Hill United Methodist Church Return Plan (May 23, 2021)

Dear Oak Hill UMC,

The Responsible Return Team has updated the church return plan based on a year of experience and additional data and has decided it is safe to lift some restrictions on gathering on campus.

Considering a year of experience, more data, the general availability of vaccines for everyone over the age of 16, and signs that COVID 19 is becoming less prevalent in the Austin area, as of May 23, 2021, we are moving from stage 2 to stage 3 in our reopening plan. This will further reopen the church campus to ministry and education. We are reducing the number of stages from 5 to 4. You can review the former plan here.

Stage 3 allows for up to 100 individuals in the sanctuary for in-person worship and will no longer require reservations to attend. Note that 100 individuals is merely a suggested target proposed out of an abundance of caution, no one will be turned away. We will have overflow available in the Fellowship Hall as needed. Multiple services may be scheduled at the discretion of the Senior Pastor and the Worship Committee to include outdoors. We will not limit the size of groups meeting outdoors and masks will not be required.

Sunday School for both children and adults will also resume. Per CDC guidance, while indoors we still ask all to wear masks that cover the nose and maintain a safe distance to mitigate spread of the virus. Children’s Sunday School will be managed by staff and will follow local public-school guidance for masking and distancing.

Meetings indoors, including Adult Sunday School, can occur in groups of 25 or fewer individuals. Remain masked. Note that the suggested 25 individuals is flexible and based on the inoculation status of the attendees and the size of the room. We encourage each Sunday School/Small Group to poll their members for how many are fully vaccinated. Class size recommendations may change as more information becomes available.

To schedule a room for your class, please contact the church office (office@oakhillumc.org). Meetings outdoors have no size limitations.

Depending on how things develop with the virus over the next months, we may relax restrictions even further.

Sincerely,

Don Inbody

Chair, OHUMC Church Council
Leader, Responsible Return Team


STAGE 1
Outdoors Only
Limited Outdoor Activity & Gatherings; Social Bubbling

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


New hospitalizations > 25 /week (7-day running average)

BUILDINGS:

  • • All buildings closed except for staff conducting essential work on campus with masks, hygiene & separation

  • • Sanctuary closed except for Worship team / Livestreaming

  • • Other access to and use of buildings on case-by-case basis approved by Senior Pastor on advice from Trustees

OUTDOOR AREAS:

  • • In-person gatherings of 10 or fewer individuals permitted on campus (outdoors with masks, separation & hygiene)

  • • Labyrinth and outdoor chapel usage available for groups of 10 or fewer with masks, separation & hygiene

  • • Parking lot available for tailgates - distanced gatherings of groups up to 10 by reservation (up to 5 of these groups in separate areas of the parking lot)

  • • Playground closed

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 10 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 2
Limited Access to Campus
Limited Gatherings

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


New hospitalizations < 25 / week (7-day running average)

BUILDINGS:

  • • Worship in the sanctuary open for 75 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

  • • Outdoor gatherings of more than 25 with masks/distancing allowed for special services at discretion of pastors

OTHER:

  • • Distancing, masks & hygiene required

  • • High Risk and 65+ individuals should take special precautions.

  • • 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 4
Full Return to Campus
Normal full operations

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


New hospitalizations < 5 and dropping (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.