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COVID-19 Update

August 2020 COVID 19 Operations Update for Pathways

from Pastor Eddie

 

We continue to thank all the extended Pathways family for their participation, prayers, encouragement, and faithful support of the ministry.  Given the constant updates on the COVID pandemic via the government and media, these Pathways updates may feel less “urgent,” but it is simply our goal to explain the specific implications for the church family and church operations.  The work of God continues, but many of the “forms” that ministry takes have been placed on an indeterminate hiatus for the time being.

Now that it’s August, the recent battles in the news have been about possible school re-openings and the potential risks to student and teachers.  Of course, this mirrors somewhat the discussions churches have been having for months about Student Ministries and Children’s Ministries and summer camps, both for students and the treasured volunteers who work with them.  Pathways decided early on to withdraw from all “away” camp experiences, then later were advised that on-site gatherings were also not advised, and so we have maintained a virtual ministry approach thus far.  In light of current data and guidelines from MD and the CDC, we anticipate that our situation will not change significantly in the fall of 2020, and thus have decided to remain with our largely virtual format through the end of the year.  At that point we will reevaluate based on the status of vaccine development and availability, as well as other science and data-driven inputs.

August would also normally be the time for the Annual Congregational Meeting, with a luncheon followed by introduction of new initiatives, new volunteers and committee assignments, and lots of “year in review” reports.  Obviously, that will not be happening this year, and because there was no provision for electronic business sessions in our documents prior to the pandemic, we cannot take that route. So rather than risk members’ health with an in-person gathering, on the advice of the Elders and other leadership teams we will simply maintain the current organizational structure.  Everyone serving on a team or committee will continue in those roles until the congregation can meet safely.  Likewise, a conservative financial plan similar to the 2020 budget will be developed and followed.  Should the pandemic situation significantly extend into 2021, I am confident our leaders will strategize appropriate next steps for Pathways.

We remain open on a limited basis for Sunday worship per MD and Montgomery County guidelines.  So while we Livestream our services on Sunday mornings (and they remain permanently available on the website), we are permitted to host limited live attendance in the sanctuary.  We are able to do this quite safely given the size and layout of our sanctuary and the thoughtful cooperation of all our attendees thus far.  We observe all pandemic guidelines, including the use of masks throughout the facility, no congregational singing, no passing of communion or offering plates, maintaining social distancing, and assigned seating by reservation only (full disclosure: we do make some provision for first-time guests to register at the door and receive a seating assignment as long as all other guidelines are followed).  Please email Kath (kstauffer@PathwaysBC.org) or call the church office for a reservation; it has been a blessing to welcome folks back to services.

We want our members to know that we stand ready to help however we can in these unusual times.  To that end, our staff is currently reaching out to families of school-age children to see if there are some creative ways in which we might serve them during these challenging days.  Please keep watch for announcement on our website (PathwaysBC.org) and on Facebook for updates and opportunities.

Lastly, we remind everyone that the Church Office is also open on a limited basis; entry to the facility is by appointment.Our Elders, Deacons, and Church Staff are always glad to hear from the church family and to help wherever possible.

God’s peace and blessings to all — Pastor Eddie

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July 2020 COVID 19 Operations Update for Pathways

from Pastor Eddie

 

It is hard to know for sure, but it appears that the COVID 19 pandemic has, at least for the moment, stabilized somewhat in Maryland and Montgomery County as we reach mid-July.  For that reason, we have not published an operational update for almost a month.  Local government officials have recently notified us that the strong resurgence of the virus in states that appear to have mismanaged their reopening has caused them to determine that we will not be moving out of Phase 2 any time soon.

 

Functionally, this means we maintain our current practice of online worship supplemented by live attendance in the sanctuary of up to 50 people.  We can do this quite safely given the size and layout of our sanctuary and the demonstrated willingness on the part of all our participants thus far to be exceedingly thoughtful and observant of all pandemic guidelines.  These include the use of masks throughout the facility, no congregational singing, no passing of communion or offering plates, maintaining social distancing, and assigned seating by reservation only (full disclosure: we do make some provision for first-time guests to register and the door and receive a seating assignment as long as all other guidelines are followed).  Please email Kath (kstauffer@PathwaysBC.org) or call the church office for a reservation; it has been a blessing to welcome folks back to services.

 

At Pathways we remain fully engaged in study and conversation with other churches, denominational entities, and medical advisors from around our state and nation.  We are grateful for the prayers and financial stewardship of our church family, which have allowed us to continue ministering even in the face of significant challenges brought on by the pandemic.  We want our members to know that we stand ready to help however we can in these unusual times.

 

Perhaps the area of most difficulty at present is determining how best to minister to children, students, and families.  There will be no summer camps or on-site VBS this year, though every effort is being made to provide connection and biblical teaching and encouragement to all.  But as the current debate over how and when to reopen schools has shown, the complexity for the kids, their parents, and our staff and volunteers is quite daunting.  For those reasons, we still have established no timeline for the return of those ministries.  As we have said, we will the health and safety of our church family, particularly our seniors and our children, as a top priority.

 

Please continue to join us online for worship, Sunday School and small groups, prayer, discussion groups, and all the other ways we are working.Please keep watch for announcement on our website (PathwaysBC.org) and on Facebook for updates and opportunities.The Church Office is open in a limited fashion, meaning that most staff still work from home and building entry is by appointment only.Church Staff are glad to hear from you and to serve you; their church email addresses are still the best way to connect.

 

May God bless and guide us all — Pastor Eddie

 

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INFORMATION FOR THOSE ATTENDING IN PERSON SUNDAY

Welcome back, Pathways family!  We are slowly beginning the process of reopening by offering limited and “reservations only” seating in our live service.  We are not pressuring or urging anyone to come on Sunday morning; we are simply providing the live option within governmental restrictions.  Therefore, we strongly caution anyone who is at an elevated risk from the effects of COVID-19 to stay home.  The service will still be accessible online, as always, with links to participate via the Pathways Connection Card and Online Giving.   

Pathways is concerned with giving our members a safe experience during the current reopening phases.  We are equally as passionate about reuniting as a church body as we are about protecting the health and safety of all who attend.  In that spirit, we have some guidelines for any who reserve a spot to attend our Sunday morning service.  

  • Please arrive as early as 10:00 am to allow for an orderly seating process, and if at all possible, to be seated by 10:20, as we’ll announce some additional building-related protocols before we start the livestream.  

  • The only entry into the building will be through one set of glass doors and will be clearly marked.  Please enter through that door only. 

  • Please bring your mask with you.  No one will be admitted without a mask.  If you don’t have one, a disposable one will be provided for you. 

  • Please bring a smile in your eyes that matches the one under your mask!  Even though there are many guidelines to follow, meeting together again is a joyful experience. 

  • Please bring your own Bible, pen and notepad, if you wish to have those with you. 

  • Reminder! We’re making the program digitally available to you on The Bible App – YouVersion.  Download the app onto your device in advance and you will have access to all of the program content (which can be found in the Live events), as well as all the sermon notes and Bible references and discussion questions.  

  • Please keep your family together in your assigned seating area – this includes any younger family members that you are assured can abide by the distancing requirements. 

  • Please, no lingering inside before or after the service.  If you’d like to catch up with a friend outside after church, be our guest to visit outside, with social distancing measures still in place. 

Further instructions will be given as you arrive at the facility.

 

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June 12 COVID-19 Operations Update for Pathways

from Pastor Eddie

 

Montgomery County recently announced a likely approval for Phase 2 reopening starting the business week of June 15-19.  At the same time, issues with Coronavirus seem to be increasing around the country in areas where “reopening” preceded good preparation and where pandemic control measures were not followed.  Pathways continues to be in conversation with churches around our state and nation as we seek wisdom for our process and safety for our people.  Following  discussions with the Elders, our Church Staff maintains the dual goals of being prepared to safely open our facility for Sunday worship as soon as permitted for those who strongly desire to be physically present, while maintaining full online operations as we have throughout the pandemic so that no one needs to return onsite until they choose to do so.

 

While we are EAGER to see you all, Pathways remains committed to “safer instead of sooner,” and will not rush back; just because the government says we can gather does not mean that everyone should.  We remain especially concerned for seniors, the immuno-compromised, and our young ones, as well as our volunteers and staff.  Please make an informed decision about whether you would like to attend physically, and if so please know that you must register online or by phone.  This is because attendance numbers will still be limited by the government (50 or less in our case).

 

The first Sunday of Phase 2 will not occur until June 21, and we will provide another update around June 18 with more details for those planning onsite attendance.  For now, here are the key items for this update:

 

  • NO CHANGE FOR THIS WEEK – Sunday, June 14 is still under restrictions and not open to the public; Livestreaming will continue as normal at 10:30 am
  • Pastor Jonathan Der is working with our administrative staff to craft an automated reservation system and we will likely send out a special email with that link early next week.  If not, an email to Pastor Williams or Kath Stauffer, or a phone call to Kelly Durr in the church office will suffice
  • On June 21, our staff will serve as the “greeting volunteers” and we will have a lot of new signage to guide attendees; we hope to then safely coach and prepare our volunteers for the June 28th service

 

Among other things, expected Phase 2 guidelines at Pathways include:

 

  • Initially we will have only Sunday worship and limited office hours during the week
  • Attendance in June (and likely July) will require online/phone reservations
  • Anyone with symptoms or underlying health conditions should remain home and join us online
  • Attendance is limited to less than 50, which allows us physical distancing of 12-15 feet between seating groups; families/roommates may of course sit together
  • Foot traffic will flow one-way through most of the sanctuary maintaining physical distancing
  • Use of masks will be required; we will have some masks available on site
  • Hand sanitizer will be available
  • No bulletins; offering plates will be at the door upon entrance/exit; no hymnals, pew Bibles, or cards to handle
  • No Children’s Ministry or Student Ministry gatherings for now; we will reevaluate regularly
  • Our partner congregations will defer for two weeks after PBC reopening to allow time to evaluate our procedures

 

May God bless and guide us all as we move forward! — Your Pathways Staff and Elders

 

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June 4 COVID-19 Operations Update for Pathways

from Pastor Eddie

 

“The building is closed but the church is open!”

 

The more I speak with church leaders around the country, all in various states of reopening and dealing with a post-COVID world, the more I hear this phrase and the undiminished commitment to the work of God reflected in it.  There is near-universal agreement: there will never be a return to the “old normal,” but only a new normal that is still in the process of taking shape.

 

One leader said, “Fear sees a crisis, Faith sees an opportunity.”  That is the attitude we at Pathways are taking towards the current series of difficulties that are at the top of our nation’s consciousness at this time: the ongoing challenge of COVID 19, the economic struggle of 40 million unemployed, and the pain of racial inequalities that must be addressed and healthily changed.  While it all seems a bit overwhelming, we are moving forward in faith to hear God’s voice and follow where He leads.  Our purpose in these COVID operational updates is to communicate where we are as a church in responding to the opportunities that are arising related to congregational meetings and facilities.

 

Currently we remain in Phase 1 as a state and county; though Phase 2 is hoped for on a state level soon, Montgomery County leaders are again signaling that we will not follow the state precisely but have a slower pace of reopening.  While the natural response is to chafe somewhat at the delay, the truth is that we at Pathways are fine working at a slower, well-thought-out pace.  We still say “Safer rather than sooner” is our preference. Pathways will not be the first to reopen, nor will we be the last.  We will watch and pray and learn and THEN act.

 

What does that mean for how we are currently working?

  • Virtual online platforms for worship and Sunday School and small groups remain the priority
  • Student and Children’s Ministries remain 100% virtual as well, including a focus on empowering parents as much as possible without overwhelming them
  • Livestreaming Sunday is limited at this time to 10 people in the facility, so we only have the tech team, the musicians and worship leader, and pastoral staff present at this time
  • The Church Office has someone present Mon-Thurs with core hours from 10-3, but meetings are held outside of the offices, appointments are required to enter the facility, and masks are used by all

 

When we move to the next Phase:

  • We believe attendance will be open to almost everyone who wants (we have a large capacity even at 25%), but we will require “reservations” online or by phone so we can prepare
  • We will reopen with worship only on Sunday mornings
  • We will continue ALL online platforms and programming
  • Partner congregations will defer a couple of weeks for Pathways to adjust facility issues
  • No bulletins, pew Bibles, hymnals, no passing of offering plates or communion, no pens or cards, no congregational or choral singing for now
  • Masks will be required everywhere in the facility except the pulpit, which is at a significant distance from any seating areas
  • We will provide hand sanitizer stations and have extra masks available along with the use of physical distancing

 

May God bless and keep us all on the journey — Your Pathways Staff and Elders

 

**Keep watching your email, our website PathwaysBC.org, and our Facebook page for more updates**