Email sent to congregation on March 19, 2020:

Friends,

Greetings.  I hope y’all are hanging in there. We are praying for you in this difficult and scary time. It is hard to be apart, and to not be able to worship together in person, but we are excited that we will be worshiping online this Sunday, March 22 at 10:30am.

Last Sunday we had a great time together. I was particularly encouraged by all the comments and interaction. It was really fun to see everyone chatting and sharing prayer requests.  We have planned a similarly interactive service this week with a few little surprises to help keep the kids entertained. There a few supplies you might want to have ready for worship:

  • A pea, or a fruit or vegetable you can hold in your hand
  • A candle & lighter (optional)
  • One of the following for each child:
    • Stuffed animal, OR
    • Playdoh, OR
    • Small pile of sticks, stones and leaves.
We had planned a Congregational meeting for Sunday, March 22, but since there are no items the congregation needs to vote on, the council has decided to spread out the content of that meeting over the next four weeks.  So look forward to brief updates about the congregation, the facility, the finances, and the capital campaign.

You can find our online worship service on Facebook live on Sunday, March 22 at 10:30AM. To access the livestream, go to our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/urbangracetacoma. The video will begin automatically at 10:30am. You will be able to watch  whether or not you have a Facebook account.
We will also put a link our website in case you have any problems.

Hope to (virtually) see you there.
May the peace of the Lord be with you all,

Ben

Email sent to congregation on March 17, 2020:

Friends,

How are you doing? The last couple weeks have been unlike anything we could have imagined.  The pandemic and the necessary precautions to keep our community safe have threatened jobs, health, and sanity (shoutout reluctant homeschool teachers).  This is a tough time for many,  so the church is doing everything we can to support one another.

As the situation evolves so will the role of the church, but for now we have a few things we want to let you know about.

We plan to take a moment to check in and see how y’all are doing. We know that the impact of COVID-19 has been extremely difficult and disruptive for many of you and want to know how we can help. Someone from our staff or leadership will be reaching out to each of you so we can gather the needs all in one place and also connect about ways we can help each other.

We had a great service that we live streamed on Sunday morning.  Based on the feedback we received,

  • You enjoyed the interactive approach to the service.
  • You did not enjoy how difficult it was to find the live feed on Facebook, nor the poor internet that made our stream drop momentarily.
  • You appreciated Ben & Amanda’s jokes (okay no one actually said that, but we know what you were thinking). 😉

If you missed the livestream, you can view it HERE.
We hope you will join us this coming Sunday and we will send out an email on Thursday with more information about that service and what to look forward to.

And speaking of things to look forward to…

The Children’s Ministry team will be sending out age specific online sessions every Tuesday…we’re calling it Tuesdays Together. You can expect your Tuesdays Together email with links by end of day every Tuesday until we meet again in person.  WATCH INTRO VIDEO HERE

And now just a few more announcements in case you missed them on Sunday.

-In-person youth group is postponed indefinitely but look for communication from Jae about an online alternative.
-Wednesday Night Bible Study is postponed indefinitely.
-Our hang out at 7seas on March 28th is postponed but we WILL reschedule!
-The weekly community breakfast is postponed until further notice. We are unable to feed people safely, so we will be supporting other programs that have the capability of meeting the health requirements.Thank you for your continued support! Until we meet again! (in person)

-Urban Grace Staff

Email sent to congregation on March 12, 2020:

Friends,
Due to rising health concerns over the spread of COVID-19, we have decided to cancel all in-person Sunday morning events for this Sunday, March 15 including the Community Breakfast and 10:30am church service. This difficult decision was made by our Church Leadership Council with input from staff and other local church bodies as well as public heath recommendations. Though we have a large space and our attendance is under 250 people, we felt it was a necessary precaution to cancel our in-person gatherings in order to maintain the health and safety of our congregation and community.
Due to the uncertainty about this virus and the implications moving forward, we are going to be offering an online, livestreaming service via our Facebook events page until we can safely meet in person. We encourage you to tune in this Sunday at 10:30am to experience church from home! We plan on having an interactive time of prayer during our livestream where you can post prayer requests with responses in real time. It also has the potential to be entertaining as we have never done this type of thing and are probably going to have a few oopsies. 🙂
We know this is a scary and uncertain time as the effects of the pandemic ripple through our community.  We will be praying for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of each one of you. We will continue to send out updates as we all navigate this situation together. Our staff is here for you and happy to connect via email, phone, or text for prayer or any other needs, questions or concerns you may have.

Our prayer is for health, hope, and peace. Thank you for being a part of our community.

-Urban Grace Church

Email sent to congregation on March 9, 2020:

Friends,

After much discussion and prayer, we have decided to postpone our All-Church Retreat planned for this coming weekend, March 14-15, because of rising health concerns related to COVID-19.  This is disappointing for many of us because the retreat is one of our favorite weekends of the year. Many of us love the retreat because of the opportunity to spend time together, and it is that same care for one another that brings us to this difficult decision.  We recognize that while most cases of COVID-19 result in mild symptoms, the virus may be life threatening to many in our community and city. There is much we don’t know right now, so we want to be cautious and do what we can to prevent spread of the virus.

We are also very grateful that Stampfer Retreat Center has given us the opportunity to postpone the retreat at no cost to the church. Our new dates for the 2020 All-Church Retreat are September 26-27. Mark your calendars now!

We are excited to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings and PNW late summer weather. (Sheila says she expects EVERYONE to be there since we have six months to plan ahead). If you have already paid for the retreat, we will be in touch about how to refund your payment.  As we get closer to our new dates, we will take new sign ups and payments.

Many of us were looking forward to faith-based community organizer Joey Ager’s retreat session on faith and social justice. Joey still plans to join us at our rescheduled retreat in the Fall and keep your eyes open as we’re working on starting the conversations around social justice this Spring.

Unless the situation changes, we plan to have worship in the sanctuary on Sunday. We will continue to take ‘social distancing’ precautions to minimize physical contact. We encourage you to stay home if you are feeling sick, if a member of your household is feeling sick, or if you are at high risk of severe illness, such as people over age 60 or people who have compromised immune systems. For those who choose to stay home, we will be livestreaming the service on our Facebook page.

Lastly, we have Family Fun Night on March 28 at 7 Seas Brewery starting at 4:30pm.  This is an opportunity to connect with people and make some of the social connections that are always a highlight of the retreat.

Thank you for navigating this with us and helping us keep each other safe. We appreciate you.

Ben

Email sent to congregation on March 7, 2020:

Friends,

We have a quick update regarding church tomorrow. We believe that gathering in community for spiritual nourishment and social support is an important aspect of wellness.  We also believe it is important to do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). The WA Department of Health has produced new prevention guidelines that encourage increased social distancing, particularly among those at higher risk for severe illness.

This means that we encourage you to stay home if:

• You are feeling sick, or if a member of your household is feeling sick
• You are at high risk of severe illness, such as people over age 60 or people who have chronic illnesses.

We have a great service planned, and we understand if it is better for you and the larger community to stay home.  We trust you to use your judgement as you decide whether to attend worship or not. We will try to set up livestreaming of the service on our Facebook page.

If you are attending worship:

• We encourage you not to hug or touch other folks. (We will have an alternative to passing of the peace that does not include physical contact.)
• We encourage you to give one another plenty of space… which we are fortunate to have in our 850 seat sanctuary!
• We encourage you to wash your hands, which you can do in the main floor ADA bathroom that is available to people of all gender identities.

Many of the most vulnerable in our community rely on the community breakfast, and the breakfast will take place with increased precautions for volunteers and guests. We will continue to evaluate the risks going forward.

Next week is our annual church retreat, which is a highlight of the year for many of us.  We are continuing to evaluate how the COVID-19 outbreak should impact our plans.  We will continue to communicate with you all regarding the retreat.

Thank you for navigating this with us and helping us keep those most vulnerable safe. We appreciate you.

Ben

Email sent to congregation on March 4, 2020:

Dear Urban Grace,

Greetings friends.  As you know, Washington state has declared a state of emergency due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). This week the government approved testing for COVID-19, which will result in an increase in reported cases.  Urban Grace leadership has been monitoring the situation, considering what precautions we should take, and planning for the coming weeks. We want to share with you our process and considerations going forward.

We began by listening to other clergy and congregations. After church on Sunday afternoon I called one of my best friends who is a public health virologist in DC. She works with the Centers for Disease Control on pandemic/outbreak responses and she shared her thoughts on what precautions Urban Grace should take. Since that time, we have gathered information and recommendations from Tacoma Public Schools and the Washington State Department of Health.  Our church and facilities staff met with Church Leadership Council (CLC) moderator, Darius Mensah, and consulted with CLC member Katie Eilers, a public health nurse at the Department of Health.

In short, we have been doing our homework and here is what we have determined.  We recognize that (COVID-19) poses a real threat, and particularly to elderly people and those with chronic illnesses that suppress the immune system. We also recognize how news headlines, misinformation, and fear of the unknown have caused widespread anxiety. We are doing our best to take wise precautions to keep the congregation safe, while being mindful to not overreact nor deny people the spiritual community they need during this time.

Until experts advise otherwise or the situation changes, we plan to operate the facility, community breakfast, and church as normal. We will implement the following standards and precautions:

  • Facility- We will continue to do our best to keep the building clean and have instructed the custodial staff to do extra wipe downs of the handrails, doorknobs, and other frequently touched surfaces.  We will also make sure that soap and paper towels are consistently well stocked in all bathrooms and kitchens. Washington State Department of Heath guidelines recommend that “special processes beyond thorough routine cleaning are not necessary nor recommended to slow the spread of respiratory illness.”
  • Sunday Morning- We will ask everyone to use their own discretion when greeting one another.
    • We do not plan to cancel passing of the peace (sorry introverts), nor forbid handshakes or hugs.
    • We do plan to instruct congregants to ask for consent before physical contact with each another.  So, ask your neighbor if they prefer a hug, a handshake, or a fist bump and respect those who wish to refrain.

As always, we ask you to:

  • Stay home if you or someone from your family is feeling sick or showing symptoms.
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose. Help young children do the same. If hands are visibly dirty, use soap and water to clean hands.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Get a flu shot! While the flu vaccine is not protective against COVID-19, flu can cause serious illness. This year the whole Urban Grace staff got flu shots and we encourage you to do the same.
  • Note: Masks are not recommended for lay people to protect against COVID-19 and limited supplies are needed for health care workers. Health professionals are specially fitted with the N95 mask. Surgical masks are not encouraged as a protection against the virus but can be used by those having symptoms of COVID-19 to prevent the spread. Be aware that counterfeit masks are appearing on the market.

If you would like more information, please visit the CDC website which has a comprehensive guide to COVID-19.

The health and safety of our community is top priority, and we will continue to monitor and adjust our response as needed. We appreciate your partnership in helping to keep our congregation and community healthy during this time. Lastly, we ask that you join us in prayer for healing for those affected, for peace for those who lost loved ones, for health and well-being for to the doctors, nurses and aides providing care, and for the public health officials working to prevent spread of the virus.

Thanks for your support and prayers. The health and safety of our community is top priority, and we will continue to monitor and adjust our response as needed.

Ben

Additional FAQ about COVID-19
How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It may also be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Call your healthcare professional if you develop symptoms, have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.

Should I be tested for COVID-19?
Call your healthcare professional if you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.