Phased reopening plan

Slight policy changes for fall

October 8, 2021


Closed Windows

With the weather turning colder, we will close the doors and windows of the sanctuary building this week to keep you warm. Please note that while we have had these open for ventilation purposes (to limit the spread of germs), we have also had new filters installed on the furnace to keep our air clean! We’ll still be safe worshipping indoors, and now will be warmer, to0.



October 1, 2021


As we continue to monitor the COVID statistics in our area and the recommendations and mandates from civic authorities, we’ve made a couple of changes to our policies.


Soloists can sing in worship

We continue to monitor daily case counts per 100,000 people to inform our decisions about congregational singing. We need to be below 5 daily new cases/100K for us to all sing together, and our policy has been that we need to be below 10 daily new cases for in-person soloists. However, since we know in-person music is incredibly meaningful for those in the sanctuary, we have made an exception, that soloists may now perform regardless of the daily new case count numbers, as long as they are fully vaccinated and show proof of a negative COVID test within 48 hours prior to the service.


For example: I would like to sing the prayers of the people on Sunday and believe this is meaningful for the community, but our daily new case count right now is 10.5 (over the limit of 10). Since I am fully vaccinated, I can take a COVID test this weekend, and as long as it is negative, I will be able to sing in church without a mask on Sunday while observing physical distancing.

We wanted to let you know about this change in policy so you can make an informed decision about whether you’d like to attend the services in-person, knowing that our case count might still be too high for in-person singing, but we are allowing soloists with full vaccination and negative COVID tests.


Proof of may be required soon

You may have also seen the recent King County policy requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend indoor events as of October 25 for everyone eligible to be vaccinated. The mandate specifically says that churches are not required to verify vaccinations but are “strongly encouraged” to do so. We have agreed, for the sake of the health of our community, not to exempt ourselves from this kind of mandate just because technically we can, so Faith Church will be exploring what that looks like for our congregation in the next few weeks. We understand that the vast majority of our eligible congregation is already vaccinated, so for most folks, this will simply be a matter of showing proof of vaccination so that we have it on file. If you are eligible for vaccination but unable to be vaccinated, but would like to attend worship in-person, please let me know so we can talk about how best to accommodate your needs.

Reopening Plan 3.1

August 2, 2021


Dear Church,


When we began meeting for in-person and hybrid worship in June, we promised to reevaluate our situation on August 1. We had planned to loosen up the restrictions quite a bit this month in preparation for a bigger opening in September, but with the rising case numbers in King County and around the country – and the latest information about the highly-contagious nature of the Delta variant, even among vaccinated individuals – we have re-evaluated the situation and will only slightly change our restrictions at this time, looking forward to more “normalcy” later in the year.


Here’s what changing:

  • We have removed the 75-person capacity on worship registration. As many people as would like to register can do so.
    • We still would love for you to pre-register if you are able. Don’t let registration stop you from attending, but do register if you can. This makes check-in much more efficient.
    • We will still have a check-in at the door as a mode of contact tracing.
  • We have put the sanctuary chairs back into rows, rather than pods of varying sizes for varied households.
    • The rows are slightly farther apart than they were pre-COVID to allow for more air movement, and we will request that you leave a space between households; otherwise, the sanctuary will feel much more “normal” than it did before.
  • In-person community groups such as Boy Scouts, Al-Anon, and Community Bible Study are welcome to return.
  • Staff are working in a hybrid format, sometimes in the office during the week and sometimes remote. We are reachable by phone and email, wherever we are working!


Here’s what will stay the same for now:

  • Masks are required for worship. Until our rate of new cases drops considerably, or children become eligible for vaccination, we will continue masking for worship. This protects the whole community, not only from COVID-19, but also from other germs that are circulating in our community.
  • We’ll keep doors and windows open (including the big gray wall) for air circulation.
  • Worship will continue to be livestreamed for those who remain at home (or otherwise away), and we will conduct as many gatherings as we are able in a hybrid format to allow for both in-person and online participation.
  • In-person meetings of groups in which every person has shared their vaccine documentation with the church can meet without masks or time limits if they so choose. However, we encourage mask-wearing, even among vaccinated persons, as long as the Delta variant rates remain high.
  • We will not provide snacks/coffee for worship.
  • Singing will be limited to solos or duos in worship, with congregants invited to hum.


What’s coming this fall:

  • Sunday School for all ages will resume.
  • Nursery care for very young children will resume.
  • New air filters will be installed throughout the church.
  • Worship pre-registration will be traded for on-site or in-seat check-in.
  • Snacks and coffee service will resume with some limitations.


We will resume in-person congregational singing as soon as we are able. The number we are currently watching is the “daily new case count per 100,000 people.” The PNW Conference tells us that when the case count is between 5 and 10, we can only have soloists in worship. The numbers in Issaquah and Sammamish are currently hovering around 7. When our daily new case count per 100K dips below 5, we can resume congregational singing with masks. When that number dips below 1, we are allowed to sing indoors without masks. 


Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions. We are doing everything we can to balance our need to get “back to normal” and to protect the most vulnerable among us. We know that some members of our community feel like we’re being over-cautious while others think we are not doing enough. We will keep trying to balance these extremes to provide safe most meaningful discipleship, fellowship, mission, and community experiences. 


Peace be with you,

Pastor Elizabeth

Looking ahead to hybrid worship

April 30, 2021


Dear Church,


As the weather gets warmer and drier (well, maybe not so dry today, but in general…), more activities are opening up and COVID restrictions are being slowly and carefully lifted. The kids are mostly back in school, at least part-time, teams are taking to fields and courts around the area, and more and more people are picnicking in parks and cycling on trails. This gives a hint of “normal life”—the life for which we’ve been waiting and hoping for more than a year.


It’s also turning the conversation toward “reopening” the church. The Pacific Northwest UMC Conference has been very careful and quite conservative with guidelines during the pandemic, for which we have been grateful. But we also know that, though Washington State is in a “fourth surge” of the virus, it’s time to start trying new things. The staff and worship team are bringing in new A/V equipment for future hybrid worship (where some people are in the building and some are online), we’re combing through guidelines to figure out best practices for in-person gatherings, and we’re making plans to get back together beginning this summer.


I am so eager to see you in person, to preach to a live audience, and to greet you in person—even if it’s behind a mask and without a handshake or a hug. That being said, we still have some work to do on logistics and planning, and I hope you will be patient with us as we roll out the next phase of our life together. We will share a third Reopening Survey next week, and I hope you will respond quickly and honestly to help us with this planning. Then, as soon as we are able, we’ll share our guidelines for the next phase of our life together.


I don’t anticipate that we will ever “go back” to the way we did life together before the pandemic started, but I trust that God is doing a new thing, and that as long as we are paying attention to the Spirit and following where She leads, we will be the beacon of love, hope, and grace that God has called us to be—during this next phase of life and for years to come.


With you on the journey,

Pastor Elizabeth

September 1, 2020


Dear church,


When we first decided to take a break from in-person worship due to the threat of coronavirus in our community, I remember talking at length with colleagues on the phone, trying to decide what to do. In over a decade of church leadership, I had never cancelled in-person worship before. At both churches I served before coming to Faith, there were snow days during which I literally put on my boots and trudged through empty streets to get to church, only to sing and pray with the few people crazy enough to join me. I believe in the power of community, of singing and praying together in the same space, seeing the image of God in each face, and caring for one another over cups of coffee and conversations. Cancelling in-person worship is something I would never do casually. I know that, even if we produce amazing online worship, it is not the same, and it doesn't meet your needs for community connections.


When we first closed the building in March, I imagined it would last only a few weeks—or we'd be back in the building for Easter at the latest. That was 26 Sundays ago. Six months. Half a year. Whole seasons have gone by, and our building doors are still shut. And while COVID transmission statistics in King County are starting to improve slightly, full relief from this pandemic is clearly still a long way off.


In the last several weeks, we have issued two "Reopening Surveys," in which you have made clear that you are not ready to gather as a worshipping community until things are much better in our area: the vast majority of you said you would not be comfortable gathering for worship until King County enters Stage 4 or there is a reliable and well-distributed vaccine for COVID-19. Our Reopening Team has been meeting for the last few months to make sure we are ready with safety protocol when we do gather, but we have also made the decision that we will not gather for in-person worship until at least January 3, 2021.


I know this is not a surprise to many of you, but it is still not the news you wanted to hear. I know you miss being together, as I desperately miss being in the sanctuary with each of you. I have shed tears thinking about what this means for the Advent and Christmas season, but we are putting our best creative thinking toward building meaningful worship experiences for you, even if we can't light candles in the sanctuary together.


We hope you will continue to log on for online worship—even if it feels like a chore some days—to greet and encourage one another, trusting that the Spirit binds us together even when we can't see and hear each other. Reach out to each other with prayers and kind words through cards, phone calls, emails, text messages, and physically distant in-person meetings. And let the church know what you need, whether that be prayer support, financial support, connections to local services, spiritual resources, relationship help, or anything else.


SHIFTING FOCUS

Knowing what we know from the CDC, King County Public Health, the Pacific Northwest Conference of the UMC, and your own concerns that you've shared with us, changing our immediate focus from "how to re-open the sanctuary for in-person worship" to "how best to be the church while the building is closed” is the faithful and right move.

This week, we have launched two new teams:

  • Interim Leadership Team, led by our lay leader, Cathy Anderson: this team will work on immediate needs between now and the end of the year and how we can serve each other and our neighborhood even while our building is closed to in-person worship.
  • Reimagining church team: this team will look at January and beyond for what God is calling us to do and how church can be different in the future.

This season gives us a unique opportunity to rethink everything we’ve known about church and the worship of God in word and deed. Please pray for these teams as they begin their discussions.


COMMUNITY NEEDS

In the meantime, we will also be exploring how best to meet community needs over the next several months. We know that many households in our area are in need of help with childcare during online school; space for solitude when the house starts to feel too small; and support groups for grief, unemployment, relationship issues, parenting, and anxiety or depression. We know there are many physical needs as well, and we're partnering with the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank, Youth Eastside Services, Friends of Youth, Issaquah Community Services, and other groups to help meet those needs. You'll hear more about each of these as needs arise.


It will be vitally important, as this physical separation lengthens, that all of us stay engaged. Our staff continues to work hard, but we are a small group, and we need your help. We want your ideas for how best to serve the congregation and community, but we also need your help to do this ministry. And we want to make sure the church is best positioned to begin 2021 on a solid foundation, ready to continue growing in faithfulness for years to come.


————————————————-


If you have any questions about this timeline or how we came to the decision not to pursue in-person worship until at least the start of 2021, if you have ideas of how we can best support each other and serve the community over these next several months, if you have gifts or time to offer, or if you're in need, please don't hesitate to reach out. I'd love to hear from you.


I remain grateful and honored to be your pastor, and I look forward to the day we can raise our voices in praise together again.


Warmly,

Rev. Elizabeth Ingram Schindler

pastor@faithunited.org

425-392-0123

materials from the all-church meeting

June 28, 2020


On Sunday, June 28, members of Faith Church met online for the annual All-Church Meeting, during which Pastor Elizabeth present the plan for reopening. Much like Washington State, the United Methodist Church will be reopening in phases, defined not only by the guidelines and restrictions of county and state public health officials, but also by church conference leadership.


Download the All-Church Meeting Presentation


Download the Detailed Phase 2 Plan

an open letter From your local pastors

May 28, 2020 – Sammamish, WA


Last week a call went out for houses of worship to open up and provide gatherings inside our sanctuaries as soon as possible. The undersigned church leaders of the Sammamish Plateau long for the day when we can safely gather again in our buildings. We long to reach out to our community, shake hands, hug, receive the Sacraments, sing our hearts out, and experience Christ in all the old, familiar ways. The Holy Scriptures tell us, “Let us not neglect meeting together…” (Hebrews 10:25). However, we hold this holy desire together in loving tension with yet another command found in the Bible, “You are to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).


For the time being, we believe that we can love our neighbors best by refraining from hosting large gatherings in our church buildings. For Christians, gathering in community to worship, fellowship, and share in the celebration of the Sacraments is deep in our DNA. It is not, however, what makes us the Church. Jesus' command that we love God with our whole being and our neighbor as we love ourselves is our foundation, our cornerstone. During these strange and unusual times, we are being called to love our neighbor in new and creative ways that protect the most vulnerable among us. We pray, serve, sing, encourage, support, laugh, and cry together through the online, written, and telephonic tools that allow us to do these things safely and protect our most vulnerable members and friends and the wider community.


The day will come when we will worship and meet in person again. Until that day, the undersigned clergy of Sammamish are committed to following guidance from our various judicatories, including the Center for Disease Control and the Washington State Department of Public Health, as outlined by Governor Jay Inslee’s 4 phase plan to reopen our state (Washington’s Phased Approach). We are clergy, not epidemiologists or doctors, and we rely on wisdom gleaned through these public servants to help us know when and how to phase our own reopening in such a way that we love our neighbors best and protect the most vulnerable who will gather in our buildings.


We are living in a time in which we’re experiencing the church as so much more than a building, and God’s Spirit as truly unbounded by walls, bricks, stone, or even denomination. Our willingness to give up that which we want for the sake of protecting the most vulnerable is a witness that will last long after the pandemic is over.


These are our priorities as congregational servant leaders on the Sammamish Plateau and they will guide our decisions moving forward.


In this we are united,


Debbie Boyce, Pastor Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church
Rev. Dr. Steve Danzey, Rector, Good Samaritan Episcopal Church
Pastor Eric Hanson, Sammamish Hills Lutheran Church
Kelly Hostetler, Pastor for Care and Families, Sammamish Presbyterian Church
Rev. Alan Johnson, Pastor, Regeneration Church
Dr. Jeff Lincicome, Senior Pastor, Sammamish Presbyterian Church
Pastor Mark Meredith, Pine Lake Covenant Church
Rev. Elizabeth Ingram Schindler, Lead Pastor, Faith United Methodist
Larry E. Thomas, Interim Pastor, Sammamish Hills Lutheran Church