WCH Grace Important Updates

Updated 7.29.2020

To Our Grace Family –

We are thrilled to finally share with you that we are slowly making our way back into the building!  After several meetings with the Servant Leadership Board, the wisdom gained from the accumulated survey results, as well as conversations with other pastors and leaders throughout the Annual Conference, we want to lay out the framework for our plan to re-open the doors of our sanctuary for corporate worship. Though God has been so very faithful to us, even as we have been compelled to worship apart, we recognize that the Body of Christ was ultimately meant to gather together. While we are thankful for the opportunity to return to some form of that in the coming weeks, we remain cognizant that we must exercise unique caution as we do so at this time.

On August 2, assuming our state remains on the anticipated re-opening path, we will once again invite you to join us for worship here onsite. Of course, the way we gather together at Grace will look a little bit different for the time being, and so we would ask you to read carefully the details below:

What We Will Do

  • Beginning August 2(and continuing as long as is wise) we will hold one worship service each Sunday at 10am.
  • Given that in the initial phase we will hold worship service only (that is, no Sunday School meetings, Small Groups, Children’s or Youth Ministry, Nursery on campus), we will plan to keep our service to right around 45-50 minutes.
  • Between services, we will disinfect the foyer and the pews to reduce the spread of germs.
  • We will not be passing out bulletins or offering plates during this initial return. You can continue to either give online, by text, via mail, or in person at the church office.
  • In the meantime, we will continue to offer our streaming worship service, so that you can participate from home.

How You Can Help

  • If you are sick, at risk, or simply uncomfortable being around people at this time, PLEASE stay home, join us online, and do not feel guilty for doing so. Opening the doors does not mean you are compelled to be here.  Come back when you are ready to do so!
  • While you are in the building, we are requiring everyone to wear a mask, if able. An usher will be present to remind you, if necessary, to wear a mask. We will have a small number of masks available to hand out if you do not own one.
  • When not speaking or singing, worship leaders will wear masks.
  • Furthermore, we would ask that you find a seat with your family, retaining a reasonable distance(at least 6 feet) from others not in your household. We will be blocking off every other pew to better enable this, but we will need your help as well, to refrain from the hand-shaking, hugging, and other forms of proximity and contact to which we are all (or at least most of us!) anxious to return.
  • We are asking you to refrain from singing and collective responses.
  • If and when you do return for worship, we would ask that you use only the main entrance at the front of the building for the time being. We will be opening the doors approximately 20 minutes before each service, so please feel free to enter at that time to find a seat. All other entrances will be closed for the time being.
  • Be patient with us! We are learning as we go, and quite honestly, some of the temporary adjustments we are making will be awkward for all of us. Be patient as we wait to bring back some of the ministries that are important to you. Be patient as we try and learn the best practices for creating sufficient space between people, and as we discern the best timelines for a full return. As we will need to limit the number of people in the sanctuary at a given time, we will especially need your patience in the event that some may be directed to our overflow location(s).

Above all else, let us be reminded that the prayer of Jesus for His Body, the Church, is that we would be one. As you are well aware, not all of us at Grace hold the same opinions on all aspects of this pandemic. Some will not be ready to return for quite some time, and others would have gladly resumed several weeks ago. All around us, these diverging opinions seem to be settling into an even deeper divide. Within the local church, let us reject this division and instead choose to love and honor one another, even in our differences. Let us lead the way and show the world what it looks like to choose others first, to bear with one another, and to unite in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us be the first to extend grace to those who are handling this unparalleled moment in history differently than we are. We are brothers and sisters in Christ above all else – may it never be more evident than in this collective struggle.

As always, we love you and are grateful for you. For some, we will see you soon. For others, we will see you when you are ready. For all, we will continue to do our best to enable you to join us in worship whether together or apart. Please pray for us as we continue to pray for you. May God bless you!

Updated 6.4.2020

June Plan For Services
Dear Grace UMC Church Family:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:2).
Ohio and parts of the nation have embarked on the cautious, evaluative process of “reopening.”   Churches, likewise, are considering their next steps, and must consider disparate issues, including both the concerns of some parishioners for prudence and safety and those who desire to “get back to normal” as quickly as possible – all while maintaining theological integrity.   As always, the gospel and ethic of Jesus Christ provide our definitive guiding light during these difficult times.

As “the administrative officer[s] of the local church,” charged to “administer [its] temporal affairs” (UMC Book of Discipline 2016, ¶340.2(c)) it is the ultimate responsibility of the appointed pastor(s) to establish the parameters for the resumption of activities at the church facility, including mass worship gatherings.  After much prayer and reflection, we have determined that Grace UMC will continue virtual services through the end of June.  After that time, appointed pastoral leadership will determine an appropriate course of action.

Many factors shaped our decision.  Here are a few:

  • Scripture commands Jesus’ followers to put others ahead of ourselves, be servants of all, love our neighbor as ourselves, suffer with Christ that we might also be glorified with Him, and obey those placed in secular and ecclesial authority over us.
  • Prudential restrictions placed on mass worship gatherings by Bishop Palmer of the West Ohio Conference are such that any imminent worship gathering(s) would in no way feel “normal.”  We are prohibited from corporately singing, praying aloud or reading responsively; utilizing prayer cards, bulletins, hymnals, pew Bibles or any other shared printed materials; passing the offering plate or taking the Eucharist in familiar ways; being present without masks, or hospitably providing coffee and refreshments in the lobby, etc.
  • Resuming mass worship gatherings at Grace UMC would necessitate many worship services each Sunday, with mandatory pre-registration strictly regulating attendance and the sanitizing of bathrooms, doorways, the sanctuary, common areas, etc., between each service – along with anything else observed to have been possibly touched.  This is self-evidentially impracticable.
  • Grace UMC’s insurance carrier has confirmed that sanitation practices “strongly recommended” by the Governor of Ohio and our Bishop not rigorously applied before, after and between services may be grounds for the vacation of Grace UMC’s insurance policy.
  • No nursery, children’s or youth ministries would be available, no small groups (including choirs) would yet be authorized to meet outside the Sanctuary, etc.  We would not be “seeing each other again” in our accustomed manner.
  • A very high proportion of Grace UMC’s regular worshippers are in high-risk categories.  The desire of some to “be together,” perhaps coupled with the longing to be present for worship (which is laudable and Scripturally informed) may lead some to risk their health.
  • Prudent pastoral leadership should closely monitor and evaluate the progress of state and national efforts to “reopen” over these next few, crucial weeks before exposing their congregations to potentially negative consequences.

We appreciate the repercussions of our decision and empathize with those who long to gather for worship as soon as possible, but now is not the time.  To be clear, this decision is solely (and appropriately) the responsibility of pastoral leadership.

Of course, in no way is any faithful Christian church “closed.”  No Christian churches have been closed at any time since March, anywhere, because the church is not the physical building.  Nowhere in the Scriptures is the Church of Jesus Christ referred to as a building.  Nowhere.  Nowhere!

At the conclusion of our pre-lockdown worship gatherings the benediction “sent us forth” in the power of the Holy Spirit to be Christ’s body in the world, since “…[we] are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27).  Our pastoral decision to continue the suspension of mass worship gatherings prohibits none of us from searching the Scriptures, singing praises to God, praying fervently, witnessing to the lost, catechizing our families/spouses/friends/neighbors, or serving anyone in the name of Christ.  To be clear:  Church is not a place or institution to which we “belong” or attend at certain times.  Church is not a place to which we go, but something we embody daily – individually, in small/family/neighborhood groups, or (someday soon, God willing) as the gathered, local body of Christ, proclaiming the Word and participating in the sacraments.

May “[t]he grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).  Amen.

Rev. Tina Fox and Rev. Joe Fox

Updated 5.3.2020

Our Bishop has sent out guidelines for our safe return to public worship.  You can read these guidelines HERE.  A lot depends on what the Governor says and what crowd-size limitations are in place.  Plan on our continuing online worship for this Sunday, May 10th, Sunday, May 17th, and May 24th. May 31st is yet to be determined and much depends on which phase of re-opening we are in at the time.  Stay tuned for more details and pray for wisdom for all.

We will continue to update this page as information becomes available.

Updated 3/13/2020 at 2:30PM

Beloved Grace UMC Congregation,

In Philippians chapter 2:3-5, the apostle Paul encourages us: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”  Jesus Christ had the attitude of a servant, giving Himself for each of us.  One of the ways we can share Christ’s mindset is to care for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Considering the recommendations from state, national, and world health advisors regarding the COVID-19 crisis, the best way to protect our most at-risk brothers and sisters is to limit group gatherings.  This will help slow the rate of contagion and allow our hospital infrastructure to effectively care for those in need, without overwhelming our medical system. Experts advise the most effective time to limit group contact is before we see cases in Fayette County, not afterward.

The Bishop of our West Ohio Conference has asked that all United Methodist Churches suspend worship services for the next two weeks. Both our Ohio Governor and our Bishop are asking us to actively care for the ones among us who are most susceptible to this illness by limiting gatherings.  While some may think this response too radical or reactionary, please know these decisions are being made with much prayer, research, conversation, and love.
At Grace UMC, here are some ways we will be addressing the current crisis:

  1. We are suspending in-person worship services (with no Sunday School) for the next two Sundays (3/15 and 3/22).  We will be live-streaming a full worship service on our Facebook page at 10am (WCH Grace United Methodist Church) and are hoping to post the service later on our website (wchgrace.com).  After the two weeks, we will evaluate the current situation and go from there.
  2. The remaining three Lenten Lunches have been canceled for the season.
  3. Our Church Office will remain open from 10-2pm (M-F) for any information or needs.  We will re-assess if the crises escalates. Your pastors are here to meet with you for discussion, comfort, and prayer, as well.
  4. Grace Preschool and Childcare will close, beginning Monday 3/16 for two weeks, and will evaluate next steps after that time.  The teachers will be working on deep cleaning and continuing education during the closure.
  5. Tuesday’s (3/17) Lenten Bible Study will be conducted on Facebook Live at 6:30pm.  You can join at that time or watch the recording later.
  6. Chancel Choir and Bell Choir still plan to practice on Wednesday night (3/18).  However, if you are in a high-risk category or feel uncomfortable going out, please stay home.  Your safety and well-being are most important to us.
  7. Please check with your small group or ministry group leader about plans for other gatherings or meetings.
  8. Your Church wants to care for you! We have a group of people who are willing to help run errands or take care of needs.  If you are high-risk, struggling with illness, or just anxious to leave your home, PLEASE let us help you!  Contact the Church Office with any needs: 740-335-0460 or dnye@wchgrace.com or Pastor Tina at 614-296-3586 (call or text) or tfox@wchgrace.com.
  9. If you would like to help others in our Church Family during this crisis, please let us know of your willingness via the contact options in #8, and we will add you to our Helpers’ List.

Much of what comes next will involve taking things one day at a time and seeing how this all continues to unfold. This is rather unprecedented territory for all of us. Let’s have grace and patience with one another, as we all do our best to make wise choices in response to unfolding information.

We are taking these precautionary measures as an act of love, not in response to fear.  God is with is.  God will sustain us.  Let’s seek Jesus and depend on His GRACE, while taking safety measures that will protect the weakest and most vulnerable in our midst.  Let’s keep praying for and loving one another, dear friends!!!

In Jesus’ DEEP and UNENDING love,
Pastors Tina and Joe Fox