June 7, 2020

Dear Oakland family,
 
It has been several weeks since we’ve been able to gather in the sanctuary to worship in-person together. On behalf of the staff, we’ve really missed seeing your smiling faces in the pews. I know all of you have missed being in the sanctuary as well. There is something about being with the people of God in the place we call the house of God that lifts our souls.
 
In the past weeks our staff has been praying, researching, and discussing the appropriate time for us to return to the sanctuary for in-person worship. You have helped us in this process by completing the survey emailed two weeks ago. We had 171 responses to the survey; and I am grateful for your input. The results of the survey are linked in the box labeled "Survey" below this letter. We have also listened to recommendations from health officials, read helpful material provided by our friends in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and asked questions of health professionals—including Clemson infectious disease experts—who possess more knowledge on this subject than ourselves.
 
Our concern from the very beginning of this pandemic has been the well-being of your health and safety. This is the reason why we went to such extreme measures in March to close the church building. We’ve also sought to be good global citizens and community leaders by our actions. Those reasons have not changed; and they continue to guide our decisions.
 
On Monday, June 1st, I met with our Fellowship of Deacons via Zoom and proposed a date for moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of our Guidelines for Resuming Activities which focuses on resuming in-person worship in our sanctuary. That date, which the Deacons endorsed, is Sunday, August 2nd. Please note Phase 2 does not include Sunday School or other group activities in our church building. Also, we may revise Phase 2 as we learn more from trusted sources on how to meet in-person while protecting everyone’s health and safety. You can review all phases of our Guidelines by clicking on the box labeled "Guidelines" below this letter.
 
Throughout the summer we will continue to provide online worship services as well as other online opportunities to learn and grow in our faith. You will find a link below this letter containing our summer ministry guide. You can also find the guide on our website and in the weekly Update.
 
While we are not regathering in the sanctuary until August 2nd, you will find in the summer ministry guide two opportunities for outdoor worship on our church grounds. There will be forthcoming details, but we pray this will be an opportunity for those who feel safe and healthy in doing so to gather for fellowship and worship until all of us are able to safely re-enter the sanctuary.
 
I realize the regathering date of August 2nd will not please everyone and for that I apologize; but based on the research and information we’ve received—including your survey responses—we believe being patient and deliberate is the correct course of action. As your Pastor, I would rather be the church that regathers last and everything goes smoothly versus the church that regathers first and experiences tragedy due to a resurgence of COVID-19. 
 
As I’ve said to you many times in the past few months, just because we are not physically together does not mean the spirit of our church and the love that binds us together has ceased in any way! We will always be the body of Christ, not given to fear, but given to the power, love, and self-discipline that comes through Jesus. Thank you for continuing to care for yourselves, for one another, and for being ones in whom Christ dwells.
 
Grace and Peace,
 
Pastor Jeff