Dear Oakland family,

Over the past month our staff and Fellowship of Deacons have put considerable thought and prayer into a return date for in-person worship in our sanctuary. It brings me great pleasure to announce a return date of November 15th.

I know this decision will make many people happy, but it will not make everyone happy. Some of you will ask why we are not returning sooner. Others will question a return before there is a COVID-19 vaccine. No doubt, as well, the guidelines we have put in place will be met with multiple opinions. I commend to you the words of 1 Peter: “maintain constant love for each other, be hospitable to one another without complaining, serve one another, and speak as though you are speaking the very words of God, so that God may be glorified in all things.” These are the tools, Peter insists, that will help us get through stressful situations—even disagreements—while preserving our unity and witness as ones in whom Christ dwells. Remember, we are in this together as a family of faith!

The date of November 15th marks a move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 in our Guidelines for Resuming Church Activities. In Phase 2, our main goal is to resume worship activities while adhering to specific safety measures. As we’ve learned more from health professionals in the past months, those safety measures have been adjusted. The following bullet points outline our protective measures beginning November 15th. (A link is provided at the end of this letter to view the entire Guidelines for Resuming Church Activities.)

  • Worship services will be conducted in the sanctuary at 8:30AM and 11:15AM. These worship times allow for travel to and from the church building with Zoom Sunday School classes encouraged to meet at 9:45AM or another suitable time outside of the worship times.
  • While both services will be similar in format, the 8:30 service will include the Crossroads Band and the 11:15 service will include more traditional music.
  • Worship will be 45 minutes in length with cleaning measures taken between services. 
  • Both worship services will be available through Live-Stream.
  • Social distancing measures will be enacted in the sanctuary. We will restrict every other pew and encourage worshippers to maintain proper social distance. For health concerns, as well as the proposed Audio/Visual improvement project, the balcony will be closed.
  • To ensure social distancing, we will utilize a sign-up procedure for both services. This will also be helpful in contact tracing should we have a positive reported case. Visitors will be required to complete a contact tracing form.
  • In consideration of others, all worshippers are required to wear a facemask.
  • Nursery care will be available for children ages 4 and under.
  • Greeting time, Communion, and passing the offering plate will be prohibited in Phase 2. Offering plates will be available at each door, though we strongly encourage you to use one of our other methods to give: automatic draft, Breeze app, text to give, mail.

We recognize not everyone will be comfortable returning to the sanctuary. Therefore, as you can read above, both worship services will be Live-Streamed. However, for us to provide a quality Live-Stream experience that is visually and audibly clear, improvements need to be made in our sanctuary. As a side note, the equipment we have been using for the past several months to record worship is not part of our in-house sanctuary system. You will receive a letter from me this week detailing our proposed Audio/Visual improvement project and the associated expenditure.

I owe a great deal of gratitude to everyone who has labored in these efforts over the past several months. This includes our wonderful staff, our current Deacon Chair, David Williams, and Vice-Chair, Ben Lucas, our prior Deacon Chair, Susan York, and Vice-Chair, Erica Smith, and our entire Fellowship of Deacons, as well as others who have contributed to our decision making. We still have a long road to a return to “normalcy,” but I am confident in our leadership and I am confident that God is present every step of the way. 

For those who feel healthy and safe enough to be here, I look forward to seeing you—face to face—on November 15th.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff