Common Ground Building Reopening Status
Common Ground’s building re-opening is in Phase 2. This means that only Pastors, office staff, worship staff, and custodians are allowed in the building. Special Approval has also be given to Narcotics Anonymous for Fellowship Hall use only.
Additionally, outside groups (2A) and Special CG single household events (2B) will be permitted.
For those allowed in the building: Mask wearing, social distancing, and good hand hygiene practices must be exercised while in the building. Operate remotely as much as possible.
All phase changes will rely on scientific data, the CDC, MN Department of Health, and Conference Guidelines.
MARCH REOPENING UPDATE
Finally, after one long year, the church council has approved the recommendation of the reopening committee to start to move the reopening meter. This process may not be a fast as we would like, but at least we know that the light at the end of the tunnel is real and not just a reflection. We also know through our web conferences with the MDH (Minnesota Department of Health) and our local county officials, that the number of positive cases is slowly going down, but we are still at a point where they are recommending no change in the reopening recommendations or very slow changes based on our “risk profile” and the local infection and vaccine rates. Unfortunately, Isanti county ranks near the bottom of the counties in the state with the percent of the population vaccinated. We appreciate those of you who have traveled some distance to get vaccinated and the frustration of others in being unable to get an appointment, but please go to the MDH website and click on the vaccine link for local information or call our local Public Health Department at 689-4071. We know that the local officials are working hard to get more clinics available.
Getting our congregation vaccinated is an important part of being able to move our reopening plans faster. There are two ways to contain the virus. One is to reduce the number of hosts that the virus can infect and the other is to prevent the spread. The number of susceptible hosts is reduced through getting the infection or through the vaccine and reducing spread is through getting the vaccine and/or the mitigation measures (masking, social distancing, good hand hygiene, and avoiding crowds). These measures also reduce the likelihood of variants surfacing, which is one of the new concerns.
Because this whole process is changing almost daily, our reopening committee is meeting as often as there is a significant change that affects our congregation. Proposed changes in the reopening will be communicated through “ministry moments” during our virtual worship services or through the “reopening update”.
The movement of our meter to the second phase will have two effects. First, it will allow small outside groups to use our church building. These will be small gatherings with clear expectations regarding mask usage, cleaning, and limitations to the use of only the fellowship hall. Second, we are planning to schedule times for family units to have time alone in the sanctuary for prayer and reflection. We are planning the first of these times during Holy Week, so keep an eye out for communication regarding how to sign up.
As we move forward we anticipate changes to continue to happen in phases. At this time that may look like the church being open for small groups, then the sanctuary open for households to watch a live-streamed service, then worship services that are a mix of streamed and live, and at some point full worship services in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. We don’t have a timeline for when each of these changes will take place, so we appreciate all of your patience as we continue to closely monitor the ever-shifting situation.
As always, please contact any members of our committee with your comments and concerns. STAY SAFE…MASK, GOOD HAND HYGIENE, SOCIAL DISTANCING, AND PLEASE GET VACCINATED.
Lowell Becker Frank Wells
Penny Messer Eric Ryberg
Pastors Amelia and Andrew Erika Knight
January 14, 2021
It remains clear that the Covid pandemic is still a major health concern and requires ongoing attention. Although Minnesota has shown some signs of improvement and some of the restrictions have been loosened, there still is concern about additional surges due to the holidays. We continue to remain in contact with the Minnesota Department of Health concerning their guidelines for the Faith Communities. Their basic recommendations have not changed. They recommend that the communities of faith limit their facilities to 50% capacity, but strongly suggest that each facility carefully assess their population of attendees for risks (such as age and underlying health concerns) and base the decision on that data. They also recommend virtual services if at all possible. Based on our population of attendees, we plan to stay with virtual services and maintain our current phase in regards to any use of the building (see phase and link below). Hopefully the vaccines will brighten the light at the end of the tunnel.
A few words about vaccines. The two vaccines presently being administered are called mRNA. The way this vaccine works is that it is like an email to your immune system giving it instructions on how to produce protection through the development of antibodies that can weaken and destroy the virus. It does not cause you to have an infection. It requires two doses separated by 21 or 28 days (Each vaccine is different). You get some level of protection after the first injection but 14 days after the second injection the studies show about 95% protection. Side effects are minimal and include potential mild local reaction at the injection site and in some cases mild “flu like” symptoms that may last 2-3 days. Routine allergies are not a contraindication to getting the vaccine. Those rare instances of the more severe allergic reaction that has been reported is thought to be due to one of the vehicles of the vaccine. It is highly recommended that everyone, including individuals who have tested positive in the past, get the vaccine. Two populations in question that are being studied at a this time are pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems (like lupus or chemotherapy).
As always, please feel free to contact anyone on the reopening committee concerning this process. In the meantime let us all continue to love our neighbor through our actions as we Mask, Social Distance, Wash Hands Frequently, avoid groups and WHEN IT IS YOUR TURN, GET VACCINATED. Remember: EVERYONE COUNTS.
Pastors Amelia and Andrew
The Reopening Sub-Committee continues to meet on a regular basis to assess our ability to reopen the church building to our Common Ground family. As we meet we are reminded that “The building may be closed, but the church is open.” We continue to need to connect in other ways. We all need to thank the Pastors, staff, and the leadership team of our Common Ground community for coming up with creative ways for us to worship and stay connected.
Last Sunday, after virtual worship, we held a zoom Town Hall meeting on the reopening process. It was well attended and a great exchange of information was shared. For those of you unable to attend, we would like to summarize our discussion. As you all know, the pandemic is at a critical point with new cases, hospitalizations, and, unfortunately, deaths at an all time high, so, the meter for reopening has not moved. Speaking of “meter”, we have a graphic meter that will be posted with church communications and will allow you at a glance to see where the process of reopening stands. It is attached to this communication.
We also had a general Q&A about the process. The Pastors did an excellent job of explaining why considerations were made to allow NA to use the Fellowship Hall, and this was widely supported by zoom attendees. We also had a discussion on the vaccines that have become available and encouraged all to seriously consider being vaccinated for Covid. It is one small way that we can not only protect ourselves but also curb the spread of the disease.
As always, if you have any specific questions or comments, please feel free to contact any of the committee members. This also applies to any ideas that you might have for us to safely connect. Please continue to mask, social distance, wash hands, and avoid social gatherings. Our faith community can set an excellent example. Please stay safe and celebrate that Jesus is the reason for the season.
Pastors Andrew and Amelia
UPDATE FROM REOPENING COMMITTEE
The reopening committee, a subcommittee of the administrative council, continues to meet on a regular basis to determine when it will be safe to start to reopen our church. As most of you know, the pandemic continues to expand and right now, central Minnesota is one of the “hotspots” in our state. With the schools, local businesses, and our local communities needing to dial back public gatherings, we are recommending “no change” in our present status. We know that several of you are looking for the specific “metrics” that we are using to make our decisions, but we’ve found in this process that even the experts have differing opinions. Our best approach is to continue to be in constant contact with our Church Conference and Minnesota Department of Health for their recommendations concerning the reopening process and then make recommendations that best fit our situation.
We have received several excellent questions and requests about this reopening process. The most common question is “When will we be able to use our church again?” Other questions include: “Can we open the sanctuary on Sunday for viewing the virtual service on the big screen?”, “Can we have small group meetings—i.e. Bible study, Men’s group, Women’s group, etc.?”, “Can we just have ‘time slots’ to go into the sanctuary to meditate?” These and others are all excellent questions and deserve to be addressed. We are all anxious to return to “normal”. We have had an opportunity to become part of a webinar put on by the Minnesota Department of Health called “Faith Based and Covid 19” that meets monthly. Their most recent recommendation is NOT to consider reopening until late spring 2021. This is not what you wanted to hear and not what we like to recommend, but the Dept. of Health is looking to the Faith Communities to set a good example.
In an effort to be totally transparent about this process, we will continue to update you on a regular basis concerning the most current situation. We will accomplish this with these newsletter updates, the Pastors will have “Ministry Moments” during Sunday services, and on December 6th at 10:45am we will have a Town Hall Zoom meeting to hear your concerns, your opinions, and hopefully answer your questions to the best of our ability. Also, listed below are the members of this committee, and we welcome you contacting us directly.
There is being “safe”, but the Department of Health would like us to be “safer”. That means not only MASKING, good hand hygiene, social distancing, and being tested if any question, but avoiding social gatherings. We need to observe the public health practices if we want to mitigate the spread. Now more than ever is the time that we, as a church community, must do no harm and love our neighbors by embodying these vital practices
Thank you for your patience. We are all in this together. PLEASE BE SAFE!
Dear Common Ground friends,
We know everyone is anxiously awaiting news of when and how things will reopen and we wanted to give you an update on where we are. This past week the team tasked with determining these things met. In the course of that meeting it was decided that in person worship will not resume before July 15th and we will be reevaluating that date in the coming weeks as the group continues to meet.
Also, at this point we are not anticipating opening our building to CGUMC small groups before worship is available in person. We are also evaluating when and how we can once again allow outside groups that rent our space to return.
Our meeting was fruitful and offered many varying perspectives. Everyone acknowledged the importance, difficulty, and the weight of the decisions we are making. We want to be very transparent with everyone as to what we are considering in this process. Along with one another’s perspectives we are looking at information from the CDC, the governor, our MN Annual Conference of the UMC, and our Vision and Mission at CGUMC. We the pastors also reached out to our District Superintendent Rev. Susan Nienaber for advice and a perspective of what is happening within our district.
We know this is an extremely difficult time for everyone and we are all longing to be together again. We are also aware that there is still a very real ongoing pandemic and that church as we are used to it is a high risk activity. Rev. Nienaber shared with us that most UMC churches in our district are not opening yet and are being recommended to worship online or worship outside if they must gather in person. At this point at Common Ground we are able to have a better, safer, and more inclusive worship experience online than if we were to meet in our parking lot or inside our sanctuary.
While our staff have been doing a phenomenal job on our online worship, we recognize that this option is not ideal for everyone. If you are unable to access our livestream please contact our Director of Multimedia and Digital Outreach, Eric Ryberg, at firstname.lastname@example.org for other options.
Even though we are still worshipping at a distance there are ways that we can continue to be in community. Each week after worship there are virtual coffee hours that are hosted. If you would like to host or participate in one of these coffee hours please contact our Director of Children’s and Youth Ministry, Erika Knight, at email@example.com. Another way that we can worship together while being outside of our building is by worshipping in small groups. We recommend connecting with others from Common Ground and meeting to watch the live streamed worship service outside while observing CDC recommendations for proper social distancing. These are two small ways for us to stay connected and more will arise as we continue to learn and be creative in this time.
We know that no matter what decisions are made there will be some who agree and some who disagree. We want to remind everyone to have grace with us, this subgroup, and one another during this heightened time. We are all doing our best and we want to live our Wesleyan call to “do no harm” to the fullest as well as our vision that Everyone Counts.
Grace and peace,
Pastors Amelia and Andrew Buschena