Rev. Virginia Lohmann Bauman
Senior Pastor and Teacher
President of Consistory (Church Leadership Board)
Dear Member and Friends of St. John’s,
Dave Sarver and Pastor Gini participated in a conference call convened for faith leaders by Dr. Myshieka Roberts, Director of the Columbus Department of Health. This was in follow up to Governor DeWine’s declaration yesterday of a state of emergency in Ohio due to the “community spread” of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). We are all being asked to practice “social distancing” in order to slow the spread of the virus, as our medical system prepares to serve the sickest among us.
Yesterday Pastor Gini also had the opportunity to meet with other senior clergy in the UCC to discuss options for safe church practices during this uncertain time. Last night we received additional recommendations from the Heartland (Ohio) Conference of the UCC, along with plentiful resources linked at:
Based on the additional health and safety recommendations shared with churches in the past day in this evolving pandemic, we have made the following decisions for St. John’s:
1) We WILL host worship on Sundays but we are suspending in person Sunday worship through the end of March to keep our community safe. It is important that we continue to find ways to “gather” for worship, if only virtually right now, as we live our faith with liturgy, music, preaching, and prayer. We hope you find this new worship model meaningful and encouraging during this challenging time.
2) This means that for the next three Sundays (3/15, 3/22, 3/29), we will be offering a worship service streamed online at Facebook Live at 11am each Sunday from our sanctuary. (There is no cost to stream the worship service; just go to St. John’s Facebook page at the appointed time). The service will “live” on the church Facebook page for later viewing, and we hope to separately post the sermon on the church website and church YouTube page for later viewing. We will send out further instructions for this process in a later message. We are a brave and loving people – we know we can make this work! Perhaps some of you will even come up with ideas like “Sunday worship online viewing parties,” etc.
3) We are postponing our annual Green Wig Sunday fundraiser until a later time.
4) Gospel Choir is also postponed during this hiatus from in person worship experiences. We will miss Lean on Me this Sunday, but look forward to celebrating together again in April.
5) We will continue The Largest Table community meal on Wednesdays, but must transition to “to go” (boxed/sack lunch) meals rather than a sit down fellowship meal for the next few weeks. This is to comply with the Governor’s prohibition against “mass gatherings” of 100 people or more during the pandemic.
a) We invite other churches/organizations who are able to donate the box/sack lunches for 200+ people as part of our “Adopt a Wednesday” initiative to keep our most vulnerable hungry people fed during the pandemic. We are not able to process piecemeal donations at this time; but if you can help provide the entire “to go” meals for a Wednesday, please let us know!
b) We are in need of volunteers (who aren’t at risk) to help provide and distribute these meals each week at the church; however, this invitation doesn’t apply if you are ill, in a high risk group, or medically vulnerable in any way (See the CDC coronavirus guidelines linked to the Heartland Conference letter to churches).
c) We are still determining how to proceed with our Wednesday noon communion service if possible; this service will not be livestreamed. If you are able to fulfill your volunteer role for this service in the weeks to come, please confirm with Mary Torok.
6) The Wednesday evening class is on hiatus this week while we determine how we might meet with “social distance” in the conference room or remotely (Zoom call, etc.) to continue our faithful journey together during the pandemic.
7) The Open Shelter plans to remain open from Mon-Fri serving the daily needs of our homeless and marginally housed neighbors, many of whom are at great risk. Please keep those who live on the streets in your prayers, as well as the many children who will miss meals while not in school.
8) The Church Office will remain open during regular business hours. However, to keep our team safe, please limit visits to the office unless by appointment. We are postponing non-essential meetings, but other meetings will continue as planned (for example, Budget & Finance next Tuesday). Please watch carefully for announcements in this evolving situation.
9) St. John’s COVID-19 Response Team is in need of volunteers to help clean the sanctuary and other “high touch” spaces in the church as the weeks progress. Please contact Marla Tomastik or Mary Torok if you are able to volunteer; Mary and the nursery team have done an exceptional job keeping our children’s spaces clean and tidy. Steve Sandaluk and Gery Bauman are doing their best to keep our huge church facility sanitary inside and out, but any help would be appreciated! Again, this invitation doesn’t apply if you are ill, in a high risk group, or medically vulnerable in any way.
10) Please GIVE GENEROUSLY to our church so we might continue to help those in need and pay the church’s bills on time. Below are ways to give automatically and online, as well as mailing a check to the church. You may recall the key question posed to each of us during the Consecration Sunday annual giving initiative: What percentage of my income is God calling me to give?” Your faithful, hope-filled weekly/monthly gifts to the church support our church budget, and your special gifts in times of crisis help us help those most severely impacted by the pandemic.
Finally, some have questioned why we are taking these drastic measures when we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Franklin County. Here is a link to an article Dave Sarver provided today to show “How much worse the coronavirus could get, in charts:”
We hope and pray that these decisive actions will protect those most at risk in our wider community, and lead us forward into continued mission and ministry at St. John’s. Remember, “social distancing” does not mean adopting a “bunker mentality” and isolating oneself from the greater world. Instead, “social distancing” invites us to find closer ties in our faith community, our neighborhoods, our families, and our friends during a crisis. We may have to find alternate ways to connect and serve right now, but we are a resilient, strong, and brave congregation. We will get through this, together.
With deep and abiding love,
Pastor Gini, Dave Sarver, and the Leadership of St. John’s
Senior Pastor Gini