COVID-19 Updates

Update #6 – Nov. 10, 2020

 

Emmaus Fam,

We are planning to gather in-person this Sunday barring something unforeseen. The staff tested negative on Saturday and has remained symptom-free. The staff member who tested positive is doing well and is without symptoms as of yesterday. Per CDC/County Health District guidelines a person who tests positive must quarantine for 10 days from the day of symptom onset, and remain symptom-free for three consecutive days before breaking quarantine. It looks that will happen as of now, but if something changes we will certainly let you know.

So, we hope to see you on Sunday!

 


Update #5 – Nov. 4, 2020

 

Emmaus Fam,

On Monday one of our staff members tested positive for COVID-19.  They had minor symptoms that began on Monday and were surprised to receive a positive test. Their symptoms have worsened a bit but they are currently quarantined at home and doing well. 

We have worked to identify anyone who may have been exposed and have concluded that the only people who were directly exposed per CDC guidelines were other staff members as well as my family to varying degrees. No one else has exhibited symptoms to this point. We are all quarantining and the local health district has recommended we all get tested on Saturday at the free local testing site at the old Memorial Hospital from 9 am-1 pm. 

For these reasons, we will be unable to gather this Sunday (11/15). We plan to post a recent message I preached at Corpus Christi Christian Fellowship to our YouTube Channel in lieu of our gathering this Sunday for those that would like to watch. Provided we all test negative we are tentatively planning to gather again on Sunday 11/22. If one or more of us test positive, then it's possible we would have to cancel the 11/22 gathering as well with a view to gathering again on Sunday, December 6th for the beginning of Advent.

Please join me in praying for our staff member who contracted COVID-19. Hopefully, we'll be able to gather again sooner rather than later.

 

Update #4 – sept. 8, 2020

Emmaus Fam,

 

The day we have been waiting for has arrived. This Sunday, September 13th, we are returning to in-person Sunday gatherings. One of the songs we often sing, “We will Feast in the House of Zion,” captures both Israel’s longing as they languished in exile as well as our longing as we await the perfected Shalom that awaiting those in Christ. The pandemic and the resulting separation from one another have served to deepen that longing dramatically. Our gathering and our feasting, in-person, as a diverse people united under the rule and reign of King Jesus, are foretastes of the world as it will be in the age to come. This is why it has been so difficult not to gather, but also why many of us are so excited to gather again. We are still working on the feasting/table fellowship plans for the fall, and there will be more info forthcoming on that front, but for now, we hope to see as many of you as are ready and able to gather together again this Sunday. 

 

For those who are unable to gather with us for whatever reason, we plan to keep streaming our services as we have been since the pandemic began. You can watch the livestream/recording on the Emmaus YouTube or Facebook channels. We will welcome you back when you are ready and able to come.

Here are a few points to remember as we gather again:

 

  1. We are not able to provide childcare/godly play for now, but we are working on plans to do so.

  2. We are asking everyone who attends to maintain 6 ft. of distance in all interactions with others before, during, and after the service.

  3. Although you may feel comfortable with hugs or handshakes, others may not, so consider giving a friendly wave while we are gathered.

  4. Mask wearing is required for everyone who is able, and masks are available in the foyer and in the sanctuary for anyone who may need one.

  5. Hand sanitizing stations are also available in the foyer and the sanctuary.

  6. We are blessed to have large gathering space; therefore, we encourage you to spread out; every other row will be blocked off there, and there will be markers on the rows/pews to help with distancing.

 

The guidelines for our gathering are in keeping with recommendations from local, state, and federal leaders regarding large in-person gatherings. We believe they are appropriate given what we know at this point, and they are subject to change as local conditions hopefully continue to significantly improve as they have over the last few weeks.

 

We can’t wait to see as many of you as possible on Sunday!

Update #3 – July 12, 2020

 

Watch Parties/Sunday Gatherings Postponed

Emmaus Fam,

We were scheduled to gather in person on Sunday, July 12th for the first time since mid-March. However, as many of you know we are currently experiencing our most significant outbreak of COVID-19 since the virus first arrived in Corpus Christi. From the outset, our decision to forgo in-person gatherings was in keeping with direction from local, state, and national authorities for the purpose of protecting the vulnerable as well as our local healthcare capacity. Those factors still weigh heavily in our decision-making process.

 

Currently, Mayor McComb and Judge Canales have made it clear that we are experiencing a massive surge in hospitalizations and ICU usage. They both confirmed (links above) that as of July 1 we had nine available ICU beds. Therefore, we are postponing Watch Parties scheduled for this weekend and our planned return for in-person Sunday gatherings we had planned to begin July 12th until further notice. It does not make much sense to us to begin gathering when the outbreak is at its height locally and when our healthcare system is under such strain. When we initially made our plan to gather again we had seen two weeks of declining cases, but we are obviously in a much different situation right now.

  • We will continue our online services. 

  • We will continue Wednesday noon/midday prayers

  • We will continue to call and check in regularly with everyone until we can meet in person again. 

  • We plan to continue the in-person Tuesday evening meetings in the sanctuary on The Color of Compromise because of the small size of the group and the ability to distance in the large space. 

  • We will closely monitor the hospitalization/ICU capacity locally which be our primary factor in deciding when to resume in-person Sunday gatherings.

I hope you all understand how difficult these decisions are for us to make. We want nothing more than to return to in-person meetings as soon as possible. Keeping track of this amount of rapidly changing data is frankly exhausting. Many of you are facing similarly difficult challenges with your businesses/jobs and families. I am concerned about the negative effects of not gathering in person together for months will have on Emmaus, but ultimately, it's more important to me that we demonstrate our love of God by loving our neighbors well… even or especially when it comes at great cost to ourselves. In this instance, we think that looks like all of us taking social distancing measures and mask-wearing very seriously and delaying our planned return to in-person Sunday Gatherings for now.

If you have questions or want to talk through any of this further, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. May the Lord bless and keep you all during these difficult days!

Update #2 – March 17, 2020

Emmaus Fam,

Based on the latest recommendations from the CDC (3/16/20) that no more than ten people gather in one place, at one time, the elders have also decided to suspend House Church gatherings until further notice. We continue to ask everyone to heed to the latest recommendations from the CDC out of love for our most vulnerable neighbors. We’re working hard to adjust to rapidly changing realities. In light of the most recent developments we are planning the following:

  1.  We plan to begin recording/streaming a worship service each Sunday morning during this season when we are unable to gather. The online services will take the same shape as our regular Sunday morning services (liturgy, music, preaching), but shorter in length. We’re still working out details on the platform we’ll use this week, and we will communicate information as soon as we make a decision. We ask for your patience as we begin, we’ll be learning on the fly and hopefully improving our capabilities week to week. We plan to begin this Sunday at 10 am. Be on the lookout for specific details.

  2.  We are planning to have Rebecca record weekly godly play lessons for those of us who have children to watch and discuss together in our homes. We hope to begin these godly play recordings in the next 2 weeks.

  3.  I plan to stream/record a weekly midday prayer time on Wednesdays during lunch from 12-12:15 pm. We plan to start this in the next two weeks.

  4.  We are creating a rotating call list that will be divided up between the elders, deacons, and House Church leaders to reach out to one another regarding needs/prayer requests during this season.

  5.  We are planning to increase meeting CarePortal needs during this time. We believe that based on current recommendations from the CDC, nothing would prevent us from delivering needed goods to children in crisis. We believe this can be done with appropriate social distancing while also getting these children what they need. We’ll provide more specific guidance for those delivering these items. If you’d like to be made aware of CarePortal requests our church is seeking to respond to, and you haven’t signed up yet CLICK HERE to join the Emmaus Church CarePortal Response Team.

Lastly, I want to remind you of something I shared with you from our last gathering. Jesus is the door of the sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Those realities have context, they have a place and a time. That context is the desert. When food, water, and provision are scarce and when predators that threaten our lives are lurking in the darkness, that is the very reality into which Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep… If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:7,9,11 ESV) May the good shepherd lead us, provide and protect us, and save us during these days in the wilderness.

Your Pastor,

Joel

 

 

Update #1 – March 13, 2020

Dear Emmaus Church Fam,

I am writing to you to inform you about some decisions the elders have agreed are wise in order for Emmaus Church to begin to respond faithfully to the spread of the COVID-19/Novel Coronavirus. Many have wondered, myself included, what is so serious about this particular disease? The reality is the new Coronavirus is at least ten times more fatal than influenza. Additionally, it is highly contagious and with high numbers of new coronavirus infection cases requiring hospitalization occurring in the middle of flu season, there is a rising potential that our healthcare system could be overwhelmed without immediate action. This is what is currently happening in Italy.

Before I mention specifics about our response I want to lay out some of the values that are informing our response. First and foremost we want to confess our hope is in the Lord. We sing this often because in times like this it’s the most important thing to remind ourselves:

“We lift up our eyes to the hills. From where does our help come? Our help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1–2 ESV)

We want to hear the voice of the Lord saying to us “Do not be afraid.” We want to affirm God’s presence with us even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we want to look for the table being prepared for us in the presence of our enemies. Enemies like the new Coronavirus. Remembering and affirming our hope in this way in no way minimizes or disregards the current and future suffering as a result of this virus. Instead, our confession is that this present suffering is not the ultimate reality. The goodness and love of God manifested in Jesus Christ, through his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension reminds us that “because of the resurrection the worst thing is never the last thing.” (Fredrick Beuchner) In Christ, we have good reasons to hope rather than live in fear.

We also want to affirm the value of the Jesus people, the church, especially during a time of such anxiety, fear, and suffering. The church has a mandate in the midst of evil and darkness to be ambassadors of sacrificial love, service, generosity, blessing, and healing. Whatever measures we take, we can’t stop being the church. We’re people with a mandate from Jesus to be a city on a hill, to be a light in the darkness. We are called to love our neighbor. Especially our vulnerable neighbor.

Lastly, we want to affirm the voices and expertise of medical, scientific, and government leaders. We want to heed their advice as the virus progresses. You can keep track of national, state, and local recommendations here: (The Centers for Disease ControlTexas Department of State Health ServicesNueces Co. Public Health District). As I write this, there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nueces Co. However, our understanding is that is likely to change in the near future. It is also our understanding that as a nation we are moving away from policies primarily directed at containment (stoppage of the infection) to policies directed toward mitigation (slowing the infection). The first and most obvious mitigation practice is ceasing large gatherings of people during an outbreak. Doing so dramatically slows the spread of the virus reducing the burden on our hospitals and healthcare workers so those most affected receive the best possible care. Therefore, we have decided to make the following changes:

  1. We are suspending our Sunday Gatherings until further notice

  2. We are suspending all non-essential gatherings (Young Adult, Youth, Elementary, Bed Build, If Table, etc.)

  3. For the time being, we are going to continue to meet as House Churches. However, we are strongly encouraging the following mitigation steps even in these smaller groups:

  • We are asking House Churches to suspend the meal as well as communion.

  • We are asking those who participate in House Churches during this season to practice the following:

    • Hand-washing, using soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, upon arrival and upon returning home

    • Social distancing, no contact greetings (no handshakes, no hugs, etc.). Maintain a minimum distance of 3 ft. from one another.

    • Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow. If you use a tissue dispose of it immediately and wash your hands.

    • Anyone who is symptomatic (fever, cough, body aches) or who has a family member who is symptomatic should not attend and should not return until they/family member has been without a fever for at least 48 hours.

    • Based on recommendations from the CDC, those who are 60+ in age, immunocompromised (receiving chemo-therapy, pregnant, etc.), or who have underlying conditions (High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Cancer, etc.) should avoid non-essential contact with others during this time. If you fall into one of those categories we want to encourage you not to come to House Church during this time. We also want to include you however we can and also serve you by doing what we can to help you avoid exposure. (Ex. Can we add your grocery order to our list and bring your groceries to you, helping you avoid having to go to the grocery store?)

    • In lieu of our Sunday morning gathering, House Churches are free to meet on Sunday morning if they so desire.

    • If you are not connected to a House Church but would like to connect with one during this time, please let us know. (info@emmauschurch.net)

I can say confidently these decisions are coming from a posture of seeking to put others first rather than anxiety, fear, or panic. These steps, if followed, will certainly save lives because they have proven to curtail the transmission rate. Therefore, these are significant, tangible ways we can love our fellow Emmaus family members and our neighbors in the city through the coming days. As I send this, I pray that the Lord bless and keep you. May He cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Your Pastor,

Joel