Trinity and COVID-19: updates
COVID Update Message from Trinity Administrator
May 20, 2021 + Don Boelter
As vaccination rates rise, and new case counts plateau and start trending down, church staff and the COVID Response Team continue to accelerate re-entry planning in order to ensure that TLCS' faith-based communal experiences of worshiping and
learning together are provided as safely as possible.
The COVID Response Team met on Saturday, April 24 at church to discuss re-entry to worship plans, including seating arrangements based on current physical distancing and room capacity requirements. The Team had a follow-up meeting on May 6 to review May 3 updates to State of Washington’s requirements for in-person, indoor worship, and review drafts of written policies we will need to finalize before re-entering in-person, indoor worship.
In addition to working with our Covid Team, I was able to attend on-line congregational meetings of University Lutheran (April 24) and Phinney Ridge Lutheran (April 25) churches and hear about their re-opening plans. I also have been in email contact with the Assistant to the Bishop, Andy Yee, regarding promised “Best Practices” guidelines from the Synod Office. He sent me a draft version, and I provided him with some comments and suggestions. The final document has not been distributed as of this date.
I was also able to attend my first in-person, indoor worship as a visitor at First Free Methodist Church in Seattle on May 9, and plan on attending an in-person worship service at Christ the King RC near my house in the coming weeks.
Trinity’s current timeline is to have our first in-person, indoor worship service on Sunday, July 18 (more details forthcoming). This will be preceded by an outdoor service on July 11. This is consistent with Governor Inslee’s current timelines for the state’s re-opening plan. I am also working with TLCS small groups on an individual basis to schedule in-person small group meetings as needed, ensuring they are following all the safety guidelines (there have only been a few small group gatherings). Please contact me if your small group is interested in returning to in-person, indoor worship at church.
I am also continuing to communicate with outside user groups about possible future events, including monthly phone meetings with Pastor Jeff of the Evangelical Chinese Church of South Snohomish County (still unknown if or when they will return), but my primary focus will be on internal TLCS events until those are up and running safely again.
In regard to new CDC guidelines on masking: per recommendations from local health authorities and the Northwest Washington Synod Office, we will be keeping our current mask policies in place in the TLCS campus (indoor masking still required, regardless of vaccination status). This will be reviewed by the COVID Response Team as we receive more guidance from health and ELCA authorities.
Thank you all for your continued patience as we continue to wade through the constantly changing landscape of this pandemic time. And please, if you already have not done so, please get vaccinated so our re-entry to “normal” life can come as quickly as possible.
Grace and peace,
Don Boelter, Administrator
Re-entry to Indoor Worship FAQ
Trinity Covid Response Team + March 18, 2021
(Maureen McKenzie, Rob Palmer, Marilyn Nadeau, Laurie Bronson, Don Boelter, Nanette Erban)
As you are probably aware, Governor Inslee advanced all counties in the State of Washington into Phase III of the pandemic restrictions effective March 22. As noted in this space over the last two weeks, planning for a re-entry to in-person, indoor worship continues to advance as well.
While state legal guidelines and requirements, and Synod and Church-wide recommendations will remain drivers in our re-entry process, we will also continue to be informed in all decisions by Trinity’s values as recently discerned in our Values Direction Action (VDA) process.
A core value of TLCS is faith-based communal experience of worshiping and learning together. While there are some shared elements to on-line worship, we recognize that collective worship is usually best experienced in the physical presence of our siblings in Christ, and that many are anxious to get back to the Sanctuary on Sunday mornings.
As we move forward, the COVID Response Team and church staff have received a number of questions as to what to expect when we are back worshiping together inside the building. We have attempted to answer them based on the current circumstances as best as possible, but please be aware, as with almost every element of this pandemic, things can (and probably will) change several times between now and when we are back together worshipping in the sanctuary?
When will be back to indoor, in-person worship?
Still unknown at this time. Some experts are still awaiting a “fourth wave” of rise in new cases to hit as physical distancing, mask wearing, and other safety mandates are lifted in some jurisdictions, and new variants of the virus make their way through the area.
Also at play in deciding when to return to the sanctuary on Sunday mornings will be the quality of the experience, which will depend on the possible safety restrictions that may still be in place.
What times will worship be when we first re-enter the sanctuary?
When we first return to indoor, in-person worship, we will continue our practice of the last 12+ months of holding one “blended” 10am service on Sunday morning. When additional services may be added and what times/days regular weekly services will occur is still to be determined.
TLCS is in the process of hiring a full-time Associate Pastor with a desired emphasis on worship planning skills, and permanent Music Ministry staff; while we will not delay re-entering indoor worship and other activities based on the timelines of these new hires, undoubtedly the new staff members will be included in strategically planning and coordinating these activities in the future.
Will I have to wear a mask when we re-enter indoor, in-person worship?
Initially, almost certainly. Dr. Fauci and other experts have predicted that we could be wearing masks into 2022 when gathering indoors. Under Washington State’s current Phase III COVID-19 restrictions, all attendees will be required to wear masks. This includes worship leaders and other speakers at service, i.e. Pastor Hector will not be allowed to remove his mask while preaching under current Phase III mandates.
Will there be choirs when we first return?
Very unlikely. Under current restrictions, choir performances are not allowed under any circumstances.
Will there be congregational singing?
Under current restrictions, congregational singing is permitted, but individuals must not remove face coverings to sing—it must stay on for the duration of the service.
What about other music?
Soloist musical performances are currently allowed so long as the performer wears a face covering. The soloist may have a piano or other accompanist, but musical performances of more than two individual performers are currently prohibited. Only woodwind or brass may remove facial coverings during musical performances.
Will we have to maintain physical distancing?
Again, at least initially, almost certainly. Currently any contact (hugs, handshakes, etc) is prohibited, and households must sit at least six feet apart.
Will I have to “reserve a seat” to attend in-person?
Possibly. While under current Phase III requirements churches are allowed to have indoor gatherings up to 50% of capacity (approximately 225 in Sanctuary), due to six foot distancing requirements, we would only be able to utilize every other pew, and host two household units per utilized pew. That would only allow about 40 household units into the main floor seating, with 10 or so available seating units in the choir loft areas.
Under current restrictions, we could also have an overflow area in another part of the building, such as the gym, but there needs to be a completely separate entrance/exit and separate bathrooms.
What other safety considerations will be in effect and how long will they last?
Unknown. It will depend on what we are legally required to do and what we feel is prudent. Some possibilities include: sign in, screening, and temperature checks at the front door.
Can we restrict in-person gatherings to those who can provide proof of vaccination?
Unknown. Currently, there are no safety exceptions for large indoor gatherings for those who have been vaccinated. That may or may not change in the coming weeks, but even if it does, there would be a host of other legal, ethical, and TLCS Values considerations to work through.
This all sounds rather complicated and confusing, I’d rather just continue to watch on YouTube in the comfort of my own home until necessary safety restrictions are lifted, will I still be able to do that?
Absolutely! TLCS plans to continue to provide a live-streamed service indefinitely. While barriers to entry for online worship exist for some, for many other--homebound, distant, have to work on Sundays, etc—online worship is the only avenue they have to be included in worship. TLCS will remain committed to providing an online experience.
I have a question that has not been addressed in this communications piece, where can I direct it to?
We have set up a dedicated email address for questions about our re-entry plans:
Will there be any other ways to provide my input into the planning process?
We will be sending out a brief survey in the next week or so to gauge people’s interest in re-entering indoor, in-person worship under restrictive conditions.
March 11, 2021 + Covid Response Team
As was briefly mentioned in last week’s What’s Happening, planning for a re-entry to indoor, in-person worship and other TLCS events has ramped up in the past few weeks because of the decline of new COVID-19 cases locally and nationally, and increasing availability of effective vaccines.
The COVID Response Team met on February 25 to review the current status of the pandemic, look at possible future trend lines, and discuss the many, many logistical details and governmental restrictions that will need to be navigated before we can safely return to our Sanctuary on Sunday mornings.
As many of you have discovered over the past year, TLCS has been able to continue our commitment to faith-based worship experiences through our weekly live-streamed 10am Worship Service, pre-recorded mid-week special services, and Zoom Bible study and other small group virtual gatherings. While we express much gratitude for all the volunteers and staff that have made these possible and thank our Creator God for the technology that allows us to worship and maintain relationships through these means, “online church” is unfortunately not available to our whole community due to economic, tech expertise, and other challenges.
And, as many have correctly expressed, as good as the new cameras and other hardware are, as smart our Tech Team is, and as creative as our worship leaders are, it is extremely difficult (impossible?) to capture the same level of communal experience via YouTube comments or Zoom screens.
So, the question on everyone’s mind is, When will be back to in-door, in-person worship? Unfortunately, that is still unknown at this time. Some experts are still anticipating a “fourth wave” of rise in new cases to hit as physical distancing, mask wearing, and other safety mandates are lifted in some jurisdictions, and new variants of the virus make their way through the area. No matter what happens with the progression of the virus, we will continue to take our lead from the recommendations of the NW Washington Synod, Snohomish Health District, and State of Washington.
All we really know for sure at this time is when we do come back, we will continue our practice of the last 12 months of holding one “blended” 10am service on Sunday morning. Still unknown is what safety restrictions will be in place at the date of re-entry, when additional services may be added and what times/days they will occur.
Next week in this space we will be addressing what in-person worship could look like given likely safety restrictions upon re-entry to the sanctuary in a Question and Answer format. If you have any specific questions you’d like included, please forward to firstname.lastname@example.org by next Tuesday. The following week in this space we’ll have an online survey in order to better gauge interest in returning to indoor, in-person worship under possible safety restrictions.
~TLCS Covid Response Team (Maureen McKenzie, Rob Palmer, Marilyn Nadeau, Laurie Bronson, Don Boelter, Nanette Erban)
November 16, 2020 + COVID Restriction Announcement + Don Boelter
Dear Trinity Congregation -
As you are probably all aware by now, Governor Inslee instituted new restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings due to the recent surge in Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Snohomish County has been hit particularly hard and we are in our most dangerous period since the nation’s first case was reported here back in January.
Therefore, we have decided to close the church building starting on Tuesday November 17 for at least four weeks, and require staff to work from home, except for our weekly online worship service and essential activities, including: childcare (Child Development Center), food distribution (Neighbors in Need), administrative functions such as bank deposits, mail pick up, and time sensitive facilities repairs.
As President-elect Biden stated, this will undoubtedly be a “dark winter.” As a Christian practicing in a liturgical tradition, I view this as starting Advent a bit early this year. It is a time of darkness, but also a time of waiting in hopeful expectation. For as Advent teaches us patience as we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas, so too is there light coming in this COVID-19 crisis with the development of several very promising vaccines only weeks away.
However, even with the approval of an effective vaccine, we are still probably many months away from returning to indoor, in-person worship services, live concerts, common meals, and many other activities that make our building such a vibrant and busy place under “normal” circumstances. We must continue to wait, knowing that by the simple act of staying home we are helping to keep our family, friends, and neighbors safe.
If you require entry to the building during this period, please contact me (email@example.com) and/or Debbie Jeske, Ministry Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can arrange building entry/disarming alarms and make sure we know who is in the building at any given time.
Please also feel free to contact me with any questions.
Don Boelter, Administrator
Thursday, August 13, 2020
COVID Response Update
Trinity Lutheran Church and Schools remains committed to the safety and security of our members, employees, and students, as we continue to strive to be a force in Lynnwood of Building > Belonging > Becoming a better community. To that end, over the past two months, at the direction of the Church Council, we have gathered a COVID Response Team that has begun meeting on a regular basis (via Zoom of course).
Also, as you know if you have been tuning into the live-streamed services, during this same time period we have recruited, hired, and started on-boarding Interim Coordinator of Worship and Music, David Horton. In addition to his amazing skills on the organ, David brings a fresh perspective to TLCS in how we are responding to the safety risks brought up by COVID-19 in the context of worship, particular as they relate to vocal performances.
At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence of aerosol transmission of the virus, increasing documentation of choral "super-spreader" events, and a recent significant jump in positivity rate of COVID testing in Snohomish County. In response, on Monday afternoon Governor Inslee’s office released revised requirements for religious gatherings.
All these factors led the COVID Response Team, in collaboration with Pastor Hector, David, and our attorney, to reexamine current vocal protocols at our Sunday morning live-stream service in the Sanctuary, and recommend the following restrictions in addition to safety measures already in place on Sunday mornings:
These changes will present additional challenges to our Tech Team, and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for the outstanding job and hours and hours of volunteer work that have been put into making the live-streamed worship happen, in particular: Joe Jeske, Cliff Bronson, Carl Setzer, Clint Buetow, Steve Alpers, Chris Morris and Josh Judd-Herzfeldt.
In addition to these changes, the possibility of an outdoor, in-person service was taken under consideration. After much deliberation and thought by members of the church staff, council, and COVID Response Team, we are currently planning a short service of prayer and contemplation, similar to that held in June in the wake of the George Floyd killing, following all the safety requirements for live in-person worship as revised by the Governor’s order earlier this week. More information on this will follow in our usual communication avenues.
Finally, I’d also like to thank the COVID Response Team for their time and expertise. They are: Laurie Bronson, Marilyn Nadeau, Maureen McKenzie, Rob Palmer, Nanette Erban (Trinity Child Development Center Director), Pastor Hector, and Don Boelter (Administrator).
If you have any questions or concerns about Trinity Lutheran Church and Schools’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Don Boelter at email@example.com, 425-778-2159 x2205.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
Trinity leadership has made the difficult decision to remain closed to public meeting and gathering through at least the end of April as local, state and national authorities continue to advise against large gatherings and encourage social distancing as much as possible.
While in-person meetings, worship and other gatherings at the church are on hold, Trinity will continue to offer virtual opportunities:
Staff and leadership are working hard to come up with more and creative ways to remain connected as a community during these times of separation and isolation, so check back here for updates, and be sure to subscribe to our mailing list for updates direct to your email inbox.
Trinity Staff continue to work, often from home, and can most easily be reached by email.
Update for March 12, 2020 (From Pastor Hector)
Dear Friends,Grace, mercy and peace be with each and every one of you in this uncertain and difficult time.
As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve in Washington state and our immediate community, Trinity leadership has made the difficult decision to suspend all public meetings and gatherings until at least March 30 beginning Friday, March 13, including Sunday and Wednesday worship services.
These decisions are made to take part in the public effort to slow the spread of the disease per guidance from Snohomish Health District and the State of Washington Department of Health. As of this writing, no confirmed or suspected diagnosis of the COVID-19 virus is known to be present in the Trinity community.
TRINITY BUILDING & STAFF
Until at least March 30, the Trinity building will be closed to the public, and all meetings, gatherings, concerts and worship will be canceled or postponed. Trinity office and schools staff will continue to work as appropriate given individual health and safety situations, but with varied hours and remote work as necessary. The most consistent way to reach someone is via email.
WORSHIP & LIVE STREAMS
For at least the next three Sundays, March 15, 22 & 29, Trinity will provide a live stream of a single and simplified worship service at 10 AM with a minimum of worship leadership onsite, including pastors, limited musicians, and tech support. Details and links will be communicated at trinitylutheranchurch.com/livestream. We will continue to evaluate the situation and make determinations for Palm Sunday, April 5, and beyond in the coming days and weeks.
Live streams for some form of Wednesday Lenten worship will also be offered at 6:30 PM on Wednesdays through closure.
Plans for other live stream opportunities like bible study, reflection, prayer and devotion are in the works and will be communicated to the Trinity community as more planning happens.
Trinity Preschool will close for at least 4 weeks, through the end of their spring break ending April 10, and will evaluate further closure in the coming days and weeks.
Trinity Child Development Center will close for at least 2 weeks, March 16-27, with the hope of reopening on a limited basis March 30, and will evaluate and extend closure as appropriate based on recommendations and guidance from Snohomish Health District and the State of Washington.
OFFERING AND GIVING TO TRINITY
To help support the ongoing financial health of Trinity, if you have not already, please consider transitioning to online giving (via GivePlus app on Android or Apple, or our online giving site). Alternatively, offerings can be mailed to the Trinity office. Thank you for your ongoing and generous support of Trinity and all of its ministries.
Trinity is committed to walk along the community in times of bounty and times of uncertainty. As a community of faith called to create spaces to experience the love of God and the care for one another, building one another up, and walking alongside one another, please continue to hold all affected by this epidemic in prayer. It is our prayer and hope that everyone in the Trinity community will experience the support and care of God, to whom all belong.
~ Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo
Update for March 10, 2020
Link to email sent on March 10.
Decisions will be made on a week-by-week basis to hold events and activities:
Trinity Calendar is kept up-to-date for specific meetings and events. With any questions, contact the Trinity office.
Update for March 6, 2020
In response to recommendations given to regional faith leaders by King County Public Health (summarized in a message from Bishop Shelley Bryan Wee), Trinity will be altering the Sunday communion practice and serving bread only, because "the Health Department advises against sharing liquids... As Lutherans, we trust that Christ is fully present in both elements of Holy Communion."
Furthermore, all are advised to avoid dipping hands or fingers into the baptismal font, and for the time being, the font will be moved to a higher platform in the sanctuary.
A Message from Pastor Hector Regarding COVID-19
March 4, 2020
Dear siblings in Christ,
Receive greetings in the name of the Lord as we continue walking this Lenten journey.
As we begin this month, we encounter new challenges that lead us to be a community that witnesses to the love, care and compassion of the Lord as a new viral infection (the coronavirus, aka COVID-19) is affecting the community around us.
I am writing today to ask for your partnership in addressing this health concern, and prayers of protection for everyone in the community and the congregation. The leadership of Trinity Lutheran Church and Schools is working on identifying safe ways to continue to minister.
First and foremost, we are carefully following all directives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Snohomish Health District (SNOHD), in our worship and meeting spaces as well as our schools.
At this time, per the CDC's current risk assessment, "most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus," and for those people, "immediate health risk is considered low." As such, the plan for now is to continue holding events, meetings, classes and worship at Trinity as usual. Of course the situation is evolving, and we will continue to closely monitor changes in directives from the CDC and SNOHD. Updates to Trinity's plans will be communicated to the community as they emerge.
In the meantime, we encourage everyone to participate in general precautions that can help minimize the risk to one another:
Finally, please join together in praying for God’s help to guide governments, agencies, institutions, families and individuals to act wisely and effectively to minimize exposure to the disease, even as we pray for God's healing power to touch those already affected by the disease.
We want everyone to know that we are aware of the situation, and more importantly that you are well-informed about how Trinity Lutheran Church and Schools will respond to the emerging situation, so we will be updating our website regularly and continue to send updates to everyone as they become relevant.
If you have any specific questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or any of the Trinity staff.
Thank you so much for your prayers and ministry.
Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo