Letter to the Congregation – Initial Response

Countryside family and friends,

Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works. Hebrews 10:24

God calls us to love each other and act in ways that provoke that love throughout our congregation and beyond. We are currently facing difficult and unprecedented times in our global community where these words of unity and cooperative spirit are needed more than ever. Countryside Community Church is concerned with promoting this love and action within our congregation in order to do our part for our larger Omaha area and global populations.

At the exact time where our gathering together seems the most necessary, we are challenged by the risks that the COVID-19, or Coronavirus, presents to doing just this. We want to isolate the virus, not our community.  So, we are being called to be a church in new ways that allow us the opportunities to use everything and anything at our disposal to develop creative ways of connecting with one another beyond our normal patterns of being physically present with one another.

In this sense, we are being called to see everything that calls us to love and concern for one another as being sacred responses to our need to support one another in unfamiliar circumstances.

Toward this end, we have been consulting intensively with medical experts in our congregation and beyond, as well as denominational leaders and our Tri-Faith colleagues regarding the best ways to respond faithfully to this growing pandemic, not with fear, but facts.  In response to their recommendations, we are joining many congregations across the country in an effort to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19’s spread and increase social distancing.  Specifically, we have made the difficult, but necessary, decision to limit gatherings of people within our church building to 12 or less.  This means we will be canceling public worship as a community on Sundays along with larger group meetings throughout the week.  In place of Sunday community worship, we will be live streaming a 10 a.m. service online starting this weekend and into the foreseeable future, through both our Livestream portal (countrysideucc.org/live) and Facebook live. More information about how to access this stream, as well as continuously updated information pertinent to our community response to COVID-19, will be made through a special link on the homepage of our website (countrysideucc.org/covid19).

Countryside cares about your emotional and spiritual well-being during this time as well as your physical health.  We realize that the decision not to gather publicly for worship and other activities will take an emotional toll on all of us.  But as one epidemiologist in our congregation put it, “The COVID-19 virus is ten times more deadly than the common flu.  Do you really want to ask people to risk their lives to come to worship when you can meet their needs in other ways right now?”

We are working quickly to develop ways to create this community-at-a-distance and be the unifying link that keeps our community connected but flexible.  We will be working with our board and committee leaders to help set up online and/or telephone meetings wherever possible. Our pastoral and other staff will be available for conversation and counseling if you wish to reach out for a listening ear or some positive support. We are working on ways to help the most vulnerable in our congregation who may be hit particularly hard by the growing epidemic, including paying for and assisting with grocery delivery.

For the health and safety of all of our members, the following activities have also been canceled for this weekend and next week:

  • 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. worship services in the sanctuary – A 10 a.m. live streamed worship will be held in their place on our Livestream portal and Facebook page
  • FAME
  • Eden Tree Initiative
  • COYO Jr High
  • COYO Sr High
  • Faith Singers
  • Preschool Kindernook
  • Judaism 101 with Rabbi Azriel
  • All Board and Committee Meetings
  • Wednesday Night Programming (Choirs, Holy Moly, Core 56 and Conversations with Chris)
  • Tri-Faith Initiative’s Imagine event
  • Men’s Retreat
  • New Members Class

Stay tuned for future communications, including a Pastoral Letter providing more detail regarding our response, in the coming days.

If you have any concerns or questions, please feel free to contact our ministers, staff and church leadership.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr. Eric Elnes, erice@countrysideucc.org

Rev. Dr. Chris Alexander, chrisa@countrysideucc.org

Russ Schertz, Moderator, russschertz@yahoo.com

Jan Brown, Pastoral Care Coordinator, janb@countrysideucc.org

Robyn Hubbard, Executive Administrative Assistant, robynh@countrysideucc.org

Dan Loven-Crum, Director of Administration and Communication, danl@countrysideucc.org

Rebecca Morello, Director of Children’s Ministry, rebeccam@countrysideucc.org

Alex Ritter, Director of Arts Ministry, alexr@countrysideucc.org

Stacey Carnazzo, Director of Kindernook, staceyc@countrysideucc.org