April 19, 2021
“…in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests
of the others…”
--- Philippians 2:4
Dear Members and Friends of Atonement,
Two months ago, we sent out our seventh update letter detailing the latest news in our congregational response to the coronavirus. We noted the encouraging signs of new vaccinations and (at the time) declining COVID-19 cases in Pasco County. We are pleased to see that the vaccine is continuing to be distributed rapidly to our county residents, and many church members have reported that they are now vaccinated. However, the decline in COVID cases we saw happening two months ago has stopped and we are again seeing increases in the numbers. As someone recently remarked, “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in the tunnel.”
Presently, local COVID numbers have not yet reached our benchmark for returning to worship in our building. We were initially planning to hold off until the positivity rate for Pasco County was below 5% for two straight weeks. With the increasing numbers of people being vaccinated for COVID, the council approved increasing our benchmark number to 6%. With that new benchmark in place, we are ready to return to worship in the sanctuary as soon as the COVID positivity rate in Pasco goes below 6% for two weeks. You can keep up on the numbers by following this link:
When we do go back inside, seating will be limited because we will be continuing to social distance. You will need to make a reservation to attend, either by signing up on the website (under the RSVP tab) or by calling the office between 10am and 3pm by Thursday. Although Pasco County has withdrawn their “mask mandate,” we will continue wearing masks for the time being. During the service, special fans will be operating to filter and circulate the air. Look for a video coming out soon that will explain some of the changes you will see when we return to in-person worship in our building.
Until then, we are holding worship services outdoors (weather permitting). Since we have plenty of room to seat everyone outside, there is no need to pre-register or RSVP until we go back to indoor services. Worshipers have the option to bring lawn chairs and sit outside in the shaded area on the east side of the church building. When rain is an issue, worship leaders will be inside but people can still be in their cars and watch the live stream or listen on the radio. The live stream will continue to be offered for the 10am service. You can watch it on our website (www.discoveralc.com) as well as through Facebook and Youtube.
We are grateful to all the amazing volunteers who have worked to find creative solutions to the challenges posed by COVID. Our worship leaders and ushers, our Christian education and youth leaders, our Food Pantry leaders and volunteers, Stephen Ministry and Caring team, as well as Marybeth and our Office helpers have all had to make considerable changes this year. Often that has meant putting in many extra hours in order to continue their ministry while keeping people as safe as possible. We are proud of everyone who has chosen to serve God and our community as part of our family of faith at Atonement.
We are excited and hopeful to have come this far through the COVID crisis. We expect to see the opportunities for ministry multiply in the coming months as we begin returning to familiar routines. However, while we are “still in the tunnel,” we continue taking precautions and doing our part to prevent any further transmission of the virus. Thanks to you for your prayers and support through this long, strange time of pandemic. I pray that our Lord keeps giving you protection and strength each day, and joyful expectation of brighter days to come.