July 29 COVID-19 Advisory Task Force Update
Wilshire is committed to providing opportunities for fellowship even while it remains unsafe for us to congregate. That includes keeping everyone involved in the life of our church up to date on the work of the Wilshire COVID-19 Advisory Task Force. Our team advises church leaders on the conditions under which we could safely gather within the church walls, works to create community in pandemic conditions, and plans for the day when our church doors are again open for Every Body.
The Task Force will update the congregation on significant developments as they occur and otherwise will provide a status report monthly.
If you have questions about our work or any of the information below, you can reach out to anyone on the task force directly, or send an email message to COVID@wilshirebc.org.
Wilshire COVID-19 Advisory Task Force Members:
George Mason, senior pastor; David Nabors, director of business administration; Heather Mustain, associate pastor; Darren DeMent, associate pastor; Doug Haney, associate pastor; Linda Garner, parish nurse; Cory Anderson, chair of Risk Management Committee; Rob Banta, chair of deacons; Debbie Meripolski, chair-elect of deacons; Bill Jernberg, health ministry team; Christy Tabor, chair of Weekday Education Committee; Gayle Lawson, chair of Building and Grounds Committee; Barbara Gass, chair of Finance Committee; Kenton Keller, facilitator of strategic planning; Dash Blaker, communications advisor.
COVID-19 Advisory Task Force Update – July 29
At the beginning of the month (July 2), the COVID-19 Advisory Task Force shared the guiding principles driving plans for reopening the church building for congregational worship. Those principles are captured in the acronym SEE – Safe Experience for Every Body.
We now feel it’s important to let you know that, acting in a principled way and given the current COVID-19 status and trends, we can’t see a scenario in which the church could reopen for congregational worship in 2020.
Here’s some background to help you understand how we came to that conclusion.
As we hear in the news daily, the S in SEE – Safety – continues to be elusive. COVID-19 hospitalizations are significantly higher even than they were at the beginning of the month. We’re targeting the Dallas County COVID-19 Health Guidance green zone as a minimum requirement for reopening the Sanctuary. Dallas County remains deep in the red zone. Progression through the zones – to orange, yellow and green – will require sustained data trend improvements for at least two weeks per zone, and likely much longer given where we are. We could be surprised by some new development. But the best guess for availability of a vaccine is still months away.
Beyond general conditions in our area, the task force is considering the special challenges of congregational gatherings and childcare. Dallas County school openings have been delayed at least until Labor Day. The Texas Medical Association ranked the risk of 37 activities ranging from opening the mail to going to a bar. Attending a religious service with 500+ worshipers was in the highest risk category, along with going to a bar or a large sports stadium event. It was deemed riskier than eating at a buffet or going to a movie theater.
That sets a very high standard for us as we consider when we’ll again gather in worship. And it doesn’t even account for the third E in SEE, Every Body. The percentage of Wilshire’s intergenerational family at high risk is greater than in the general population.
We all want to get back to our old, familiar ways of gathering and worshiping as soon as we can do it in a principled way aligned with our mission. We’re working hard to make the building as safe as possible for our return, including a total renovation of the bathrooms near the library. Entry door automation, hands-free faucets and water fountains, and motion-sensor lights are also in the works.
In addition to evaluating considerations for worship in the Sanctuary, the task force and leadership are working on guidelines for other uses of the building and grounds. Joan Hammons has told teachers and parents with children enrolled in Wilshire’s Early Childhood Learning Center that ECLC will not be open this fall. Carolyn Murray has shared the same sad news with Mothers of Preschoolers on that program. Darren DeMent has piloted parking lot meetings with the youth and our staff is coordinating with couples planning weddings and families seeking memorial services.
Small group meetings provide an opportunity to create a meaningful community and worship Experience – the middle E in SEE – with lower risk than congregational worship. We’d love your ideas on how two or three (or a few more) of us could safely gather in God’s name. Send your ideas, questions and feedback to COVID@wilshirebc.org or reach out to any of the task force members.
We’ll continue to provide updates no less than monthly, and let you know of any significant changes. In our reports, we’ll share more on the SEE principles and how evolving data trends and insights on the spread and impacts of COVID-19 are playing into considerations for how Wilshire worships.
Previous Advisory Task Force Reports
Questions or comments? Email COVID@wilshirebc.org
Wilshire continues to be the body of Christ during these times
Learn more here on how Wilshire is Keeping Community during Coronovirus.
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