At The Orchard, we care about our congregation, and take safety very seriously.
Our staff began to regularly monitor the spread of this disease back in January, and we implemented preliminary protocols in February. Seeing the very recent expansion of cases in the USA over the recent days, we are getting ready to take further steps to intervene on behalf of our congregation.
We aren't interested in the media hype around this virus. We are, simply, very concerned for the well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This page is intended to be your resource for knowing what steps we are taking to care for our group. Good shepherds provide for and protect their flock!
Preliminary Precautions (Phase One)
In February, we implemented some basic protocols for general cleanliness and health, such as:
Additional cleaning and disinfecting procedures, especially children's areas
Additional hand sanitizing stations around our building
Bleaching tables before putting them away
Continued monitoring of worldwide virus spread
New Procedures, March 2020 (Phase Two)
Our responsibility isn't just to ourselves, but to the people that we come into contact with. These measures are temporary, and not intended to last more than a few weeks.
Services and Meetings
Additional disinfecting procedures everywhere
We will be disinfecting surfaces, doors, bathrooms, and other areas during each service
Coffee and Food
Food consolidated to one area
Coffee to be served by gloved volunteers
Prepackaged creamer and sugar
Replace water dispenser with bottled water
Discontinue meal service
Greeting (greeters and the "greeting time")
We are asking everyone to help us slow and stop the spread of any germs right now by choosing to greet people with an elbow bump, a smile, or a friendly wave.
Discontinue use of welcome tent
We will rely on lower risk volunteer greeters at door positions
Gloves will be available upon request
We are postponing our already-scheduled communion experiences until summer.
Handouts, response cards, offering envelopes, and gifts will be kept in drawers along with disposable pens
Pens, cards, handouts will not be kept in chair-backs
Our response is important. Passing baskets isn't.
Relocate giving baskets to the back of the room. No passing.
We will focus on our already-great online tools:
- online giving at theorchard.life
-online response cards
-online message notes ("live event")
Staff members have gone over procedures and are practicing these healthy habits:
hand washing frequently, 20 seconds, disinfectant soap.
wipe down/disinfect surfaces frequently
stay home if sick
work from home if exposed
What if the situation becomes extreme?
What if Gilmer County gets put on lockdown, like all of Italy right now?
We really don't think that is very likely, but we are going to hope for the best while preparing for the worst. We are called to "make the gospel relevant to our community," and that means providing hope and comfort during difficult times. Fortunately, we have access to great digital tools to connect people to community, and to proclaim the gospel... So even if we can't gather to meet and worship together, we CAN still somewhat accomplish our mission.
We have already laid the groundwork for this extreme case. You should prepare now, also. Here are the steps we are planning to take:
Quarantine or lockdown mode (Phase Three)
Our weekend messages at The Orchard are geared around helping you fall in love with God. We will continue to post messages at this location, and may try to enhance that with additional resources.
Of course, the BEST way to stay engaged with weekly messages is by subscribing to our podcast. Podcasts are automatically delivered to your device as soon as they are published.
Nothing can replace real-life community, but during this situation, we can still have community with interactive video conferencing. We are setting all our Lifegroup leaders up with paid Zoom accounts, enabling video conferencing for their life groups. Anyone can participate with a free Zoom membership! It is so easy to set up and participate. We don't want you to miss out on community during this potentially isolating time.
Obviously, discipleship is a lot harder in quarantine mode, but we believe people will feel the need for the gospel more than at any other time! You can participate in this by "liking" our Facebook page, and sharing and reposting our content. YOUR interaction (liking and sharing) makes ALL the difference in the Good News getting out through this channel!
Parents, your PRIMARY discipleship responsibility lives right there in your house... Your children are looking to you to disciple them, raising to love God, love others, and make disciples. We have a GREAT tool for you that you've already seen, our Parent Cue app resources you to have God conversations with your kids. It is free and for YOU!
What Can I Do?
How can I be part of the solution?
During this time, we are asking you to help stop the spread of the virus in the following ways:
Stay at home when you or a family member are sick.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
Cover your sneeze or cough with a tissue or your arm.
Get in the habit of NOT touching your face so often.
Substitute shaking hands at church with an elbow bump, a wave or a friendly smile.
If you or someone you know tests positive for COVID-19, please let us know so we can find a way to help, pray for everyone involved, and take any necessary precautions here at The Orchard.
It may be helpful to learn about the virus directly from the CDC. Don’t let fear drive your decisions; there is a lot of false information out there.
Pray for those around our country, and around the world who are infected with this virus. Pray for families of victims. Pray for our community.
Even during this time, ministry costs money. Your giving funds the ongoing ministry of The Orchard Church, and supplies needs in our community through our For Gilmer ministry.
Now more than ever, our community needs the hope of Christ. There are lots of ways to continue to serve. You'll find ongoing ways updated here.
"You are the light of the world."
-Jesus, Matthew 5:14
Some may feel like these are dark days. Instead, we believe that this is the most opportune moment for the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that "God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7) Not only that, but God has equipped you for just such a time as this. He has given you gifts to be used in exactly times like these. We are praying that God will fill us with His Spirit, and that we will know His power and presence.
Questions and Comments
If you would like to share thoughts, concerns, questions, or ideas with us as we navigate this unprecedented time, we'd love to hear from you. Your input and feedback are important to us. Please feel free to email us with any questions or comments.