New Life Plans In This Time of Caution
This information will change as we learn more: last updated December 10, 2020
12-23-20 New Life has suspended all in-person worship as Austin/Travis County has entered Stage 5 COVID restrictions. All worship opportunities have been moved to Zoom until further notice.
12-10-20 New Life continues to meet both outside and online. Masks are required and most tent sides are removed, so dress warmly. Austin Public Health monitors hospitalization rates in the region and has maintained the Stage 4 advisory. If a Stage 5 risk alert is activated, New Life will meet online only.
8-24-20 New Life plans to return to safe in-person worship beginning Sunday, September 6th, with worship recorded and posted online for those who prefer to continue worshiping remotely. Since Governor Abbott's statewide mask order, cases across the state and in Hays County have reduced since July. Please plan to follow all precautions we maintained during our June worship period. Wear a mask, consider bringing your own chair (or getting your own from the trailer), no communion or food after worship, etc. For those who prefer to continue to worship from home, online worship will be posted on the New Life YouTube page by Sunday evening.
7-9-20 Cases in Hays County continue to rise, despite statewide mask order and stay at home urgings from Texas governor. No new guidance has emerged from our synod, which is still asking for suspension of all gatherings (New Life has requested updated guidance on outdoor worship specifically, but that has not yet emerged.) New Life will not meet in person until cases are in decline in Hays County for 14 days, per our phased worship plan (below, 4-30-20). We will return to online worship only until that time.
6-26-20 In light of request by governor to stay home and Bishop to suspend in-person church activities, New Life will not meet in person on the land Sunday June 28 or July 5. While we believe that outdoor small outdoor gatherings are quite low-risk, and New Life congregants have been very carefully observing distancing and mask protocols, we will do our part to keep people at home as much as possible in the next two weeks to try to flatten the curve here in Texas. We hope to gather again on July 12. Messages for Sunday June 28 and July 5 will be posted on our New Life YouTube channel for home worship. Texas Governor Abbott responds to rising cases in our state by asking people to stay home if they can. Governor Abbott Takes Executive Action To Contain Spread of COVID-19. "Every Texan has a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can." Bishop Sue Briner of the Southwestern Texas Synod of the ELCA asks all congregations to suspend in-person gatherings. "I strongly recommend that congregations who are holding or planning to hold in-person gatherings of any kind suspend them until the current rampant spread of the virus ends."
6-18-20 Hays County issues order to require masks in public places effective 6-22, in response to rising numbers of cases. Some local restaurants are closed again with employee infections. Meeting outdoors, with distancing and masks, continues to be considered safe as we continue to learn more and more about the virus. New Life folks gathered for worship on the land continue to be careful about distancing and masks.
6-17-20 With cases on the rise in Hays Co., we continue to monitor guidelines and recommendations. So far indications are that outdoor gatherings in open spaces with distancing have very little risk of transmission. Please maintain distance and wear a face covering/mask (except infants & toddlers - CDC guidelines here). Consider bringing your own chair or take one out of the trailer if you don't want to sit on the picnic table/benches. Bring your own water bottle and snacks. We will continue to offer online worship options.
6-8-20 Sunday morning worship on the land resumed June 7. Please wear a mask and observe distancing. Bring your own water bottle and spray ankles for bugs before arriving. Hand washing stations and hand sanitizer are available. For June: no hymnals, paper bulletins, snacks, children's table, children's message or communion. We will add elements back in as we feel safe to do so. Continue to check here and in the weekly newsletter for updates. We will post the sermon online on our YouTube channel Sunday evening (goal is by 5 PM).
5-19-20 Hays County active cases rise to April 28 previous peak. Given congregational willingness to wait to gather, and given that the active cases number is small and hard to base plans upon, New Life is adjusting our phased reopening: May 24 - opportunity for prayer and service: workday on the New Life land and collection for LWR and PAWS. Prayers offered at 9:00 AM (weather permitting) for our community and our community service projects (see newsletter for details), social distancing guidelines apply. Land tasks list and project collection boxes will be in the tent all day - feel free to come at your comfort and convenience. May 31 - no gathering in person at the land. Feel free to walk trails, use labyrinth, pray on your own. Last 9:00 AM online Sunday worship (see "worship from home" button, above). June 7 - worship resumes on the land, 9:00 AM. Celebration of confirmation (and ongoing and new confirmation students). No communion, snacks, children's time in June. July 12 - if advisable, communion resumes with previous cautions (individual cups, etc.), children's circle and snacks may also resume.
5-18-20 Governor's Strike Force to Reopen Texas begins phase two of reopening, allowing restaurants 50% capacity, and opening other types of establishments. Active COVID cases in Hays County rise after plateau.
5-14-20 Prayer on the Land ~ 9:00 - 10:00 AM Sunday May 17, 2020 ~ New Life land: A short prayer service - to complement our online worship. For May, online will remain our main worship mode. But we'll start adding elements at the land. Since the peak on April 28, the curve has more flattened than dropped dramatically, this Sunday we will have a "super-soft opening" with spoken prayers of the people and readings. We will add in music, sound system/amplification, and other elements gradually. Please do not attend if you are sick, especially coughing or with fever. Please wear a mask and observe social distancing protocols - no hugging or shaking hands. We will have new multiple hand-washing stations and signage. For now, no hymnals, booklets, no snacks or communion, no children's circle or other activities.
5-6-20 Hays County cases continue to decline, after April 28. We continue to monitor. New concern is emerging and guidance will be forthcoming about singing - we will continue to monitor and update.
5-5-20 Open Texas Checklists - Revised May 5, 2020, Now in Effect: Minimum Standard Health Protocols, Checklist for Churches/Places of Worship, Texas Governor's Strike Force to Reopen Texas - when New Life gathers again, will follow thse guildelines, as well as those of the ELCA Texas Bishops.
Phase 1 - Worship Online & Prayers on the Land - 9:00 AM Sundays - earliest start date Sunday May 17- when Hays Co. cases have had 14 days of declining. Continue worship online at 9:00 AM Sundays as primary worship service at last through May. For those who wish, there will be a prayer service on the land at 9:00 AM. This will not include the sermon or Gospel reading (recorded previously and available online), but will include other readings, prayers, songs. No communion, no food, no Bible studies. Bible studies continue on Zoom Sundays through May 17, then break for summer. Peace is done without touching. No children’s circle and message. Setup includes spacing, additional hand washing stations, signage. If you are sick (including and especially cough and/or fever), you may not participate. If you are immunocompromised or at-risk in any way, you are urged not to participate. Wear a mask.
Phase 2 - Modified Worship on the Land at 9:00 AM & Message Posted Sunday Evening Online by 7:00 PM Sundays - earliest dates first half of June - when Hays Co has had decline of cases for 28 days. Shift back to primary worship on the land at normal time. More minimal online offering (recording of message during worship) available at 7:00 PM. No communion, no food, no Bible studies. Peace is done without touching. No children’s message. Setup: same as above. If you are sick (including and especially cough and/or fever), you may not participate. If you are immunocompromised or at-risk in any way, you are urged not to participate.
Phase 3 - Full Worship on the Land 9:00 AM & Message Posted Sunday Evening Online at 7:00 PM Sundays - earliest dates last half of June - when Hays Co has had decline of cases for 42 days. Communion resumes with individual cups and food safety precautions, children’s message may resume, as may light snacks. Peace continues without touching. Setup: Number of chairs and distance between to be determined by guidelines at that time.
4-27-20 April 27 guidance from “The Governor’s Report to Open Texas,” which does not renew the shelter-in-place order in Texas and allows for many businesses to re-open at 25% capacity beginning May 1. The report includes "minimum standard health protocols" for places of worship (pp. 39-41).
4-22-20 Texas and Louisiana ELCA synodical bishops issue Coming Back Together As a Congregation Guidelines and Coming Back Together for Worship Resources, which encourage a phased approach to re-gathering as local cases decline.
4-17-20 Texas Governor Executive Order GA-16 allows for reopening of non-essential businesses with to-go model, closes schools for the remainder of the school year. Churches are advised to continue under guidelines for "Guidance for Houses of Worship During the COVID-19 Crisis" from the Texas Attorney General, which states, "Houses of worship must, whenever possible, conduct their activities from home or through remote audio or video services." It further states that churches may "use creative means" to deliver services, including several services of 10 persons or less.
4-16-20 White House issues Guidelines for Opening Up America Again. It outlines three phases, based on the trajectory of identified COVID-19 cases, for communities as they consider how to engage in communal activity and open currently-closed operations. The document states clearly that this process will be contextual to each state, county, and municipality.
4-12-20 Texas Governor renews disaster declaration.
3-31-20 Texas Governor Greg Abbott's Executive Order Relating to statewide continuity of essential services and activities during the COVID-19 disaster states that churches are "essential services," however, that in providing essential services: "In particular, all services should be provided through remote telework from home unless they are essential services that cannot be provided through remote telework." The order states that schools remain closed through May 3.
3-29-20 White House extends social distancing guidelines to April 30. These guidelines urge people to stay at home except in cases of extreme need and not gather in groups of more than 10. New Life congregation will not gather on the land at least until May 1.
3-25-20 Hays County Issues "Stay at Home, Work Safe" order - Effective as of 11 p.m. on March 26, 2020, and continuing until 4 a.m. on April 10, 2020, all individuals currently living within Hays County are ordered to stay at home at their place of residence. Obviously, New Life congregation will not gather in person on the land until at least April 10 - please stay tuned here for updates. Worship-from-home resources will continue to be posted here at our regular worship times, and Bible study for all ages is happening Sunday mornings - see "worship from home link, above. Please join us in prayer and worship in this new way. Please use the "Donate Now" button above for your offerings so that we can continue to operate and serve our community.
3-20-20 New Life will have worship components available online at our regular service times (9 AM Sundays, and 7 PM Wednesdays in Lent). We will also be trying Bible study times live via Zoom. Watch this site for links and updates. New Life Leadership is working to be in touch with all of our members and regular visitors, to make sure we can help anyone who is in need, and also to help our larger community as effectively as possible. Please click the "donate now" button above to give to the church so that we can continue to operate.
3-17-20 In compliance with recommendations nationally, New Life will not hold worship or other gatherings through the end of March, and will reassess at that point. New Life leadership team is in communication about ways to be church together in this time - to worship in new ways, to continue to serve our neighbors, and to stay in contact and support each other. This order does not include outdoor gatherings in places that are not fanced. In effect through May 14, unless superseded.
3-17-20 Hays County order to prohibit public gatherings of 10 or more in indoor spaces or enclosed outdoor spaces.
3-16-20 White House issues new recommendations to eliminate gatherings of 10 or more (as New Life leaders were considering plans for gatherings of under 50).
3-15-20 CDC issues new recommendations to eliminate gatherings of 50 or more. Please stay tuned for New Life decisions and adjustments.
3-15-20 New Life leadership team met and had consensus on (1) continuing to offer outdoor worship at this time, (2) offering alternative options for those who choose not to gather - we will post sermon texts, and hopefully sermon videos soon, we are looking into other things, including music from New Life, (3) we will put into place systems for checking in on one another, to make sure people have basic needs covered and are not socially isolated.
3-14-20 Bishop Susan Briner of the Southwestern Texas Synod of the ELCA has put out a letter to congregations recommending suspension of all indoor worship gatherings after 3-15 through the end of March, with reassessment after that. As an outdoor worshiping community, these recommendations do not yet include New Life. We will continue to worship as of this posting.
3-13-20 Tent sides taken down, so in case of rain (or drizzle), we will still be in maximum open-air conditions.
3-13-20 Newsletter message:
We are so fortunate to meet outside in nature, always. And unexpectedly, this may be a gift to all of us at this time of being careful to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Being outdoors, we have fewer concerns than gatherings in enclosed spaces. And in a time of social isolation, it may be that outdoor gatherings can provide needed social contact, especially if this is prolonged.
We will have worship, both on Sunday morning and on Wednesday evenings in Lent, and special services for Holy Week. Please feel free to practice the right amount of social distancing for you and your family based on your health needs and anxiety levels. We are a community of grace. Song, prayer, story and routine will be helpful to all during this time, children and adults. We will do our best to provide both normalcy and the GOOD NEWS of hope in Jesus and in the sharing of God’s love in community during this time.
AND we are taking more precautions and scaling back at New Life as appropriate:
- Our Lenten practice of a fast on the “peace” will continue. Please greet each other as you want before and after service, respecting the fact that many will not want to shake hands or hug.
- We will continue with individual disposable paper cups at communion. The pastor and assisting minister will wash hands directly before communion with soap and water at our handwashing station near the bathroom. They will be the only ones touching the cups or bread (beside prep team, who are also practicing safety). If you feel like not taking communion at this time, that is always OK at New Life.
- We will not pass around signup sheets. Please sign up to help online at https://www.signupgenius.com/findasignup - signups for
- We will not have hymnals or Bibles. We will have a disposable (recyclable) song sheet for worship, and this is a great time to get into the practice of bringing your own Bible!
- We will have Bible study, but children will only hear the Godly Play story, with only the storyteller touching the materials. We will not have work time, but will go outside for supervised time as adults finish studying. We will provide individually packaged snacks for children for feast.
- We will not have soup and bread meal before Wednesday worship. (This is not a food-borne virus, this move is just in light of smaller anticipated numbers.)
- We will change our Maundy Thursday format to Holden Evening Prayer (no agape meal or foot washing).
- No midweek Bible study or prayer circle for now: we will reassess as needed.
We encourage everyone to wash hands often (there is a handwashing station at the bathroom), to sneeze and cough into a tissue and (please) throw it away, and to stay home if you are sick. We have several people with immune concerns at New Life, and we are practicing care for each other.