An Update from Pastor Eric Hernando

Hope Chapel’s New Hybrid Ministry Focus
Dear Hope Family,
       We want to start by thanking all of you for your love for God and People as evidenced by your continued support for the people and ministry of Hope Chapel during this challenging season caused by the COVID 19 Virus. Going forwards we are going to undertake the delicate balancing act of both ministering to people’s spiritual needs while also doing our best to keep people physically safe. In this email we want to try and both explain our plan for future ministry in a hybrid context (i.e. both in sanctuary and online) and address some of the most common concerns we have heard from our church family.
       Over the last several weeks we have talked with many of you about your concerns for the church’s need for both physical safety and community. Some have expressed to us a concern about meeting together in any capacity while the spread of the COVID19 virus is still at a high rate, with hundreds of new cases a day here in Maricopa County. To those who feel this way let me say your concerns are justified. As a church we are not going to pressure anyone, whether leader, volunteer, or attendee to do anything that they do not feel physically safe doing. We will continue to stream our Sunday morning worship services as well as our midweek devotionals, prayer meetings, and worship jam sessions. We want you to feel engaged, included, and affirmed in your decision to worship remotely. Indeed, if I (this is Pastor Eric speaking alone) were transparent, I would say that if it were only about me, I would likely choose to continue to keep services digital only to ensure people’s physical safety.
However, others have expressed to us a deep need for physical community and fellowship, especially during this trying time. A common theme we have heard expressed from several has been how this virus season has caused stress, anxiety, and in some cases even depression. These ailments are then made worse (or even caused in the first place) by the social isolation we are experiencing. People have shared that while they care deeply about their physical health, their mental, emotional, and even spiritual health are suffering so greatly that they would rather take on some risk to their physical health and meet together than continue under the certainty of the effects of continued isolation. To those who feel this way let me say your needs are seen and going forwards we are going to do our best to both minister to those who need a physical presence and keep the risk to your physical health as low as we can while still ministering effectively in a sanctuary setting.
The following plan has been deeply prayed over, discussed, debated, and analyzed by Hope Chapel’s Pastoral Staff, Elder Board, and a hand selected task force of church members with special experience in the fields of medicine, business, and ministry. The following is what we believe is God’s will for Hope Chapel’s hybrid ministry future:
Worshiping from Home:
As mentioned previously, we will continue to stream our Sunday morning worship services for adults as well as multiple midweek prayer, worship, and Bible engagement opportunities online. Our goal is to continue with online streaming and digital engagement not only for the remainder of this COVID19 season, but also into the future as part of our new normal for church ministry. In addition, during this COVID19 season we want to make sure those worshiping from home feel as connected as possible. To this end we plan on starting to offer in June a monthly worship from home kit which will include Communion elements for your family, curriculum for kids in Royal Rangers and/or Girls’ Ministries, and other engagement materials. More details will be forthcoming on these kits.
Timeline for on Campus Worship:
Provided there is not a significant spike in cases or reports of outbreaks at other churches holding services on campus, our plan is to start Phase 1a of campus worship on May 31st.
Phase 1a is currently scheduled to last for two weeks and will include:
·      Worship in the sanctuary at 10:00 am for teenagers-adults (same as prior to COVID19) with modified seating and safety protocols (more on this later).
·     The Church House will host “Family Rooms” where families with children can attend and each have their own family table with activity kits for the children so parents can focus on a stream of the worship service. Parents will be asked to keep their children in their physical presence at all times during Phase 1. A family host will be present to give instructions and make sure the service streams smoothly.
·  We ask that those who plan on attending during Phase 1 RSVP so that we can ensure enough seating in both the sanctuary and church house. An email with an RSVP link will be sent out on Mondays. The link will also available on our Facebook page and church website. Here is the link.
·        We will continue at home/online streaming for all kid’s ministry classes at 5:00 pm and throughout the week (more on this later).
Phase 1b will be shaped by feedback we receive from Phase 1a with potential changes including:
·        Families will be asked if they like the family seating arrangement in the church house or if they would like to have family seating in the sanctuary. In either case, parents will continue to be asked to keep their kids with them throughout all of Phase 1.
·        Depending on the number of people who choose to attend on campus vs. remotely and whether families with children join us in the sanctuary, we will determine if we need to move to two services. If sufficient social distancing requires a second service we will host an early service reserved for those who are at higher risk and without kids and a more kid friendly later service reserved for families with kids. Non-high risk adults without kids would be free to choose from either service. More details on the two-service format will be given prior to our move to two services if we determine to go that route.
·        We will continue at home/online streaming for all kid’s ministry classes at 5:00 pm and throughout the week (more on this later).
Phase 1 Kid’s Ministry Rationale: We love kids here at Hope Chapel and we determined that in our current high risk environment we would be unable to provide a kids ministry structure that was both effective from a ministry perspective (i.e. where the kids learn and have fun) and safe from a physical perspective (i.e. where kids social distance and are not putting each other or their teachers at risk for virus spread). We hope to be able to minister to families with children in the most effective and comfortable way possible, hence our two-week experiment with family rooms in the church house.
Phase 1 Campus Safety Protocols: Our goal is to make worshiping on campus safer than going to the grocery store! To that end we will institute the following safety protocols:
·  Seating arrangements: Our sanctuary will be converted to “First Class Legroom and Space” seating with multiple columns of 2-3 chairs with 6 foot aisles in between them. Members of our hospitality and safety team will also be there to assist families who may need to combine groups of chairs to form a family pod while maintaining proper social distancing.
·   Entrance Expectations: As you enter the sanctuary members of our hospitality and safety team will be there to hold the door for you and provide you with hand sanitizer. If you have ever been on a cruise you know the joy of hearing the words “washy washy” as you enter the buffet area! A member of our team will also have a touchless infrared thermometer so that you can rest easy knowing you and everyone around you is fever free.
·     Face masks: Members of the Pastoral Staff and the Hospitality and Safety Team will wear face masks except when needing to speak into a microphone from the stage. Face masks will also be provided and encouraged as a means of making sure we do not accidentally spread any germs or viruses while possibly being asymptomatic.
·     Greeting and Fellowship Time: We will not have a formal meet and greet time during the service but will pause during announcements for a giant “air hug”. We will also ask that those who wish to spend time talking and fellowshipping with others prior to or after the service do so under the ramada, in the grassy area, or in the parking lot and to leave the sidewalks and lobby clear so that those who wish to maintain more strict social distancing can do so without having the sidewalks blocked. The Common Grounds will be closed during Phase 1 so be sure to bring your own coffee!
·     Disinfectant Practices: Prior to every service our team will disinfect all door handles, bathrooms, light switches, flat services, and chairs. We will also disinfect bathrooms after the service begins. Protective seat covers will be provided by all toilets. Tissue boxes will also be supplied to eliminate the need for touching shared surfaces (ex. Toilet handles and doorknobs).
Phase 1 Small Group, Bible Study, and Prayer Ministries
·     During Phase 1 Hope Chapel’s Adult Small Group, Bible Study, and Prayer Group ministries will take a case by case approach on how to best conduct ministry. We will be in contact with the leaders of these ministries and will announce in the coming weeks which ministries will return to campus meetings abiding by the new safety protocols and which ministries will continue ministry online.
·     Royal Rangers, Girls’ Ministries and Youth: The younger classes for these ministries (i.e. Elementary school aged kids) will wait to hold classes on campus until Phase 2 along with the rest of our children’s ministries. Dave Blount and Janet Abello will be talking with their ministry leaders to determine whether or not the older students (i.e. High School and Jr. High) will conduct any on campus classes or activities during Phase 1. What they determine will be announced in the coming weeks.
Our hope and prayer is that you receive all of this news in the spirit in which it was intended, one of deep love. Because we love you deeply, we are doing our best to minister effectively to people’s minds, hearts, and souls while also keeping their physical bodies as safe as possible.
May God bless you and keep you; may He make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may He lift up his face upon you and give you peace!
Pastors Eric and Aimee Hernando