Cornerstone COVID-19 Responses

7/11/21 Update
Dear Cornerstone Family,
 
As we have greeted those in our church family who have come to the Ministry Center (MC) for their first in-person service, they have consistently expressed heartfelt joy in being able to see each other and worship the Lord together.  They say how nice it is to be back.  Many in our church family have stated that they plan on returning to in-person services when the State re-opens.  We have now reached that point.  We would love to see everyone back in service, even if it requires adding a second service!  We just look forward to being all together worshiping the Lord.  

Click here for a video announcement from Elder Rob describing our planned changes and the heart behind them.
 
Here are some additional details:  
Governor Inslee re-opened Washington State to full capacity last Wednesday (June 30).  Most Covid-19 related restrictions were lifted including social distancing.  The mask mandate is still in place for those who aren’t vaccinated, to protect children (<12 years old) who are too young to receive a vaccine, or those with autoimmune or other health conditions that prevent them from getting vaccinated, according to the Dept. of Health.  
 
Throughout the pandemic, our leadership team has sought to largely comply with our State’s guidelines, seeking to create a meaningful and safe Sunday worship environment.  Our goal is for everyone to come to worship in person at the MC in the short term and return to worshipping at the school once the facilities are available.   At this point, the Bellevue School District is not allowing churches to resume use of school facilities, but we will update you as we learn more in our continued communications with the school.
 
Navigating the ever-changing Covid-19 safety guidelines has been a challenge over the past 15 months.  Here are primary values and principles that we have used to guide our decisions:
  • We believe that God desires for us to gather together in corporate worship.  
  • We believe that God calls us to love one another (John 13:34) and to love our neighbor (Matthew 2:39).  We’ve gone above and beyond the safety guidelines in an effort to love one another.
  • We trust one another to exercise sound judgment and integrity.
 
We will be making the following changes to Sunday service at the MC, starting July 18, in response to the Governor’s re-opening and our desire to adjust our safety protocols in a manner that expresses love and care to the church family.  
  • Continue the use of KN-95 masks and retain the plexiglass shields on the stage during Sunday service.
  • Discontinue sign ups and the questionnaire for Sunday service.
  • Discontinue safety protocols for people entering the MC (e.g. taking temperatures, signing in/out)
  • Increase seating and eliminate the previous requirement for distancing, while still providing seating with more space for families with children or for those who prefer or require it.
  • Restart Manna with eating outdoors.
 
Outside of Sunday service, we will be making the following changes.
  • Masks will be optional at ministry events outside of Sunday service where children under 12 years old are not present.
  • Community Groups meeting at the MC may decide on their own masking protocol.
 
At this point, we feel that it is loving and wise for us to continue wearing face coverings during our worship service, even for those who are fully vaccinated. This is a way to “love one another” and help allay concerns of parents who want to bring their children to service or the ROCK ministry since children under the age of 12 years old are not eligible for vaccination at this time.  This is also in alignment with the current policies that the school district are planning to practice when students return to school in the fall.  As always, we will do our best to continue to monitor and assess the situation and adjust policies as circumstances change.  
 
We look forward to worshiping the Lord together!
 
Elder Patrick on behalf of the elders and pastors

5/19/21 Update
Dear Cornerstone Family,
Last Thursday (5/13/21) Governor Inslee announced the goal of opening up our economy to 100% full capacity by June 30th (or sooner if the State's vaccination rate reaches 70%). Currently, the State guidelines for churches allows for up to 15 people to sit together in a group. The Governor also stated that Washington will follow the masking recommendations of the CDC. The CDC announced that masks are no longer required for fully vaccinated people nor do they need to socially distance themselves. We are excited that we are moving closer to the time when we will be mask free and social distancing a distant memory.

Our leadership team has sought to largely comply with our State's guidelines throughout this pandemic, seeking to create a meaningful and safe worship environment. We are grateful that there have been no known cases where someone contracted the virus from attending our worship services. With that same heart, we will be allowing groups of up to 15 people to sit together starting this week (people can still choose to be socially distant). This also will apply to our children's ministry which will allow us to start offering in-person ROCK ministry as soon as we can get organized for it.

However, we feel it is wise and loving for us to continue to wear masks during our worship service and other ministry gatherings for the next few weeks, even for those who are fully vaccinated. By waiting, we may be able to see if there are any spikes in the number of cases due to the relaxed masks restrictions in the general public. One of the considerations we weighed in going this route is that the degree to which the coronavirus variants are impacting the general public as vaccines are rolled out is still not sufficiently clear, especially as mask restrictions are relaxed while there are still substantial amounts of people who are unvaccinated. We feel a measure of time will not only bring more clarity to this question, but will also allow us to continue to warmly welcome to our in-person service those in our congregation and the general public who still have some safety concerns.

We anticipate that after the Governor opens up the State 100% that we will also lift the mask and social distancing requirements and as always, we will seek to discern the best timing for this. Many in our church family have stated that they plan on returning to in-person services when the State opens up. We realize that at that time, there will be people who will come unmasked, while others will come masked-- we welcome all! To us, there is no shame in unmasking or masking, we just look forward to being all together worshiping the Lord.

Blessings,
p. Joe


4/22/21 Update
Dear Cornerstone Family,
I want to let you know that recently one of our staff members tested positive for Covid-19. They have been in isolation and have followed the contact tracing guidelines, notifying all the people they had potentially exposed. As a precautionary measure, each staff member has taken a Covid test and all of the results have been negative. Also, as a precautionary measure, other staff members may have been absent from ministry meetings or our worship service until tests results confirmed they did not have the virus. The reason we are informing you is to quell any speculation as to why staff members may be absent from ministry meetings or our worship service. The staff member did not contract the virus from attending our worship service/ministry meetings or expose anyone at these gatherings.

We will continue to be vigilant to practice good safety measures even as we move forward to do the Lord's work. Thank you so much for your prayers and your care for us.

Blessings,
P. Joe


12/11/20 Update
Dear Cornerstone Family,
Governor Inslee extended the restrictions that impact churches and our corporate worship services. The original directive that was targeted to sunset on December 14th has been extended to January 4th. If you will recall, one aspect of this directive limited worship bands to a single vocalists and one other accompanist. Our elders asked our safety team lead to call the Department of Health to get clarification and explain the safety measures we have in place and DOH agreed that having additional instrumentalists on stage is permitted as long as they are masked, six feet apart, and behind a plexiglass shield.

Also, due to the rising number of COVID incidents in our area, our Elders are asking everyone who attends our worship service to wear a KN95 mask or approximate equivalent (this is above and beyond what the State or CDC requires). These masks are significantly more effective in preventing the spread of the virus. Cornerstone will have an ample supply for anyone who attends the worship services and needs one so please feel welcome to come. Once infection rates decrease we will return to allowing cloth masks at our worship services.

Blessings,
P. Joe

11/18/20 Update
Dear Cornerstone Family, on Sunday evening our Elders met to discuss Governor Inslee's new regulations that include new directives regarding religious worship services in response to the growing number of Covid-19 cases in our state. There are two aspects to the new regulations that impact us. He has directed that bands can no longer be used. A single vocalist and one other accompanist is allowed. Although this has a detrimental impact on us, we feel we can abide by this new restriction for the time being.

The second directive is that he has disallowed congregational singing. While we respect the Governor and believe his decision was not made with the intent to cause harm, we do believe it was made without an awareness that his directive actually goes against our understanding and practice of corporate worship and the teaching of Scripture (Psalm 95:1-2, 98:1-6, 100:1-5, 1 Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 2:12, James 5:13). To many, congregational singing is merely the preliminary formalities before a message. Some view it simply as a form of spiritual entertainment. We feel the Governor has failed to realize the integral part that congregational singing contributes to the totality of our worship expression and experience. We connect deeply with the Lord through congregational singing. Congregational singing allows us to express our deepest feelings to God. The Lord often will speak to our hearts through the very songs we are lifting up to Him, bringing hope, awe, reverence, joy, conviction, peace, courage, and comfort. This is vital, especially in a pandemic!  In essence, it would be like permitting a team to play basketball but without the baskets. Therefore, we've made the decision to continue congregational singing. We do not make this decision lightly, nor do we make it with a spirit of defiance. Our sole motivation is to honor the Lord.

We've also made this decision in a context. We believe we should obey our civic leaders (Romans 13:1-7) and we have gone to great lengths to do so ever since the Corona Virus appeared. We have implemented the safety measures prescribed by the state and we believe they have been effective in providing a safe environment for us to worship. However, there has been no evidence offered that churches that have implemented the safety measures are spreading the virus and we suspect it's more likely due to people and organizations that have not followed the guidelines or the guidelines for some types of businesses has not been adequate.

I want to reaffirm that we do take this pandemic seriously and we do care about the safety of our church family and the broader community. Hopefully it's evident that holistic care must include our spiritual health which impacts our emotional, relational, and even physical health more than we realize. We believe the measures we've taken to date have been an expression of love for our community by keeping our services and events safe from spreading the virus and since we've begun holding events there has not been any known incidents of the virus spreading to people who have attended. Of course there is always a possibility that this could occur and if we discover that our safety measures are not effective, we would modify them and even suspend meeting together until they can be addressed.  
 
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Blessings,
P. Joe

11/12/20 Update
Dear Cornerstone Family, on Wednesday we were notified that two people who attended our Life/Focus fellowship on Saturday evening, 11/7/20, tested positive for Covid-19. In addition, one of them also attended the Sunday worship service the next day. Consistent with our safety protocols, we have notified every person who attended these events, including parents of the youth. At both events, the infected parties believed that they did not expose anyone according to the Department of Health's definition of exposure - less than 6' apart for 15 minutes cumulative over a 24 hour period. The youth leadership team and our safety team leader were immediately notified upon receiving the positive test results.

While notifying the whole church family goes beyond our safety protocols, since this was our first incident we felt it would be helpful for you to hear the facts of both incidents and the steps we have taken to respond. Our hope is that you will have confidence and peace that we are taking all reasonable measures to keep everyone safe while also not giving in to fear. When we re-opened our doors to gather again, we knew that there was the possibility that this could happen. But we felt that gathering to worship the Lord and grow in our relationship with Him is worth it, and we still do. We will be monitoring to see if there are any instances of people testing positive who attended these events which could indicate a need to re-evaluate our safety practices.

It's impossible to safeguard against all incidents of Covid-19, but our hope is that the safety measures we've implemented (social distancing, wearing masks, plexiglass shields, cleaning, contact tracing, temperature taking, and health check lists) will keep the virus from spreading when these incidents occur.

Clearly, contact tracing is an important part of the safety protocol. We are asking that those who test positive contact each person they may have exposed to the virus according to the DoH's standards. If you are ever contacted, please be respectful of the infected person's privacy and NOT disclose their names to anyone else. If people are confident that their privacy will be respected it helps to create an environment where people feel safe to let others know of their potential exposure. Please refrain from speculation because rumors can breed fear and hurt others. There is no shame, guilt, or condemnation for those who test positive. Covid doesn't play favorites and any of us can inadvertently catch it.

Lastly, please pray for healing and a quick recovery for the two individuals who tested positive and for protection over all who attended the events. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Blessings,
P. Joe

8/10/20 Update
Dear Cornerstone Family,
For those of you who were not able to attend yesterday, we're excited to announce that we are officially opening in person services starting next Sunday August 16th!  You've already seen some of the safety changes we've implemented on the stream, but before we open up the doors, we wanted to brief you on everything we're doing (and that we'll need your help doing) to keep each person safe at our Ministry Center on Sundays.  

10 Points of Protection on Sunday Morning
  1. COVID-19 health screening, including temperatures, for all staff, volunteers, and visitors prior to entering the MC.

  2. Everyone must wear a mask at all times.  Exceptions include vocalists who will be behind individual plexiglass barriers and the speaker who will be over 15 feet away from the nearest masked person.

  3. Everyone will enter through the front door and wash hands upon entry either with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

  4. Safe social distancing capabilities will set the limit to the number of people in the MC, rather than a specific target number.

  5. 2 people per restroom maximum capacity.

  6. Assigned seating in household clusters 6 feet away from the next household.

  7. All high touch surfaces will be disinfected with EPA approved products prior to and after service.

  8. Mics and other handheld devices will be cleaned and then disinfected in a UV cabinet.

  9. Air purifiers will be running during the entire time people are present in the MC and doors will be open to allow for maximum ventilation.

  10. Everyone will exit the MC using the big room doors and use hand sanitizer as they exit.

To help us remember these, we've put together a fun safety video that you will need to watch before attending a service.  Click the link to enjoy!

Finally, if you would like to attend the service at the Ministry Center, you will need to sign up each week, including filling out the health questions.  All volunteers will also be required to fill this out each week before serving. The signups will be setup for a first-come, first-serve basis to start and you will receive a confirmation email if there is space for you to attend.  You will receive a separate email if you have been placed on the waiting list for that week.  
If anything changes with your situation, we ask that you let Rita know as soon as possible for the health and safety of the congregation.  Go to the app or click here to sign up!

We also want to acknowledge that for many in our congregation, attending in person may not be possible for various reasons, whether personal or for somebody near to them.  We love you and want you to take all appropriate precautions, knowing that you will not be judged or viewed as any less faithful for your decision to attend or not.  This is a challenging time for all of us and we trust that you are each wrestling to balance living in freedom and showing appropriate caution to care for the people around you.  
Please know that these procedures are subject to change, as we stay on top of what the latest trends are and what restrictions are being required, so please be patient as we work our way back to attending in person.  Thank you so much and hope to see you soon!

3/31/20 Update
Dear Cornerstone Family,
I called the Washington State Department of Health to see how Governor Inslee's directive to "stay home, stay healthy" would impact our live stream services.  They consider those who are supporting live stream services to be exempt from the order, however, we still need to limit the number of people to 10 and adhere to the other restrictions (remain 6 feet away, wash hands, etc.)  Therefore, our live stream services will continue for the foreseeable future.  

Blessings,
P. Joe

3/19/20 Update
Dear Cornerstone Family,

Praise God!  Praise God?  Yes, praise God!  That may sound like misplaced religious speak in the midst of a virus that is causing unprecedented global upheaval impacting our health, economy, and relationships.  No doubt, our world is facing dark times, yet the light of our faith can shine brightly in this present darkness.

I want to outline how we are responding to the latest governmental recommendations and suggest constructive ways we can be a blessing during these trying times.

Cornerstone Ministries
  • We will continue to live stream our Sunday worship services and post them via our Youtube channel in lieu of physically gathering together.
  • Alpha will be meeting via Zoom in lieu of gathering together.
  • Freedom in Christ has been postponed at least through March.  Further updates will be forthcoming.
  • Community Groups are encouraged to still meet, but only online instead of gathering physically.  Pastor Daryl has communicated to the CG leaders a few options for your groups.  Please contact your CG leader to discuss the specific way your group will connect.

Opportunities to Bless
Instead of just hunkering down and waiting out this storm, we are encouraging you to think about practical, yet responsible ways you can minister to those around you.  
  • Donate Blood - There is a blood supply shortage due to the virus.  This is an incredible opportunity for us to make a huge impact and help literally save lives in this current crisis.  Pastor Anton is coordinating with several other churches to mobilize Christians in our area to donate blood.  He will send out more information as plans firm up.
  • Check in - Contact people who are most at risk of being harmed by this virus (elderly or those with health issues) and see if they need help with shopping, errands, or anything else.
  • Offer to help your neighbors - This could be a good opportunity to introduce yourself to your neighbors to see if they need any assistance or even prayer during this time.  If you have extra supplies, offer to share them.  Just make sure you take good precautions if you are handling food or other items.
  • Choose joy and service - Joy and a willing heart to serve are important expressions, especially with family members or others that you live with.  Instead of dreading having to home school kids or spending more time with your spouse, embrace it.  Treat each other with love and respect.  Go out of your way to bless family members.  Laugh together.  Do a puzzle.  Approach each day as an opportunity to be Jesus to people in your own home.  If your goal is simply to 'get through the day' then unless you die, you will accomplish that goal.  But if you remind yourself that your goal is to bless others with a great attitude it will make the time so much more enjoyable and my prayer is that marriages and families will actually be stronger because of this crisis than ever before!
  • Pray - Pray for our government leaders, health care workers, first responders, high-risk people, and those who have been hit hardest economically and physically.  Pray together as a family.

We will get through this and when we look back at God's faithfulness and what He accomplished, we will again, praise Him!

Blessings,

P. Joe