Updates from Hillside UMC 
on the Coronavirus & Campus Closings

[Released September 13, 2020]
Dear Hillside family,

For those of you who have been longing to get back to in-person worship, we have some good news! On Sunday, October 4, we will open our doors for Sunday morning worship in a limited capacity. As we continue to navigate the complexities of the Covid-19 pandemic and follow the guidelines we have set for reopening our building, we also have heard from many of you who are eager to be present on Sunday mornings and are willing to assume the risk to be in person with us.

We learned during our Pioneer program in July that having procedures including wearing masks, limiting numbers, practicing distancing and counting on everyone’s willing cooperation, those who were present felt safe and secure. As we go forward we will continue the same procedures.

Both the Modern and Traditional services will take place in Celebration Hall in order to maximize seating. Modern Worship will begin at 9:30 as usual but the Traditional Service will begin at 11:15 in order to allow more time for the transition between services.

A few important things for you to know: 
  1. Preregistration will be required. After the October 4 service, registration for the following Sunday will open on Monday, so you’ll have to register separately each week. 
  2. Numbers will be limited for each service and registration will be cut off when those numbers are reached. 
  3. Masks, distancing and sanitation rules will be in effect. You’ll receive more details when you complete registration. 

For those of you with Children: 
We will have programs for kids’ nursery through 5th Grade. All children must be preregistered in order to attend. Currently we will not have “Live” Clubhouse or the Garden, but kids will be able to watch during service and participate in small group activities. 
  • For Children’s Drop off: All kids (and parents) will need to enter the building through the Church Office/ Nursery entrance. Masks will be required for everyone age 4 years and older while inside the building. From the kids check in station, parents will drop children off in their assigned classroom and proceed to Celebration Hall.   
  • For Pick up: Parents will exit Celebration Hall through the back doors and come down the Children’s Hall to pick up their children and then exit out the Office/Nursery Doors. Children must be picked up immediately following service. 

As always, whether you choose to attend worship on the Hillside campus or at home, remember these things:
  1. We have seen the value of a quality online presence, and we will permanently continue to livestream both the Modern and Traditional services as we are doing now. 
  2. Currently, we are a focused on in-person Sunday worship. We will begin plans to reopen for in-person facility use as conditions allow. 
  3. If you are in a high-risk group or are just hesitant to join a large-group activity, we understand. Please continue to join in worship online, connect with your life group and friends, and let us know if you have any needs. 

In Him,
Herzen Andone, Senior Pastor
Tina Kirkland, Leadership Council Chair 
[Released August 20, 2020]
CLICK HERE to View the Hillside Close-Up Edition regarding this matter.

Dear Hillside Family,

As we ride the roller coaster of reopening our church campus and getting back together again, we as the Hillside leadership want to communicate to you the ways that we’re trying to navigate these waters in the most responsible way possible. We miss you and can’t wait for the time that we can see you again!

As we make the decisions regarding opening our campus and starting to worship in person, these are some of the things we’re doing every day:
  • We listen to and consider recommendations from the Bishop and Cabinet of the UMC North Georgia Conference.
  • We watch for local and state government recommendations and requirements.
  • We monitor the website www.globalepidemics.org, which notes statistics and trends in our county and state, as well as around the world.
  • In order to get a “feel” for how circumstances are being perceived locally, we have regular personal conversations with educators and medical personnel who are part of our community and congregation. 
  • We take all of the opinions of our congregation into consideration when you communicate them to us. (You can do that at [email protected])
  • Most importantly, we are continuously in prayer for wisdom, discernment and faithfulness.

As we all have become aware during the last few months, there is no clear science to these decisions and standards are frequently changing. It’s complicated, but we’re trying to get there!

Please remember that though we are not meeting in person and we are yearning to do so, the church is not the building. You are the church as you continue to pray for and care for each other and live out Jesus’ calling on your life. That is our prayer for you.

In Him,
Herzen Andone, Senior Pastor
Tina Kirkland, Leadership Council Chair 
[Released July 16, 2020]

Dear Hillside Family,

As you no doubt have heard, the number of Covid-19 cases in Cherokee County has continued to rise in recent weeks. After conferring with the District Superintendent and the Hillside leadership team, we have made the difficult decision to postpone our reopening originally scheduled for August 2. We will continue our online-only worship at least through the month of August as we evaluate infection rates and adjust our plans accordingly.

This decision will of course affect the schedule that we had previously published for reopening the building, restarting Children’s programs, and holding group meetings. As those details are worked out, we will provide them on social media, through email, and at hillsideumc.org/updates. If you have specific questions or comments you can email [email protected] Please continue to pray for wisdom and discernment and to care for each other as we navigate these times.

In Christ,
Herzen Andone, Senior Pastor
Tina Kirkland, Leadership Council Chair 
[Released June 30, 2020]

We encourage everyone to review the following updates before arriving on campus for our August 2nd launch.

  • Hillside cannot guarantee that you will not be exposed to Coronavirus during your visit. The CDC advises that older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from Coronavirus. Guests should evaluate their own risk in determining whether to attend church. People who show no symptoms can spread Coronavirus if they are infected, any interaction with the general public poses an elevated risk of being exposed to Coronavirus. Click here to read more guidelines about additional worship requirements.
  • Children’s Programs on Sunday will gradually phase in beginning with grades 1-5. By September all Children’s Programs will be back in place.
    • August 2: Resume 1st to 5th grades 
    • August 9: Resume kindergarten classes 
    • August 16: Resume pre-k classes
    • August 23: Resume all preschool and toddler classes 
    • August 30: Resume nursery
  • Communion is deferred until September as we continue to evaluate and clarify health and safety procedures.
  • Masks will be required at all times when inside building, and social distancing will still be in place.

Have additional questions? Click here to review our ongoing list of FAQ's. If you still have questions, send them to us at [email protected] Stay tuned to this page for more updates as we get closer to our August 2nd opening. 
[Released May 14, 2020]

Dear Hillside Family,

As we look ahead to “getting back to normal” here at Hillside, our leadership team has been meeting to plan the strategy that will keep us all safe and healthy and conform to standards set by the government and health authorities. The Bishop and Cabinet of the UMC have recommended no public worship services before June 22. Based on these limitations (and subject to changing circumstances in the future), we are planning for the following:
  • First of all, we will permanently continue to livestream both the 9:30 Modern and 11:00 Traditional services as we are doing now. We have seen the value of a quality online presence and plan to make the investments necessary to keep it going.
  • On August 2, circumstances permitting, we will open our worship services to all (9:30 and 11:00 only). Requirements for masks, etc., will depend on conditions and regulations at the time. We will also gradually restart our children’s programs beginning with older elementary and moving toward younger ages as the month progresses.
  • On September 6, we will resume our full calendar, including three Worship Services, Sunday School, nursery and all weekday activities.
  • In the weeks leading up to August 2, we will have opportunities for a few “Pioneers” to participate in worship with our Pastors, Staff, Lay Leadership, and Worship and Guest Services volunteers. Pre-registration will be required for everyone wishing to participate. During this transitional time of “dress rehearsals”, those who are assigned to be present will have the opportunity to worship, observe and evaluate. Pioneers will be required to use hand sanitizer as they come in the door, wear a mask, observe social distancing and follow rules that they will receive in advance. There will be no children’s, youth or Sunday School programs during this time. See below if you would like to be one of our Pioneers.

A few things to consider:
  • If you are in a high-risk group or are just hesitant to join a large-group activity when we reopen, we understand. Please continue to join in worship online, connect with your life group and friends, and let us know if you have any needs.
  • We need a few Pioneers! We will assign a small and hopefully increasing number of people to attend a designated service prior to the scheduled opening on August 2. If you would like to participate in worship during that time, and you agree to follow some very specific rules that we will send to you, please email [email protected] We will also ask you to evaluate your experience so we can make changes before we have a large group present.

Thank you for your patience and faithfulness during this process. In light of the “new reality” that we’re now living in, it is a daunting and complicated task to envision gathering several hundred people together again every week. We continue to thank God for his presence and provision during this time and know that He will show us the way to the future.

See you soon!
Rev. Herzen Andone, Senior Pastor, Hillside UMC
[Released April 30, 2020]

Dear Church Family,

We are currently assessing the latest recommendations from the Conference, as well as the Federal and State governments and will provide an update to you as soon as we have a reasonable plan to reopen our campus. At this time, our campus remains closed until further notice. We will continue to hold online services for you on Sundays at 9:30 and 11:00 AM. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to hold your health and safety as our utmost concern. We also thank you for your continued generosity in helping us to accomplish the work of Christ in our community during this time.

See you soon!
Rev. Herzen Andone, Senior Pastor, Hillside UMC
[Released April 23, 2020]

Hello My Hillside Family!

By now you’ve no doubt heard from both the President and the Governor of their plans to open up businesses and organizations across the nation and the state.

Our executive ministry team and our staff have reviewed those guidelines and are currently developing a phased re-opening plan for the church to correspond with those guidelines.

Rest assured, however, that whatever plan we develop for a phased reopening of Hillside church will place the highest priority on continuing to protect those at highest risk in our church family:
  • our senior adults,
  • those with underlying medical conditions,
  • families with very young children.

I hope to update you next week or as soon as we have more information to share about our plan for a phased re-opening.

Because, I know I speak for the entire staff when I say that we have missed seeing and being with all of you. And even though we’ve been blessed with excellent online experiences for worship and spiritual growth, we still long to see you…face to face…and we will. 

One last thing…I want to thank all of you for your continued generosity to the ministry and mission of Hillside Church. Because of your faithful giving:
  • we are able to create excellent online worship and spiritual growth experiences every week,
  • and we continue to serve the most vulnerable of our neighbors who are in need of food, shelter, assistance and hope.

Thanks and I’ll see you soon!
Rev. Herzen Andone, Senior Pastor, Hillside UMC
[Released April 1, 2020]

In keeping with recommendations from government officials as well as the Bishop and Cabinet, the Hillside UMC building will be closed through April 30th.
[Released March 25, 2020]

Dear Church Family,  

Based on the following:
• Compliance with current Federal and State guidelines concerning the global and national Covid19 pandemic as articulated by the Governor of Georgia and the President of the United States
• Continued “Social distancing” requirements of groups no larger than 10 persons with 6ft of spacing between individuals.
• Cherokee County School Board plans for school to remain closed through Spring Break.
• The need to protect those in the church family and community who are most vulnerable to the virus:
-Senior Adults
-Those with medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus, e.g., asthma, heart conditions, COPD, etc.
-Young children

The Executive Ministry Staff in conversation with Worship, Spiritual Formation, Guest Services, Mission and Administrative Staff recommends implementation of the following:
• The facilities of Hillside UMC to be closed through Easter Sunday 2020.
• Outreach ministries, e.g., Forever Fed, etc will continue to have access to provide ministry to the wider community with staff support and in accordance with state and federal guidelines.  
• Weekly worship services will continue to be developed for online worship.
• The pastors, worship leaders and production staff/volunteers are currently developing ONLINE worship experiences for Holy Week - Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday - and Easter Sunday using all of the church’s talent.
-We encourage worshippers to access the livestream of the ONLINE worship service at 9:30am on Easter Sunday through the church website or Church App rather than Facebook Live: www.hillsideumc.org/live.
-Note: We selected this time and option because so many other churches in our area and beyond are using FB live at the 11am hour, which has affected bandwidth availability and thus degraded the quality of the worship experience on FB Live.
• The EMT, Worship and Ministry staff and Leadership Council will continue to monitor and evaluate the issue of facility access, worship, etc., after Easter Sunday based on developments or changes in State or Federal guidelines.

Know that the health and welfare of our senior adults, our children and those with medical vulnerabilities is of utmost concern to us. We covet your continued prayers and support.

Sincerely,
Rev. Herzen Andone, Senior Pastor, Hillside UMC
Mrs. Tina Kirkland, Laity Leader, Hillside UMC Leadership Council
[Released March 15, 2020]

Thank you all for your support and understanding as we’ve had to make some difficult decisions in just these last few days. But we are so thankful for technology where we can still gather and worship online together as a congregation. We want you to know that our decision to go fully digital for the next few weeks is simply a proactive measure to keep you safe; and to the best of our knowledge no one that’s been here on our campus is connected to any cases of the Coronavirus. We also want to respect those in governing authority over us as the Bible commands us in Romans 13. So with their recommendations to consider closing for our own safety, we will act as such.

With that being said, we want to give you some information regarding our campus closing and what that looks like for the next few weeks. We’ve had a lot of questions to come in and we want to hopefully clarify those and any other questions that you may have.

So our campus will be closed through Sunday, March 29th. At that time, we’ll re-evaluate whether we should extend that closing period or not. All updates will be released on our social media platforms as well as on our website.

The biggest question we’ve gotten so far about our campus closing is regarding our bible studies, classes, and groups that meet throughout the week on our campus. So if it is a Hillside generated group or study, we would encourage you to still meet, but at an off-site location if you are able.

If it is an outside group/organization that uses our facilities, those groups are still available to meet in our facility. If you are a part of one of those outside groups that meets onsite here at Hillside, please refer to your group leader or organization for any updates on meeting locations.

Our church offices will be closed during this time, and our staff will be working remotely through March 29. They will be available through email, if needed.

In the meantime, let’s continue to pray for the health of our friends, family, and community as a whole. And let us pray against the spirit of fear. Let this be a time where our faith is deepened, especially during this season of Lent. And in your prayer time this week, we encourage you to take a few moments and read Luke 12 where Jesus talks about the balance between preparedness and worry. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind. So be comforted in knowing that He is with us and we have no reason to fear.
[Released March 13, 2020]

Dear family and friends,

We are writing to share that as of Sunday, March 15, 2020, Hillside UMC will be closed for our on-campus activities. Earlier this week, Governor Brian Kemp made the recommendation to consider the closing of schools and other large gathering entities such as faith organizations.

With the support of the Hillside UMC executive staff and leadership, this decision has been made solely as a proactive measure to do what is in the best interest of our church family, staff, and community at large. The Hillside Preschool & Academy has also implemented this for the safety of the students, families and community, and are acting in concert with the church.

Our campus will be closed through Sunday, March 29, 2020. An evaluation will then be completed to determine if the closing period should be extended. This is being done in an abundance of caution to keep people safe and to do our part as community citizens to slow down the progression of the Corona Virus.

However, we will still be offering online services for you on Sunday mornings through our online platforms. We will offer our normal Modern Worship service at 9:30am, but we will also offer our Traditional Worship service online at 11:00am.  You can tune into these services one of three ways: 1) Facebook LIVE, 2) directly through our website at www.hillsideumc.org/live ,  or 3) The Church app. We also invite you to continue your faithful and generous support of Hillside’s ministry and mission to the community by mailing your tithe and/or offering to the church, using electronic bill pay or giving online at www.hillsideumc.org/give .

Please continue to pray for our caregivers, health care professionals and those who are ill. In addition, we urge you to be in contact with our sisters and brothers to ensure that needs are being met and people are receiving the care they need. Thank you for your support and understanding in this matter. Please know that this decision was made prayerfully and with the health and safety of our whole Hillside UMC community. As our community and our world together face a new and unknown challenge, we believe it is more important than ever to be a beacon of hope through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sincerely,
Rev. Herzen Andone, Senior Pastor, Hillside UMC
Mrs. Tina Kirkland, Laity Leader, Hillside UMC Leadership Council