June 4, 2020
Our church session is so grateful for the capacity we have to provide worship services online these past few months. At the same time, we have discovered in a new way the importance of being together in person in worship. I think we are all missing that sense of community that we cherish and truly long to be back together.
Churches are currently designated as being able to open at greater than 25% capacity in stage four in New York State, which is the same category as schools and many other educational and community organizations.
Over the past few weeks, your session has begun considering what it will look like to gather again in person, and even as we have these conversations, we’re aware of the ongoing safety risks for group gatherings due to COVID-19 and continuing spread within our community.
Session has reviewed guidelines from
Genesee Valley Presbytery
National Council of Churches
New York State Forward- governor’s reopening plans
And our insurance agent
The guidance from our state lays out for us exactly the conditions that will need to be met in order to be together again in person.
- wearing face masks
- hand sanitizing
- physical distancing
- reduced occupancy in sanctuary
- no choir or congregational singing
- no communal items (hymnals, pew Bibles, bulletins)
- no-touch offering/communion, no handshakes
- increased cleaning for facilities, including restrooms
- no water fountains
- special signage for one-way traffic flow
- no fellowship coffee/food or gatherings
- we will need extra volunteers, mindful that this should not include older or medically vulnerable people
- we’ll also need to apply these practices to our Christian Education programs and other ministries
- NYS requires a church safety plan and site safety monitor to ensure these guidelines are upheld.
It will take quite a bit of preparation to ensure that we follow these guidelines as well as collaboration between our church leaders, staff, and committees.
For many of us it’s hard to imagine worshiping, spread out 6-12 feet apart, wearing masks, not touching anyone, singing or having a choir, or even unison responsive readings or unison prayers.
So much of what we’re used to in worship involves all these things. And session is thinking about how emotionally and spiritually hard it could be for us to be together with these kinds of restrictions in place.
Whatever the coming months look like, we believe that it’s essential for us to keep worship a positive force and support in all of your lives.
As a session, we also recognize that we’re probably still relatively early in this pandemic, and that so many of our church members are vulnerable to COVID 19.
We also take seriously our responsibility as church leaders to provide for the well-being of this flock and follow our state and national safety guidelines, so we want to exercise extreme caution in the weeks and months ahead.
- We have decided to delay return to in-person worship (through summer)—can reevaluate for fall
- We will stay with the 11:00 a.m. time for live worship throughout summer. You can either worship with us live or later in the day or week, when it is convenient for you.
- We will prioritize 4-5 programs most important to PPC that would: 1) reach the most people and 2) offer connection and community to our members.
- We’re preparing to upgrade our tech equipment.
- We’re going to be sending a survey out to gain your input on what is most important to you in our worship and ministries in this time and get a sense of your comfort level with regard to gradually regathering.
- We’re also looking at the possibility of a few evening services outdoors this summer.
We plan to continue regular updates, both in written communications and in video format, to keep the congregation and community informed.
And we trust that we will get through this together. We believe God is doing some amazing things in this time, and that no matter what challenges we face, God is with us and will guide us through.
May God’s love and peace be with you all,
* * * For a video message from Pastor Laura, click here.