March 26, 2020
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in (The Presbytery), with the (Elders) and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Philippians 1:1 (slightly modified)
Grace and Peace. Much needed in these days.
Rarely can we use the term “unprecedented” and have it actually apply, but these are unprecedented moments. We all wish the situation were different and we could gather in person and share the sacred moments we have taken for granted. These are interesting times.
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best -Philippians 1:3-9
As with any moment like this, it comes with both challenge and opportunity. It seems that we will be experiencing our current situation for an expanded period of time. Our challenges include how we lead the people entrusted to us through this time, coping with separation anxiety, the economic realities of job loss and food insecurity, continuing to engage ministry in ways that do not endanger the health and well-being of ourselves and of our communities. With great pain, we are recommending that you not gather for in-person worship, meetings or other non-essential gatherings until at least April 20. Taking this step, knowing it will cover Holy Week and Easter, will grieve many. And we grieve with you. Until we can be assured that our gatherings will not endanger the health and well-being of our members and our communities, we simply cannot take that risk. But therein lies our opportunity.
… I want you to know, beloved,[f] that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel
Paul’s desire and realization that what happened to him might actually help him spread the gospel is helpful as we consider the positive aspects of how we are being forced to gather these days. The vast majority of our churches has been forced to adapt and are rising to the challenge! Some have even seen an increase in people who have come in contact with their various online offerings. It may very well be a change that could impact us far beyond the end of this pandemic. Who knows how many new people might see our witness online and begin to consider how important it is to have a faith community to which to belong? We see pastors and elders learning and trying new things. We have not chosen to be in this place, but what we do now that we’re here will determine what emerges on the other side. We are hopeful our leaders and churches will emerge stronger and more equipped for the future than ever before.
Your Presbytery leadership continues to stand ready to help during this crisis. Our Coordinating Commission and Administration Commission are offering 3 free months of Zoom Video conferencing to allow you to experiment and connect for worship, meetings and educational classes. We have added a page to our website that lists Live Sunday Morning worship opportunities as well as recorded and stored videos that can be seen on your own schedule. That page also has other resources to keep you informed of the progress of our church’s response as well as national pages designed to share information about Covid-19. A recent statement from the General Assembly leadership on practicing virtual Communion is the latest resource added. You can find all the resources here: https://transypby.org/covid-19-resources-worship-and-other-links-and-resources/
Our Presbytery Leadership has also offered $500 to each church to support your mission work in the community as a way of encouraging you to continue to be helpful for those most vulnerable in your community. Those checks should arrive this week.
Please know we stand in solidarity with you and know the choices that have to be made are gut-wrenching and difficult. But we have faith that we are here for such a time as this and God will not abandon us but help us thrive. From Psalm 37: “though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand…. God is their refuge in the time of trouble.” (Ps. 37:24, 39)
May God’s Peace Be With All of You-
Jerry and Philip
We hope you are all doing well in this time of uncertainty. When you are fearful, anxious, or on edge, remember that you are wrapped in a love that will never let you go!
If you have any needs at all, please call the church and let us know. We have several members who have offered to help in any way that you might need them, so PLEASE let us help you. Also, your deacon should be checking in with you periodically, so you can let them know of any needs you might have, also.
We have been asked about how you can get your pledge money to church. Please mail your pledges to the church at P.O. Box 456.
Tina will be in the office daily from 9-2, but asks that you not come in, just give her a call with whatever you might need.
Pastor Julie is working from home and is available by phone, messenger, text, and carrier pigeon for anything she can help you with. She thinks she is a movie star now after her first video, so be prepared to deal with that.
Remember, say your prayers and wash your hands!
Pastors, Elders, Friends and Colleagues,
We are writing at the beginning of this week to try and give you more information and guidance about how we gather.
Many of you took advantage of online and other forms of worship this past weekend. From our vantage point, these seemed successful. Some prerecorded messages and others did live worship via various platforms. Some of you met for worship with various precautions and others simply cancelled worship. We appreciate all of you doing everything in your power to keep people safe while keeping them connected.
At our core, we hoped this would be a short-term disruption in our worship life and other ways we gather. It’s very clear today that this will not be short term. The Center for Disease Control has recommended no gatherings over 50 for the next 8 weeks. Businesses and cities are continuing to restrict businesses hours and close operations. More people are being diagnosed with CoVid-19 and the death numbers continue to rise. We do not seem to be at a point where the disease is contained. And the risk to our overall health care system remains great. While many may carry CoVid-19 and not know it, others who get sick will overwhelm doctors and hospitals if we don’t take serious action to restrict activities so that does not happen.
Given the prevailing wisdom and available information, we are recommending that you cease in person gatherings until at least Easter. We would also advise you to be extremely cautious with any gathering, including smaller gatherings. As always, the final decision is up to the session of each church and we know you will exercise all caution when making this decision.
I know there are many who are unable to execute online worship experiences. I would encourage you to partner with other churches across the Presbytery or other ecumenical partner in your community to provide some kind of worship experience for your church. Please contact us if we can help.
There may be many in your congregations that are not be able to participate in online worship experiences and we strongly encourage you to find ways to stay connected with them as they may feel most isolated during this time.
Unfortunately, when people don’t worship, they tend not to give regularly. This is especially true in churches that don’t have ways to contribute online. We would like to offer the following way for churches without online giving to be able to collect an offering. You can go to https://transypby.org/paypal/ and click on a one-time donation, then click other and fill in your church name. We will make sure you receive the donation.
We are also concerned with our Pastoral leaders who depend on pulpit supply and stated supply work to make ends meet. We have some funds to help in emergency situations. Please contact Philip (Philip.firstname.lastname@example.org) if these funds are needed to help you manage through this time.
We really wish there were words we could say or actions we could take so these decisions would be easier for you and your leaders. We remain faithful that God will see us through this. We remain prayerful that our community remains strong even while we must remain distanced from one another. Our actions do not reflect a posture of fear bur of love- love for one another, love for our neighbor and love for the most vulnerable in our society. And we are reminded what the Apostle Paul told us in I Corinthian 13, “…the Greatest of these is love.” Let us love one another through this time of challenge so the world will know whose we are and what we’re about.
May God's Peace surround you this week,
Philip and Jerry
Dear Pastors and Clerks of Session,
We are writing to address the concerns of the current coronavirus issues that we are facing.
First, these are difficult decisions and we know that all of you will do what you believe is in the best interest of your church and larger community.
Second, we are encouraging you not to minimize what is happening. This is a serious, potentially life-threatening situation and should be handled accordingly. Ultimately, it’s about the safety, health and well-being of our congregation and our neighbors.
Many of you have already taken steps limit contact on Sundays- providing hand sanitizer, changing the passing of the peace and modifying how you take communion and offerings. All these are good steps and should continue beyond this weekend.
Today, our Governor recommended cancelling church services this weekend. Having looked at all the information and guidelines out there, we agree with his recommendation.
Given the average age of our congregants and the determination to err of the side of health and safety, we humbly recommend cancelling worship for March 15 and then deciding from week to week, depending on the future spread of the virus. We would also recommend cancelling any large gatherings your church may have including mid-week services until it seems prudent to resume.
We’ve been told by experts and believe that these short-term decisions will produce long terms gains in limiting the spread of this virus. We also believe that by making these decisions now, we will protect the most vulnerable in our population from a potentially fatal or debilitating outcome, even if many won’t feel affected by this virus. While worship is extremely important to us, so is being a good neighbor and making sure we hold our communities in the highest regard.
Of course, your Session should make the final determination of your worship schedule and we will support you in whatever decision you determine is best for you church and community.
If you decide to cancel worship, there are ways to connect with your folks. Facebook live, Zoom, YouTube and other video conferencing platforms can be used to share worshipful moments with your congregation. Pastors who have written their sermon or finished their bulletin can send it out via email or other social media. We encourage you to be creative during this challenging time.
There are number of churches that will be live streaming some form of worship this coming Sunday
Here are three of which we know:
Beaumont Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church Lexington
Bayless Memorial Presbyterian Church
Finally, at the end of the day, we have a deep call to care for people. Sending out prayers, making contact with those who are feeling isolated and calling/texting vulnerable members are all great ways to help stay connected while we address the growing concerns of this virus.
Please know our prayers abound for you all as you grapple with the decision ahead.
Grace and Peace,
Jerry and Philip