I imagine many of you have been waiting for this email.
Session gathered Monday night to discuss the pros and cons of re-opening the church on Sunday mornings, to gather in worship. I am going to attempt to sum up that conversation as best as I can.
At the beginning of our conversation, I encouraged our elders to be completely honest and open, even if we disagreed. One of the most important lessons I have learned is to take time to listen to everyone. We might not always agree but there are often valid concerns and opinions that can help guide our decision-making.
What I want you to keep in mind, is that our discussion led to complete agreement on how to move forward at this particular moment.
Even though our county has entered the “Green Phase,” giving businesses and organizations the opportunity to re-open their doors, the virus which leads to Covid-19 has not disappeared. Consequently, what we are seeing in the headlines is a rise in case load, which means the virus continues to spread. We are deeply concerned for the many vulnerable members of our community.
Therefore, to worship safely, everyone in attendance would be required to wear masks and observe social distancing. The problem with this as many of you know, is that the sanctuary in the summer often registers over 80 degrees, which would make masks incredibly uncomfortable.
The dilemma is, how do we gather safely and comfortably? Our inability to gather is one of the greatest challenges of this season. The church was meant to be a community, that devoted itself “to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (acts 2:42) While technology permits us to gather “virtually,” it is not a replacement for actually coming together.
So here is our conclusion as we weighed the various challenges we are facing.
1. We will continue to provide worship via YouTube as we have been doing for the past several months. While this is not ideal, it has been working and it affords us the opportunity to connect safely with the majority of our congregation. For those individuals who do not have internet access we have created opportunities to remain in contact with them.
2. We will be adding an opportunity to gather for worship, outdoors at Buhl Park. Starting July 9th, we will gather every other Thursday evening. Our time together will include music, prayer and the proclamation of God’s Word. Even though gathering outdoors is the “safest” way to gather, we will still be observing social distancing and the wearing of masks, as we care for those in our community who are the most vulnerable to the impact of this virus.
3. We are exploring the use of Zoom for interactive virtual gatherings, for bible study and fellowship.
Our hope is to be able to gather on Sunday mornings beginning this fall. This seems to be the goal of most of our presbytery. Most churches continue to use YouTube and “Parking Lot/Drive-Through” models.
In addition, I met with a professor of Biology and Microbiology from Grove City College yesterday morning. I have an interview from our time together that I will be sharing with you this coming Sunday. One of the most significant insights that Dr. Stauff brought to light is the fact that this current corona virus is “new.” He pointed out that the Influenza pandemic of 1918, brought humanity into contact with a completely new strain of the Influenza virus.
Here’s a portion of a letter from a physician at a U.S. Army camp…
“These men start with what appears to be an ordinary attack of LaGrippe or Influenza, and when brought to the Hospital they very rapidly develop the most vicious type of Pneumonia that has ever been seen… and a few hours later you can begin to see the Cyanosis extending from their ears and spreading all over the face, until it is hard to distinguish the colored men from the white. It is only a matter of a few hours then until death comes… It is horrible. One can stand it to see one, two or twenty men die, but to see these poor devils dropping like flies… We have been averaging about 100 deaths per day.” (Grist, 1797)
While humanity has experienced corona viruses before, this particular virus is different and is behaving in unexpected ways. Therefore scientists do not have all the answers. They are working very hard to understand how this current coronavirus manifests in our population as they determine our best course forward. But I’ll let Dr. Stauff share more with you on Sunday.
If you have any question, concerns or feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact me or any one of our current elders serving on Session. We are all willing to listen to you.
Grace and peace to you,
Mike Carlin, Mark Pallo, Jeremy Manuel, Charlie Miller, Leo Scott, Jenna Stowe, and Bill Swanson