We recently received word that the Governor’s office has released new guidelines for gathering. While it is heartening to read that many restrictions are being lifted, we write with some provisional, non-binding guidance.
We do not see any reason to rush back into church buildings. The session is responsible for the creation of health and safety protocols to be put in place before reopening church buildings.
Protocols may differ for worship, for preschools, and for tenants. We urge sessions to take the summer to pray, plan, and research the science regarding safe distancing, group singing, and disinfecting. Yesterday our colleagues in Newton Presbytery updated their Check List for Different Stages of ReEntry, which is available here.
We encourage congregations to continue with online worship for the present, and to begin planning now for hybrid worship when the building reopens. The medically fragile members of the Body of Christ will not be able to gather in person, and as the Apostle Paul instructs us “the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (I Corinthians 12:22). Even if your church grounds provide enough outdoor space for gathering safely, your session will still need to think through distance, singing, and hygiene protocols ahead of time. This reentry planning will take energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. Your session might want to appoint a reentry task force consisting of education, building, finance, and worship leaders.
Worshipping remotely and online is not an impediment to our worship. “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63) If we have shared the words with one another, then we have met in worship and the Spirit has given us life.
We are available to be conversation partners, if that would be helpful. Grace and peace to you,
D. Paul La Montagne, Stated Clerk
Cherry Oakley, Moderator
Leslie Dobbs-Allsopp, Interim Leader