Presbytery Update – COVID-19 (3/20)
The Presbytery of St. Augustine cares deeply about you, the welfare of our faith communities, and our global family as we draw together in these challenging times. We want to emphasize that everything we do now to follow instructions from our health officials regarding the COVID-19 pandemic will save lives.
Our thinking about how we gather as a church is changing rapidly. Not long ago, we gathered for worship in person. Now, those same practices could cause harm. We have been notified of multiple cases of people in our own congregations being quarantined at home and facing serious medical issues. Not all cases are being reported. Relying on God’s grace, and guided by the teaching of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves, we are committed to do all we can to protect everyone.
Your Coordinating Council is having virtual meetings each week to discuss the ways we can serve you and our communities during this national emergency. Currently, the CDC recommends that gatherings of more than 50 people be suspended. Other national, stated and local health guidelines put that number at 10 people. You are urged to keep up to date with and follow all guidelines in your local context.
We have placed on our website a link to many current and comprehensive resources published by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It may be accessed here.
This is not the first time that people of faith have adapted to “being the church.” Hope abounds as we explore new creativity in our ministries! Some congregations are rediscovering the power of telephoning people to share a prayer and speak a friendly word. Some congregations are finding ways to gather together in virtual groups for prayer and worship and Bible study. Although we may, for a time, limit our physical interactions as the church – nothing can limit our spiritual ability to be the church. You are the church. We are the church together. Nothing in life or in death can separate us from the grace of God, the love of Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
In this weekly update, we also want you to know:
- We will continue to hold all meetings of presbytery committees, commissions and teams using electronic connections.
- Presbytery staff will be working remotely as much as possible. We will be answering email and returning phone calls as quickly as we can.
- Council members are working with our Communications Coordinator and other staff to develop a prayer chain for the presbytery. This will begin as soon as possible.
- David Lee of the Highlands United church is hosting an on-line “Pastors’ Call In” opportunity using Zoom. This is a virtual gathering for sharing scripture, prayer and spiritual support. The next on-line meeting is Tuesday, March 24th at 3 p.m.
- Susan Lee, LCSW, (Our Comfort My People: Mental Health in Healthy Congregations Coach) will be hosting a “Wellness Wednesday Connection Call” via zoom at noon for 6 weeks (from March 25 – April 29th).
Your Coordinating Council is committed to helping you in any way we can. In closing, hear these words from Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult…God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (NRSV)
More updates and information will be shared as we move forward in faith together. In the meantime our prayers are lifted to Almighty God for our world’s health and wholeness and that we faithfully follow Christ in the faith, hope, and compassion of our response.
Grace and peace in the tumult,
Diane Wilson, Chair of Coordinating Council
Edd Norris, Moderator of the Presbytery
Sandra Hedrick, Stated Clerk
Chris Lieberman, Relationship Coordination Director
On Behalf of the Coordinating Council