A Letter from Our Session

First Presbyterian Family,
 
We have been following the Governor’s guidelines and common sense regarding public worship at First Presbyterian Church during the COVID-19 pandemic. Information regarding government regulations has been contradictory at times, and news stories have only added to the confusion. This has led to some misunderstanding as to why some churches are electing to have in-person services and other churches, like ours, are not.

As you may know, our Session has met via Zoom every Sunday night since this pandemic necessitated the closing of our normal worship services. On Sunday, we discussed the issue of reopening. The consensus was that we adopt the following policy:

First Presbyterian Church of Lexington will not reopen until consultation with the Davidson County Health Department and North Carolina State regulations inform us that it is safe to do so. We will revisit this question each week, but for now do not plan on a public worship service through the month of June.
 
Each member of our church will have an opinion as to the “right” time to resume worship and our other activities. Some may want to open quickly; others would as soon wait until the risk of spreading this virus is passed completely. The practical answer is somewhere in between the two extremes, but the Session is committed to re-opening when we can provide a safe environment for worship.

We adopted this statement because we care about our church family and feel it would be too risky to engage in public worship at this time. Confirmed cases in Davidson County jumped over 50% last week. On Mother’s Day there were 199 confirmed cases. Today there are 304. The Health Department is reporting that the great majority of cases have come from people who have congregated in groups. Considering the demographics of our congregation, we would be irresponsible and foolish to open our doors and place our people in jeopardy.
 
When the Health Department informs us that we can safely begin steps to reopen, we will. But we want you to understand that public worship will be much different than it was before. When we return to worship in the sanctuary, we will encourage people to wear masks and practice social distancing. We will not be able to pass the offering plate, and communion will have to be handled in a different manner than our traditional passing of the elements. Every precaution must be taken to protect the health of our worshipers.

Following each service of worship, the sanctuary must be sanitized by professionals. The same is true of any activity in the fellowship hall. We will probably open the doors of our sanctuary to worship before we open our educational space for Sunday School and small groups. Most of our classrooms are not large enough to practice social distancing. Any space that is used must be sanitized before it can be used again.

One of the biggest issues in reopening is congregational and choral singing. Saliva droplets are considered a prime vector for spreading the coronavirus. When people are singing with passion and conviction, saliva droplets can carry well beyond six feet. One of the first major outbreaks of the virus in March was a community choir in Washington. Almost everyone in the choir came down with the virus. As hard as it is to say, and as hard as it is to imagine, we may be returning to public worship without a choir to sing and without congregational singing. Music is important to every worship service, but this will be especially challenging to our early worship where music is a focal point of the entire service.

We are sharing this with you because we want you to understand that reopening the church will not be as simple as opening the doors and welcoming people back in the sanctuary. Public worship will look different, feel different, and sound different for some time.
 
As you know, the Session has appointed a Transition Team to find a transitional minister to lead us until we can find a new permanent pastor through a Pastor Nominating Committee. This transition team has taken on the added responsibility of working with the Worship Ministry Team and our new Technology Committee to formulate our plans for “virtual” worship when Pastor Lee is no longer with us. The plan is to have a live worship service that is available to the membership each Sunday at our normal summer worship time of 10 am. This live-streamed service will have all the usual elements of our normal service, and we hope it will provide inspiration and an uplifting spiritual message each week.
 
There is a committee forming now to begin the planning process for resumption of our public worship. When it is safe to come back together, we will be ready!
 
The phrase “challenging times” has become a common description of our life during this pandemic. So too, it is an appropriate description for our Church. While dealing with the worship interruptions due to the pandemic, we are losing our two staff professionals at the same time who have been a steadying influence in our lives when we have needed it the most. But the situation has a silver lining – we get a chance to hit the reset button at First Presbyterian. Now is the time to think about what you can do to assist our church. When asked to volunteer, say yes!! We can improve all aspects of our church, from Building and Grounds to our Sunday School offerings to our worship services. We can re-dedicate ourselves to our vision statement where “as a loving community in Christ, we call people to faith, develop them as disciples and send them to serve.” Let your light shine, which in turn will shine through the work and worship of our church.
 
There are many creative ways we can continue to be the church. If you have ideas of different ways we can minister and worship in this crisis, please share them . . . we are all in unchartered water together.

One day we will all look back on this experience and reflect on the lessons we learned and the many ways we saw God in the storm. And we will give testimony of how we emerged from the darkness into the marvelous light!

Grace and Peace,
Your Session