COVID-19 Response Task Force
December 4, 2020
Too Stressed to be Blessed

This past Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning we hosted our weekly Pastor’s Cares and Shares on-line gatherings. For 36 weeks all pastors have been invited to come together on Zoom to share ideas, ask questions, and talk about how they are coping in these pandemic times. There is no set agenda and the time together has become a highlight of the week for many. I asked those at our Wednesday session a simple question: “how are you doing on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being completely stressed out and 10 being a state of feeling great?” All the responses were between 2 -3. This was a small sample size, but the answers of feeling stressed were not surprising. 

We just experienced a Thanksgiving like no other and expect a Christmas that will likely be even more challenging. Most churches will be on-line only or with small gatherings trying to recreate the wonder of Christmas. During this Advent time of waiting and preparation for the Christmas miracle, we are waiting on many things – a vaccine, the end to political and racial division, and any hint of a return to normalcy. 

This busy season of Advent is normally filled with stress, so we encourage you to step back and be intentional about taking good care of yourselves. Here are a few practical tips of what you can do to manage your stress and feel blessed. 

  • Take time for yourselves to engage in activities other than church. Do a puzzle, learn a new recipe, watch a Hallmark movie, read a novel.
  • Be sure to get enough sleep. Do not feel guilty about taking a nap.
  • One of the best relievers of stress is physical exercise. Take a walk, go for a chilly bike ride, or do stretches at home.
  • Stay connected. Isolation can add to stress so phone a friend or hold a Facetime call with family. Please know that your presbytery staff and colleagues are here for you.
  • Pay attention to your emotions. There are many resources to help you if you are feeling overwhelmed. The Board of Pensions is offering up to six free counseling sessions through the EAP program. Details are here. 
  • Here are two resources you might find helpful (thanks to Great Rivers Presbytery):
  1. Powerpoint presentation by Dr. Danny Elenz from Leaderwise, "Coping With Turbulent Times: Connecting and Committing to My Health"
  2. Video TedTalk (14:28) "How to make stress your friend" by Kelly McGonigal (this video was recommended Leaderwise)

Friends, in all things, cliched as it sounds, remember the reason for the season. This is the joyous time to celebrate the awesome gift of Jesus Christ who loves us, teaches us hope, and gives us grace. Blessings on you.

An Advent Gift for You

We are excited to offer to all our churches the unique perspectives of 26 Blackhawk pastors and lay leaders as they reflect on the 2020 Advent journey. Based on the four candles representing "Hope", "Peace", "Joy" and "Love", each of these volunteers will be featured in a brief, 4-5 minute video posted to the Presbytery's YouTube channel. A new reflection is available every day, from November 29 - December 25. The organizer of this project, Rev. Catherine Martin, is "hopeful that it will bless many of our congregations in the Presbytery, as well as give you a bit of a relief from all that you are being called to do during this unique time in history!"

We encourage you to share the link on your church website, Facebook page, newsletters, bulletins or by email.
The Future of Worship

For many churches, online worship options are here to stay, even post-COVID While Blackhawk is not specifically endorsing their product, Altar Live, (a COVID response start-up for churches) is all about virtual worship now and in the future. Their blog posts include much food-for-thought, such as "Ten Ways Online Church Will Change In-Person Church, Forever" and the "Disruption Series" of stories.
Presbyterian Investment and Loan (PILP) Offers
Safety and Technology Loans

Congregations and PC(USA) entities wishing to safely re-open their facilities, or acquire new technology to connect virtually, can take advantage of the new Safety and Technology loan recently launched by the Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program. With lower interest rates, lower equity requirements, and up to 12 months interest-only on qualifying loans up to $100,000, churches and other entities can take advantage of this special purpose loan designed to make our campuses safe and sound!

Qualifying Projects may include:
  • Audiovisual Technology
  • Audiovisual Training/Consultation
  • Air Quality Improvement Systems
  • Air Filtering Systems
  • Sanitation Equipment
  • Touchless Bathroom Systems

Signs of Hope and New Life in Blackhawk
We want to encourage one another. Please contact us with your story!!
Youth Retreat Focuses Outward

Over the weekend of November 5-6, 17 youth and 4 leaders from the Presbyterian Church of Barrington and Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian met at RCLPC to discover all the ways people are fed. After some socially distanced games Friday night, the group gathered around a bonfire to share different places in the Bible that talk about feeding others. For one hour we fed on God's word and left feeling God's presence.

We went back home and then met at our respective churches the next morning to host a Food Collection Parade. We gathered together again for lunch and to assemble gift bags that included items needed for baking, a recipe, cookie cutter, and a note for each recipient. 60 bags were assembled and will be distributed at two pantries this month.

What a weekend (70 degrees in November didn't hurt) to bring people together to have fun and share God's love with others.
- Raechel Sowa, RCLPC Youth Coordinator
New resource: For "trying to stay connected to folks who don't have easy access to the Internet, or who just don't want to deal with all the Zooms and YouTubes and Facebook Lives."

Please continue to monitor the COVID metrics for your region of Illinois and be prepared to modify your in-person gatherings as needed to changing conditions:

Blackhawk Presbytery COVID-19 page - information from past COVID updates is added regularly

Please email the Presbytery office with your questions, concerns or suggestions. We are working from home and not monitoring the office phone.