COVID-19 Response Task Force
July 17, 2020
Steps Along the Way

Is the trend toward an increase in COVID cases going to continue in Illinois? Or are we able to contain a new surge? Churches are pondering these questions on a regular basis and reassessing their plans for in-person worship and other activities. We encourage you to consider the following:
  • If you have not returned to in-person worship, resist the urge to feel pressured by what neighboring churches are doing. Many of our Blackhawk Presbyterian churches are still waiting, assessing month to month and not rushing. As Presbyterians we believe "Christ alone is the Lord or conscience” so our decisions are most faithfully guided by prayerful discernment that places the needs of the most vulnerable above our own. 
  • Even if you are meeting in your sanctuary, be prepared to shut down if conditions in your community or county warrant such action. Your decisions should be fluid, not set in stone. Consult your County Health Department website (or their Facebook page) for the latest COVID activity. Or consult IDPH county statistics, and COVID risk by county here.
  • We have heard from several of our churches that returning worshipers are fewer than anticipated. Continue to offer remote options and look for ways to be inclusive of everyone - however they choose to participate.
  • Rather than starting with in-person worship, try smaller groups first. A bible study, deacons meeting, or women's group could gather if firm protocols are in place (and followed!).

These words from Pastor Ray Lantz to the Gibson City congregation speak to us all:
"We may make mistakes along the way. There will surely be awkward moments as we adjust to new protocols and practices. There will be times of frustration, disappointment, and grief. We will have countless opportunities to exercise the spiritual gifts of patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.

But there will also be blessings. There will be wonderful surprises, great celebrations, and moments of deep satisfaction. We will see glimpses of the new thing God is doing, even now. We will have opportunities to savor the spiritual gifts of love, joy, peace, generosity, and faithfulness."
Signs of Hope and New Life in Blackhawk
A Reminder to Keep on Praying!

My daughter Justine Ryan was jogging in her Chicago neighborhood and saw a prayer tree in someone’s yard and sent via Snapchat to me. My wheels started turning immediately. I’m always looking for an outreach mission and since my church, Elmira United Presbyterian, isn’t having in-house worship yet, I thought this would be a great way to let the community know we still care and are reaching out. Our world is needing so many prayers these days that this seemed like God was giving us an idea on how to remind those in our community to keep praying. I called Janet Cole, Pat Hyer, & Donna Currier to start cutting fabric streamers as ribbons. Karen Steward ordered a vinyl sign that simply says “Tie a ribbon on our Prayer Tree”. Jim Winslow & Gary Steward put up the sign. I put a cement block in a large plastic storage tub, so the tub wouldn’t blow away in the wind. I put the “ribbons” in the tub and wrote on the lid - "Say a prayer, & hang a colorful ribbon on the tree. When the prayer is answered, come back and tie a white ribbon on the tree". Dave Grant had a bench from his brother & sister in-law who had been long time church members and passed a few years ago. He set the heavy cement bench under the tree for those coming to sit under the shade tree and meditate a bit. We will be adding an old donated mailbox by the bench for prayer requests - Rev. Art Blegen’s idea. While praying and tying a ribbon on under the tree it, with a breeze blowing, near a soybean field it is quite peaceful and one does feel closer to God. We pray our tree brings many from close and afar to feel His love. People are creatures of habit. Who knows, if they drive in the church parking lot, they may be inspired to attend our church some day. As for right now, I think it is giving many faith and much comfort. 
-Jeanne Currier Ryan
Showing God’s Grace in Tangible Ways

Picking a attainable, simple mission project can unite a congregation even in the midst of COVID-time.

Read more about this Texas congregation (and take a look at their improvised shade structure too!).
The COVID Task Force will continue to monitor situations near and far, but will be meeting bi-weekly and sending updates every other Friday.

Please send us your stories of hope and new life as well as lessons learned in these changing times.
(Maybe not choirs of any
kind right now!)
Getting a CDC refresher is always a good idea. If you haven’t in a while, stop by the CDC’s Community and Faith-Based Organizations portal. You might be interested in the tips for training your staff and signs for your building. It also includes guidance on what to do if someone among you tests positive. 

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.