COVID-19 Response Task Force
July 31, 2020
In It For the Long Haul: How Are We Caring for Each Other?

As the calendar turns to August, we face the likelihood that this COVID response mode we’re in will be with us for a while. The layers of feelings that have been cycling through and piling up on each of us need our attention if we are to adapt and grow, in other words, to build resilience. Sheesh, we need to tend to our feelings just to get through the day sometimes!

It’s time to tell our stories. Trauma response experts know that connecting with others and telling your story is the #1 factor in building resilience. In fact, being listened to can result in physical changes. When you share your experience with someone who is listening with unconditional acceptance, your body actually turns off its stress response and produces healing hormones. Your whole nervous system relaxes.

So how can we help each other be heard? Can we create space to build trust and invite sharing? Can we train ourselves to listen to one another, without the need to fix, or correct, or judge?

The COVID Task Force has been reflecting on this and offers these ideas:
  • Simple conversation openers are usually sufficient. “How has this been for you?” may be enough invitation. “Where is God in this for you?” or “What promises of God are sustaining you these days?” are ideas for follow-up questions (but don’t rush to these!) which can ground us in the firm foundation of God’s love and faithfulness.
  • For your small groups who are meeting again, in person or electronically, consider dedicating a meeting periodically for sharing, using these questions or another open-ended question. Maybe you want to pair up so that everyone has a chance to share deeply. Zoom offers breakout room options if you are not together in person.
  • Your deacons or elders could call members who may not be well-connected to provide opportunities for these caring conversations. Callers want to be sure to allow time for this kind of call. Once someone opens up, the conversation can’t be rushed. Be sure these leaders also have a place to tell their story too.
  • If you have Stephen Ministers, these folks are uniquely equipped for this ministry of listening. How might you use your Stephen Ministers to help you build an outreach for story telling?
  • Neighbors and strangers may not have anyone asking them how this has been for them. You’d be surprised how open complete strangers can be. Instead of the routine, “Hi, how are you?” try asking, “How has this COVID time been for you?” This might be a way of reaching out to your neighbor.

It’s easy to get so caught up in the mechanics of our COVID response - sanitizer, and spacing, and mask enforcement - that we fail to see each other. As a result, we each feel alone in our struggle, or that someone else’s problem is worse, so we don’t reach out. But Jesus teaches us to bear one another’s burdens. When we listen to one another we all realize we are not alone, which brings strength and comfort, and ultimately resilience, for the long haul.
Caring in COVID Time

"For many of us these are unprecedented times. We’re being asked to do new things, relate in new ways, and care for one another in different and sometimes uncomfortable ways." The Presbyterian Mental Health Network offers an excellent one page resource for clergy and congregation members: Mental Well-Being during a Pandemic. This is worth sharing with your congregation.
Learning From Returning (second verse)

We are sharing some lessons learned from churches who have re-started their in-sanctuary worship:

  • "Asking for people to make advance reservations (because you believe your space will not hold all worshipers who want to come) doesn't work." Some make reservations and then don't show up, others show up who didn't reserve a spot, and others probably stayed away because they didn't get around to reserving a spot. Most churches with in-person worship have over-estimated how many people will actually join them.
  • "The first couple of weeks, people followed all the precautions, but by week three they became too comfortable and let their guard down, lingering and talking with one another."
  • "Funerals are especially hard to enforce masking and other anti-COVID restrictions." Be as prepared as possible. Is there a way to plan and orchestrate a sharing of grief with the family that minimizes close contact?
  • Great Rivers Presbytery (our neighbor to the south) shared this cautionary tale from one of their small, rural congregations, Sangamon Valley Presbyterian Church (70 miles SW of Peoria).
Options for Ordinations and Installations

One of the persistent questions, as we cannot / will not / should not gather for worship, is “How are we to ordain/install teaching elders, ruling elders and deacons?" Our traditional services of ordinations and installations are done in physical proximity with physical touch in the laying on of hands in ordinations. We offer this guidance and suggestions provided by the Synod of the Trinity. "There are many ways to accomplish the ordination outside the usual and customary manner....Use your creativity to meet the spirit of the Book of Order and of the Holy Spirit."

Signs of Hope and New Life in Blackhawk
Let's Go Fly a Kite!

Blessed with an expansive lawn, Woodstock First Presbyterian has been worshipping outdoors under a big tent for the month of July. Last Sunday's service ended with a twist - a high flying fellowship hour. Alerted several weeks ahead of time, people brought kites and the church purchased a few extras. The worship chair had ice-cream sandwiches and the ample wind just showed up. Nearly everyone stayed to launch a kite or chat (with masks). It was a fun, safe, socially distanced way to enjoy the Lord's Day together.
A Ticket out of Town
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake
Uses a One-Day VBS to Focus on Honduras

On July 8, 2020 the older youth of RCLPC hosted a Parking Lot VBS for children up to 6th grade. Using the Living Waters for the World, Water All Around the World At- Home curriculum, we traveled to Honduras to learn about Rosa and her family and what life is like in Honduras. We made maracas during our craft time and then used those maracas to make music with our music director. The song we learned (from Honduras) was even used in worship the following Sunday! In 1.5 hours we learned a Bible story, visited Honduras, played games, made music, and even experimented with a science lesson using water. Each student’s supplies were individually bagged and everyone sat at socially distanced tables.

It was a safe and fun way to see the kids and is an activity we would highly recommend. The lessons are free and leader prep is about 4-6 hours. If you have questions please contact Raechel Sowa at youthleader@rclpc.org.

GENERAL RESOURCES
Have a burning question? A vexing dilemma? The weekly Pastors Care & Share meetings offer feedback and perspectives from your peers. Join us! Wednesdays at 2:00 pm, Thursdays at 9:00 am.


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.