COVID-19 Response Task Force
June 26, 2020
Phase 4 ... Now What?

As Illinois moves into Phase 4, and up to 50 people may now gather, precautions shown to prevent the transmission of the virus are even more essential, especially in the high-risk church environment:

Face coverings are the norm . While some may point to very early opinions that masks were ineffective, each day with this coronavirus brings new data. The overwhelming evidence points to the fact that face coverings prevent virus transmission. We strongly urge congregations to require masks.

Physical distancing of 6-feet or more will lessen your risk of exposure to the virus in the air and prevent the spread to others. Spacing in worship and meetings should be planned in advance and marked off, if possible.

Singing and group recitation should be avoided. The virus colonizes in the upper respiratory tract and the prime method for dispersion is through vocalization - the more forceful the more transmission. Some congregations are having fun experimenting with sign language and other hand motions in place of verbal responses!

Communicate your plans and expectations clearly to all who enter your building through signage and trained volunteers. Be prepared to collect names and contact information for everyone you welcome into your church. And please continue to offer a remote worship option for those who feel uncomfortable returning to in-person worship.

Samples of church reentry plans are available on our website. In addition, these guidelines should continue to inform all your decisions:
Collecting Signs of Hope and New Life in COVID-Time

The COVID Response Task Force continues to be dedicated to provide you with the tools and resources you need to navigate this time. As people of the resurrection, we also want to shift our gaze to notice the ways God is bringing new life out of this difficult time. In the weeks ahead, we would like to feature your stories of hope and new life springing forth in your congregations, in the face of the challenges of COVID.

The following questions will help you reflect on evidence of the Risen Christ alive among you. If any of these resonate with you, we’d love to share your story. Please either write up a short description, send a video, or contact Loreen and she’ll capture your story!

As you think about how COVID-time has changed the way you worship, provide pastoral care, serve your community, and grow as disciples of Christ, in what ways:

  • has your congregation become more empowered in this time? 
  • have your young people become more involved in the life of your church? 
  • has your community been better served by, or involved with, your congregation?
  • are you ensuring you sustain the changes that seem to have brought new life to your ministries? 

Today we feature two churches.....
Fishing For Families! 
Sandwich Federated Discovers
One Need Inspires a Solution for Two

Following the departure of their pastor in February, Sandwich Federated Church was excited to welcome their new interim, Commissioned Pastor Laurie Walker. But making a personal connection during a pandemic required some imagination.

They were inspired by the Bible verse from Mark 1:16-17 which says:  AS Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come follow me" Jesus said,"and I will make you fishers of men."

"We thought we could be fishers for families by bringing canned goods and other items needed by our local food pantry", said Jane Ryan, member of their worship committee. "Our congregants and community would drive through our church parking lot with their donations, roll down their window where Laurie would hold out a large fishing net to accept the items. At the same time they could introduce themselves and see her in person. The fishing net provided the correct social distancing as no one left their car and six feet of netting handle made the connection. It was a meet, greet and serve opportunity."

Despite the chilly, rainy day, they collected 8 large boxes of food and over $500 in checks for The Sharing Pantry of Somonauk, Illinois. What a great way to connect the congregation to the greater needs of their community and to seek a fun and effective way to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Keep up the good work!
Energized, Connected, Empowered 
First Presbyterian Church of Marengo is Reaching Out

Instead of stepping back in the face of the challenges of the pandemic, Marengo First has been infused with energy to serve the most vulnerable in their midst, as Jesus taught us to do. Commissioned Pastor Tanya Muzzarelli attributes this energy and empowerment to increasing needs that are impossible to ignore, and a greater sense of connection among churches and pastors.

First Pres has been known in town for their Stone Soup community meals, food pantry, and Thrift Store. When shelter in place became necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, the needs of these clients and guests were front and center for the church. In a demonstration of their strong sense of call to care for their neighbor, the congregation made sure groceries would still be available, and they prioritized figuring out how to open the Thrift Store before even thinking about plans to return to the sanctuary. Now, with the Thrift Store reopened (on a reduced schedule), their energy for service has spread to the entire community. Neighboring churches and the Chamber of Commerce have become vital to empowering these ministries. In the process, both the church and the community are growing stronger in their connections and as they love and serve alongside neighbors.

That spirit of connection has also been spreading across Blackhawk Presbytery during COVID. The mission and ministry of Marengo First has benefited from Pastor Tanya’s regular participation in weekly “Care and Share” Zoom gatherings among pastors. Leaving those meetings energized with ideas and wisdom, Tanya says she has learned so much that has empowered her as a leader, and she has empowered others by sharing her new insights to her congregation and other churches. Pastor Tanya says she has experienced a bonding with other pastors that would not have otherwise occurred, and doesn’t see that stopping!

Gathering two weeks ago for their first parking lot worship, the joy in the Lord resounded in this small congregation empowered and energized to serve Christ in their neighbor. As they clapped their hands and honked their horns, this faith community gave witness to their larger community the hope we know in Christ and the new life that is possible through him. Thanks be to God!

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.