COVID-19 Response Task Force
March 26, 2021
Moving Ahead in Baby Steps

"I've been to this movie before", said Governor J.B. Pritzker this week as he expressed his concern over negative indicators in Illinois' battle against the pandemic. Despite widespread vaccinations through the state, those with decisions to make regarding in-person gatherings are strongly encouraged to monitor local data on COVID positivity rates and hospitalizations - both of which are increasing in several areas of the state.

There is still reason to be optimistic however, as shown by the Statewide Reopening Metrics which indicate that vaccinations of those 65+ is nearing 70%. "Illinois will move to the bridge phase when 70% of the population 65 years and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, and to Phase 5 when 50% of the population 16 years and older has received at least one dose of vaccine. In addition, when moving to both the bridge phase and Phase 5, hospital ICU bed availability needs to be higher than 20%, and new COVID-19 hospital admissions, total COVID-19 patients in the hospital, and death rates are not increasing significantly statewide over the most recent 28 days."

And as of Monday, March 29, "religious leaders" in the state of Illinois will be eligible for vaccination and on April 12, vaccinations will be open to all adults over 16. Any of the three available vaccines have been shown to be safe, very effective and essential in saving lives - yours and those in your community. Several of our congregations have established vaccination buddy programs to help members find available vaccines, a great ministry for those who are having trouble with vaccine appointments.

Please be vigilant and do your part to base all decisions on facts and solid information.
by Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Cincinnati

"It’s a conversation everyone is starting to have."
(The article is a quick read, with interesting insight, but here is the list - for you list-lovers:)

1. Ignoring the value of virtual worship and ministry
2. Only 1% of your budget is sustaining a vibrant online presence
3. Going back to normal, with a twist
4. Confusing your personal and church presence Online
5. Resenting people who don’t do what you want, or feeling forced by others into doing something you don’t want to do

Lisa Allgood is trained as an immunocytochemist and a graduate of the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, she spent 36 years as an executive in the pharmaceutical industry. She is a Commissioned Ruling Elder in the PCUSA and Executive Presbyter for the Presbytery of Cincinnati.

She is also featured in the recent article from Presbyterian News Service:
Acknowledging COVID Loss

As many Blackhawk churches step gingerly into the resumption of in-person worship and other activities, perhaps an acknowledgement of loss is in order. Yes, everyone wants to shout Hosanna! (figuratively and behind a mask) that the long days of pandemic restrictions are lifting, but the pains of this past year are still real for many people.

According to the popular PRC (Practical Resources for Churches), "being good listeners and acknowledging what church members have experienced this past year will help make church a welcoming and nurturing place as people return after the pandemic." They suggest the following:

Acknowledge the losses
The New York Times recently reported that one in three Americans has lost someone to Covid.  At church, create time and space for people to talk about who they lost during this time—telling stories, sharing photos, talking together to process grief. Other griefs people experienced could include losing a job, changed or cancelled celebrations, being unable to spend time with an elderly relative. The list of who and what was lost is long.  
Acknowledge what we have learned and the ways we have been blessed
Also, make room for people to talk about God’s faithfulness and provision during this time as well. What have we learned and gained during this time apart? What are we grateful for? In what ways did God see us through?
Create new listening and relational activities to help people re-enter
·   Dialogue groups that meet over a period of time, perhaps with a facilitator
·   Places where people can place visuals representing losses and gratitude-comments, photo, artwork.
·   New times to converse and connect, either before or after worship. Provide questions for people to use to help the conversation along as needed.

From Joy Skjegstad, consultant, author and trainer: Check out her new book coming soon: REAL CONNECTIONS: Ministries to Strengthen Church and Community Relations
What are the Challenges of Hybrid Worship?

All individuals involved in your church worship production are once again invited to a Zoom gathering just for you on Tuesday, April 20 at 7:30 pm. Register here:

Many of you are transitioning from all-online to online + in-person worship and intend to continue into the indefinite future. How can you make the online worshippers feel like they are a part of the congregation, not just passive 'watchers'? Can you bring a lively experience into their home too and share their greetings and concerns? We'll chat about these and other topics you may have as well.

As a reminder, anyone is welcome to join the Blackhawk Worship Team Facebook group - a place to ask questions and share information. The very popular Zoom Faith Facebook group still has tons of great info and problem-solving help too.
The Post-Quarantine Church
Join us for a book discussion...

Someone once said "the pandemic is a great time to make plans". We invite you to start thinking about and discussing what your church will look like post-pandemic.

In his book, "The Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities that Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation", author Thom Rainer postulates that one third of previous congregants will restart their pattern of weekly worship attendance, another third will choose the online options regularly or exclusively and as many as one third will not return to church in any fashion. Rainer and other church consultants have hopeful ideas and suggestions to consider in facing this future.

Please join us as we use Rainer's book as a starting point to discuss the brand new world just around the corner. The book is short (128 pages), easy to digest, and available for about $8. We will meet on Zoom for four weeks, on Tuesdays from 2-3 pm. - or - Thursdays from 7-8 pm. If you would like to join us, please use the link below. All are welcome - clergy and lay leaders.

Topic: The Post-Quarantine Church discussion
Time: Tuesdays April 20, 27. May 4 and 11 at 2:00 PM Central
Time: Thursdays April 22, 29, May 6 and 13 at 7:00 PM Central

Register for Tuesdays at 2:00 pm:

Register for Thursdays at 7:00 pm:

You are welcome to register for both and join when you can. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Signs of New Life - Blackhawk Babies!!
COVID-time spurs an alternative drive-by baby shower for Jennifer and Caleb
Masks and social distance were features of the shower for Lauren and Scott's baby. Plenty of smiles underneath!
A drive-by event for Caleb and Amanda celebrates a baby boy-on-the-way.
Baby Boom in Blackhawk

The families of four Blackhawk pastors have welcomed or will soon be welcoming concrete signs of new life as the pandemic is waning. We rejoice with the Suydam family as Caleb and Jennifer (both pastors) greeted their first child, James Thomas on February 13. Caleb is the pastor of Streator Park and Jennifer was serving Henry First as their interim pastor.

Spring showers are also heralding the imminent arrival of a new addition to the Regets family as Alex and Amanda and their two daughters look forward to a baby boy soon. Alex pastors the Manteno Community Presbyterians.

And Lauren Patrus-Betzel, new pastor at Caledonia Willow Creek, and her husband Scott Betzel, look forward to their first child also in the next few weeks.

Congratulations and best wishes for these young parents as their lives and those of their congregations are blessed with baby Presbyterians!
Please continue to monitor the COVID metrics for your region of Illinois:

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.