COVID-19 Response Task Force
May 15, 2020
Navigating the Way Forward
With Session conversations underway about when and how to meet again to worship in person, it might be helpful to start with a different question - What is our next step if we are indeed seeking to be faithful to our mission in Christ? And what is the next step after that? 

Perhaps God is calling us to something very different than we envision as we navigate the way forward. With safe, remote worship well in place for so many churches, maybe a more faithful next step would be to pour our energy into serving our neighbor and the homebound. Or maybe our energy is better placed in visibly inviting more to our current, virtually gathered worshiping community, rather than focusing on in-person worship that will exclude people no matter what safety steps we take?  Maybe it is finding ways to continue or start small groups, Bible study, youth groups, coffee hours, and other gatherings using group technologies.

Since worship is going to be different anyway - masks, no singing, sitting apart, no fellowship time - maybe we keep what’s working with worship right now and shift our energy in apostolic ways, being the church outside the walls of the building, until we can more comfortably and safely be together. 
 
What needs in your community could be tackled with more hands, even if they are virtual? What new mission partnerships with community agencies or ecumenical neighbors might God be pointing you to? 
 
Each congregation will have different answers. Maybe we also need to be asking different questions as we strive to be open to the new thing God is doing in this time. 
Speaking of In-Person Worship
If you haven’t already checked out the COVID-19 Response Task Force resources related to in-person worship, we encourage you to access those helpful resources as part of your discernment ( blackhawkpresbytery.org/COVID19Information ). We also urge each congregation to form a task force or other small group dedicated to study the issues and advise Session. In addition, we strongly encourage you to follow  CDC guidelines  and the  State of Illinois’ plan
 
The Presbytery would like to assist you with your individual questions or concerns.  Contact the office , join one of the weekly Pastors Care & Share Zoom meetings or join the  Blackhawk Shares Facebook Group
Your Pastor is Weary Too...
As we think about gathering in person again, we must consider that not only are many in our congregations part of the populations most vulnerable to complications of COVID-19, but many of our pastors, staff members, and/or their family members are too. It’s quite possible that your pastor cannot, or will not feel they can, safely lead worship in person any time soon. Pastors and Sessions, please have grace-filled, honest conversations about this. The health and safety of our staffs must be considered in our planning, including making reasonable accommodations for these needs. 
 
Speaking of pastors, more than likely, your pastor has also not been able to take much-needed time off and may be feeling overwhelmed, tired and stressed out as they carry the burdens of the congregations along with their own personal challenges of this time. We urge you to prioritize care for your pastor(s) by encouraging them to do what they need to care for themselves. Sessions or Personnel Committees, please have that conversation if you haven’t already. In this blog post,  Top Ten Reasons Why Your Pastor Needs a Break , Ryan Landino, the Lead Presbyter for Transformation in Great Rivers Presbytery, has a message for elders and church leaders.
Zoom With Caution

We are reaching out to all of our churches currently conducting worship services via Zoom or using Zoom for other meetings. You are likely aware of incidences of “Zoombombing” which have previously been rather innocuous. We want to be sure that you are also aware that Zoombombing has recently escalated to disturbing levels, including the sharing of child pornography as was experienced last week at Peoria United Presbyterian, and other churches around the country.

This article gives guidance on how to prevent such events, including what you need to do before and during services. To continue to stay informed, you might also consider joining the Zoom Faith Facebook group which addresses a number of topics around Zoom and Church, and is in conversation about Zoombombing (see posts by Deb Avery 5/11 & 5/13). The group is public - you do not need to join to the conversations.

Please let us know if we can provide additional help in any way. 

Grace and peace,
Nancy Dolan
JUNE 2, 2020 Presbytery Assembly to Meet on Zoom

Unfortunately, the beautiful Stronghold campus will not be hosting our June meeting. The Council has decided to again hold the meeting on Zoom. As in April, the invitation will be sent to our Connections contact list (if you received this, you are on it) and will require advance registration. Documents and information are posted on the website.
General Assembly 2020 to be Conducted Online

For the first time in our denomination’s history, we are preparing for a General Assembly that will be totally online. The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly has had to make some difficult decisions as they considered numerous options ranging from a full assembly agenda to the final decision to shorten the assembly and to focus solely on critical business issues.

In making these decisions we recognize that these unusual times prevent us from living into the fullness of who we are. Part of the grief COVID-19 has invited into our lives is the inability to be fully ourselves within the parameters of what we can do with what we have in a particular time frame. In other words, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is much more than standing rules, budgets, and elections. As our Stated Clerk recently said, “We are not divorcing ourselves from the work of social justice.” We are about justice. We are advocacy. We are theological and we are prophetic. But in these times of a pandemic, this is the necessary response in considering the health and well-being of the hosting community, commissioners, advisory delegates, observers, and staff.

We ask the church to join us as we step into these uncertain times with the faith and certainty that God will sustain and embolden us into the future. More information.
GENERAL RESOURCES
Ruling Elders in a Pandemic ( from re:RE monthly series) Food for thought for your next session meeting? new


Blackhawk Presbytery COVID-19 page seeks examples of things you or your church are doing to "be the church". Short submissions welcome!

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