COVID Update from the Officers
November 20, 2020
 
Dear Friends,
 
It has been more than eight months since the first impacts of a pandemic turned church practices upside down. In those first few weeks, when so much felt unknown, the officers of the presbytery offered their guidance on science, safety, and practice; their prayers and spiritual support; and, in the ensuring months, COVID-related grants to the majority of our congregations. We settled into new routines.
 
Few of us ever imagined then that, come Advent, the challenge facing us would be greater than ever. But here we are, with the COVID-19 pandemic spiraling out of control. This week, the Minnesota and Wisconsin Health Departments, and our governors, have become increasingly insistent that the only way to slow the pandemic is to stop all but the very smallest gatherings. And while neither state has mandated the suspension of church activities, their urgency has compelled us to write you today:
 
We strongly recommend that you continue—or consider anew—the suspension of in-person worship and all other activities in your church buildings at least through December 13, with the likelihood that we will not gather together during Advent, Christmas, or well into the new year.
 
This is not where we hoped to be as we stand at the doorstep of Advent. We know you long to gather in-person, because that’s what the church is and does. We know some of you fear that if you continue to meet online or not at all, what we so value in the church will be lost. We know you’re getting pressure from all sides, and some are voting with their feet and with their funds. We also know that God is bigger than our sanctuaries, our fears, and our traditions. Presbytery cannot mandate that churches stop gathering in-person for worship. That authority is reserved exclusively for the session. We can simply be honest with you, support you in your decisions, and stand with you in finding ways to carry them out.
 
Being the church in this unprecedented time means continuing to do whatever we can to protect and support all.
  • Please do not force anyone to attend events in person, including your pastor.
  • If you choose to gather in person for any reason, you must have a written safety plan in place. Whether for in-person worship, or other events like a wedding or a funeral, you must have a written plan and follow that plan, and all state guidelines. (There are new Minnesota guidelines for faith communities as of this past Wednesday.)
  • Lean on your colleagues in ministry for creative ways to celebrate Advent and Christmas. Be the connectional church. If you don’t know who to call, then contact the Presbytery office. If you’re willing to assist another congregation, contact the Presbytery office. We will connect you.
 
We also speak, in one voice, our prayers of support for those on the front lines of the pandemic: those ill, and the ones who care for them; our front-line and essential workers; our decision-makers; and so many among us struggling with physical and emotional needs. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.
 
This pandemic gives us an opportunity to be the church, in ways we would not have wished for, but that will have real impact on our communities. Let us encourage one another and find our encouragement in the One who strengthens us. We hold you in our prayers daily.
 
The officers of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area and the executive presbyter
Jean Emmons, moderator
Greg Bolt, Diana Barber, Jamie Schultz, Barbara Lutter, Steve Robertson, Jeff Japinga
Business as [un]Usual
Notes from the Stated Clerk, Barbara Lutter, about the business of the presbytery during such an unusual time as this
My Goodness, What a Difference a Week Makes!
 
Since my report to you last week in The Link, there have been some new developments! Last week’s news is Old News. 
 
There have been changes in the Presbytery Leadership Team. On Tuesday, you received communication from the Presbytery announcing Anna Kendig as our new Anti-Racism Institutional Assessment Coordinator. When Anna Kendig resigned from her chair of PLT in order to accept the position, two current PLT members agreed to assume the role of Co-Chairs. The new Co-Chairs of PLT are Ruling Elder Diana Barber and Teaching Elder Jamie Schultz. They’ve stepped up, and taken the reigns, and are leading us with their wisdom and strength. We are very blessed to have such faithful leaders!
A Budget Task Force is called together annually to prepare a proposed Presbytery Budget and present its recommendation to the Presbytery Leadership Team (PLT), for presentation to the full Presbytery. Normally, the Presbytery would review and approve a proposed per capita amount at its September meeting, and a proposed budget in November. This year is not normal.
 
On Monday, November 16, you received from the Presbytery this communication regarding the 2021 budget approval. The PLT is inviting questions and comments on the proposed budget from the Presbytery between now and November 25. Comments and questions should be directed to Presbytery Treasurer Steve Robertson at treasurer@ptcaweb.org or 612-655-7594. The PLT will review all questions and comments received, prior to acting on this proposed budget at its meeting on November 30.
Anna Kendig to Join Presbytery Staff in
Anti-Racism Leadership
On Tuesday, you received the following announcement from the Presbytery. We wanted to make sure you got the news.
 
Since 2016 the PTCA has been steadily working on identifying and uprooting systemic racism in our structures and culture. In order to support this work, the Rev. Anna Kendig will join the staff of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area later this month as its new coordinator for the Institutional Assessment on Race and Equity and for the ongoing Anti-Racism Spiritual Pilgrimage.
Presbytery Worship Resources
Upcoming Worship Resources

November 22: Reign of Christ Sunday
 (also, the Sunday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday before Advent)
 
WHAT: a full service of worship produced by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) centered on the Matthew 25 Initiative.
THE PARTICIPANTS: The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, executive director, Presbyterian Mission Agency; the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Elona Street-Stewart and the Rev. Gregory Bentley, co-moderators of the 224th General Assembly.
WHEN AVAILABLE: Now! The video is available for download here. Congregations are welcome to use the video however and whenever they like.

December 27: First Sunday of Christmas
WHAT: Scripture, sermon, and other elements of worship
THE PREACHER: The Rev. Dr. Lis Valle-Ruiz, assistant professor of homiletics at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
WHEN AVAILABLE: Thursday, December 18
For more details, please watch this space or contact COM coordinator Heidi Bolt (https://bolt.heidi@gmail.com).
Calling all Church Musicians

The Presbytery is putting together a pre-recorded worship service for December 27, the Sunday after Christmas. We would love to feature a Christmas hymn or anthem that your congregation will record this year to share within the service. If you have a hymn or anthem, or other musical offering that might work well, please contact Heidi Bolt (https://bolt.heidi@gmail.com).
In Memory:
Ruling Elder Kathryn Ritts Breitbarth
Ruling Elder Kathryn Ritts Breitbarth passed away in Irving, Texas, on October 17, 2020. 
 
Kathryn was very active in the PTCA, with service that included the Committee on Ministry and as one of the original members of the Called Positions team. She was a member at Presbyterian Church of the Apostles and The House of Hope Presbyterian Church. She also served on the Synod of Lakes and Prairies Permanent Judicial Commission. She moved to Texas in 2018 to accept a position as communications director at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth. She retired in January 2020. No obituary is available at this time.
Jeff's Jottings:
Pilgrims


I’d never much seen myself as a pilgrim. I’m a pretty in-my-head, by-the-book guy, too much so, perhaps. But more and more, through this time of polarization and COVID-fatigue and the burst-bubble of being in control, I find myself drawn to practices that invite me to go deeper with God. To journey intentionally away from a settled, all-figured-out past toward a future infused with a spiritual presence. To become, to be, a spiritual pilgrim.
EMerge is a newsletter of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. Through most of the year it is published biweekly and distributed to congregations, teaching elders, ruling elders, church members, committees and friends of the presbytery. Please send submissions and address corrections to office@ptcaweb.org
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