As some churches have reopened and others are considering doing so, I am grateful for the careful planning that is essential in this time of pandemic. Many of you have called to ask, "What advice does the presbytery have? Just tell us what to do." Others, primarily pastors and other church staff, express concern, even fear about returning to "in-person" worship and activities.
Some of them have children at home and cannot expose them to this virus. Others have preexisting conditions that put them in a susceptible position for contracting the virus.
Though I am a Presbyterian at the core of my being, I wish sometimes that our polity allowed for a bishop-type declaration that THIS is what you WILL do. But each session, consisting of ruling and teaching elders, has to prayerfully and carefully make the decision. And I ask sessions to deeply consider the fears and concerns of worship and activity leaders, including our pastors.
So, to help provide guidance, I am sharing the best practices of those who have opened (
Practices for Reopening Culpeper Presbyterian Church
) and praying for the sessions of those who are continuing to offer virtual worship.
In some cases, our smaller membership churches have a more nimble capability because their sanctuaries are able to arrange the space to allow for safe physical distancing.
in Powhatan has this message on their website: "Beginning on July 5, we will resume our regular schedule of Sunday services. Worship at 9:30 followed by Sunday School at 10:45. These are outdoor services in the pavilion. Please join us! Bring your own chair and wear a mask. We space chairs 6' apart (except for family)."
As a musician, I made a mistake recently while leading in-person worship at Trinity Church in Richmond and Laurel Church in Glen Allen. I removed my mask when I entered the pulpit area and led the service without it, even singing during the hymns. I apologize to my friends in those congregations and promise to set a better example. I wondered about choral singing and congregational singing in the midst of COVID-19 spreading. Emory Healthcare in Decatur, GA provides guidance (
COVID Update for Choral and Congregational Singing
). I will do better because I need to protect you and because I love being a grandfather to our little ones too much to let down my guard.
I am grateful to be a Presbyterian and this is as close as I can get to offering a "bishopric" requirement. Please know that we are praying for you as you seek to discern what is best for your congregations. May God bless us all.
In Christ's Service,
Fred A. Holbrook, D.Min.
Interim General Presbyter & Stated Clerk