Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”
Yes – God is good. All the time.
We find ourselves in a tumultuous time. We yearn to be present for our people in the anxiety of the coronavirus, reassuring them of the presence of God’s love in their lives and assuring them that the community of their church is open to support them. We want to radiate strength and perseverance through difficult days. Yet we know that the health and safety of our congregants, our neighbors, our friends and families may depend upon us making the difficult decision not to gather in traditional ways right now.
The leaders of Hudson River Presbytery, your Council, gathered in prayer and discernment this afternoon in the hopes that they might offer guidance to our congregations as we navigate the fast-changing course of this virus. We affirm completely that Sessions have the final decision. There were many opinions, and we respected them all. Nevertheless, as we prayed for God to shine light upon our discernment together, a unanimous decision was reached. In prayer and love for all of you, we offer the following statement to all congregations:
THE COUNCIL OF THE HUDSON RIVER PRESBYTERY STRONGLY ENCOURAGES CONGREGATIONS TO CONSIDER SUSPENDING IN-PERSON WORSHIP AND GATHERINGS FOR THE TIME BEING.
THE HUDSON RIVER PRESBYTERY WILL SUSPEND ALL IN-PERSON MEETINGS OF COMMITTEES AND COMMISSIONS, MOVING TO ELECTRONIC MEETINGS UNTIL SUCH TIME AS COUNCIL DEEMS APPROPRIATE TO MOVE BACK TO FACE-TO-FACE MEETINGS.
Sisters and Brothers, we are very aware of the tension that you are holding around this issue. All of us know that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We are not afraid; nor should you be. Rather, to be in contact with people in ways other than face-to-face right now is a courageous act of love and compassion for others.
Members of the Council shared that there are racist and xenophobic events happening now in our communities around this virus. We trust that you will all speak out, preach out and name this ugliness for what it is – unacceptable in the eyes of God and unacceptable to any member of Hudson River Presbytery.
Some Sessions may consider whether to continue with worship in the sanctuary. We urge you to utilize the most up-to-date information through the Centers for Disease Control, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and New York State Department of Health as you reach these decisions. The links to that information are available on the HRP website and in the letter that you received earlier this week.
Others have already decided to suspend gatherings. Deacons will connect with people through phone calls and emails. They are utilizing ZOOM or GoToMeeting to conduct business. Pastoral attention in many ways will be ongoing and even expanded.
All congregations should review (or write) their policies on outside groups meeting in their spaces and determine the best course forward, thinking through for themselves which groups would be most benefited or harmed through use of space changes.
In the next few days, Hudson River Presbytery will be providing resources on worship, small group gatherings, online meetings, devotionals and much more.
Before verse 10, Psalm 46:1 tells us, “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in troubles”. Indeed, God is with us, but not just in our buildings. God is with us in our neighborhoods, in our cities, in our towns. Church will still be church, and we will gather together once again soon.
Peace and continued blessings to you-
Deborah Milcarek, General Presbyter
The Council of Hudson River Presbytery