Bi-Weekly Brief news & updates
July 16, 2020
New Advisory From Presbytery Council
NEW SUPPLEMENTAL GUIDANCE FOR CHURCHES DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
From the Presbytery Council of the Presbytery of Lake Huron
July 15, 2020

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Called to a Different Way: While we look to health professionals and experts to give sound and reasoned advice, as Christians we also have another set of guidelines to help chart our way through these uncertain and quickly changing times. Scripture and Jesus' own incarnation, life, death, and resurrection provide the model for our faithful discipleship. Accordingly, we must ask, how would Jesus suggest we best "love our neighbor?" Would Jesus wear a mask while shopping downtown? Would he bristle at being uncomfortable or inconvenienced? Would he insist on his own rights or mock those who were frightened for their lives? How do we follow Christ's words to "lay down our lives for one another?" As your Sessions discern with the Holy Spirit how to live out Christ's call in your particular community, we hope that the following will provide additional guidance and help.

New Michigan Executive Orders: It has been over a month since the Presbytery Council last updated our guidance to congregations. While our state has been among the most successful in battling the pandemic, recent infection rates have increased to record levels both nationally and in parts of Michigan, suggesting that the battle is far from over. While we long for the day when we can return to our normal practice of worship and ministry, it is important that we continue to protect the most vulnerable in our churches and communities.

On July 9 and 10, Governor Whitmer issued new orders governing workplace safety and wearing of masks in public. It is important to note that churches are not exempted from these requirements for daily business. (Use of masks during public worship in a church, while exempt, is still strongly encouraged.)

Among the requirements placed on all business offices (which includes church offices):

  • Continue to encourage work-from-home if possible
  • Prepare and display an occupational safety plan, and train employees regarding procedures
  • Provide masks and disinfection supplies for employees for office use
  • Prohibit non-essential visitors
  • Require face coverings in all shared spaces
  • Adopt a response plan for a confirmed employee infection, including disinfection protocols
  • Restrict non-essential travel, including in-person conferences and meetings
  • Require face coverings in crowded outdoor spaces and in all indoor public spaces
  • Refuse entry or service to people who refuse to wear a face covering, with limited exceptions.

Church Worship Services: In the newest executive order on masks, the requirement to wear a face covering doesn't apply to individuals who are officiating at a religious service or are giving a speech for broadcast or an audience, but the CDC still recommends wearing masks during these types of activities.

Presbytery Council wants to reiterate our previous advice, that while churches are not subject to penalty for violating state restrictions on public gatherings, we should nevertheless abide by them as good neighbors for the sake of the health of our members and communities. This includes limiting indoor public gatherings (such as worship) to no more than 10 socially distanced persons, and outdoor gatherings to no more than 100 persons [i] . (See footnote)

If Sessions nevertheless decide to hold gatherings of more than 10 persons, they should still abide by the state guidance for cinemas and other public venues (section 12 of Order 2020-145), as well as the advice posted on our COVID-19 resource page. Accommodation should be made to include those who for reasons of health or conscience choose not to be present. Sessions should also adopt criteria and a process for re-closing gatherings if conditions worsen.

Presbytery Office and Staff: In keeping with these requirements, the Presbytery Office will continue to be closed for regular business, with employees working remotely as much as possible. All meetings will continue to be conducted online (via Zoom or other platform) until further notice. In addition, all non-essential travel by Presbytery employees is restricted, including participation in public worship that does not conform to the state executive orders for public gatherings.

New Avenues for Sharing Christ: We have been heartened to hear from pastors and elders across the Presbytery about the creative ways that your congregations are supporting each other, ministering to your community, and sharing the Gospel in new ways. Our churches are sharing their recorded services online and reaching wider audiences. Our churches are meeting outdoors or trying drive-in worship services. Our churches are finding new partners in ministry and outreach beyond the church walls and further into their community. We pray for your ministries to flourish.

Financial Challenges: The recent months have also brought challenges that can affect the financial state of our churches--not being able to safely worship together, furloughs and layoffs, and the immense amount of need in our communities, to name only a few. To assist congregations facing special financial hardship, the Presbytery is extending the deadline for "COVID-19 assistance grants and loans" through September 15. Cumulative grant and loan amounts will be increased to $6,000 each. Loans will continue to be issued at no interest, with no payments for six months, and a 20-month repayment schedule. Applications are available on the Presbytery website.

Technology Grants:  Several congregations have expressed the desire to continue providing for worship online until their members are comfortable meeting in person again. Others seek to expand their capacity to blend their online platforms with in-person gatherings. The Presbytery has created "Congregational Transformation Grants" of up to $2500 to aid churches in developing online worship capacity through new technology, training, and other means. Applications are available on our website.

In Christ’s Fellowship,

The Presbytery Council 


Footnote:
[i] This applies to all churches of the Presbytery except Houghton Lake which is in MERC region 6 and is permitted to have up to 50 socially-distanced persons indoors and up to 250 outdoors.


Click here to go to our COVID-19 page where this letter and the applications noted may also be found.
We Lift Up In Prayer
The Rev. Jan Chambers, Pastor Emerita of Tawas, whose husband Ray passed to the larger life this week.

Elder Don Wixson, Commissioned Ruling Elder of Vassar-First, who is being treated for cancer.

Our churches currently in pastoral transition.

Our Mission Co-Workers:
Lucy Der-Garabedian  serving in Lebanon.
Cathy Chang  and family serving in the Philippines.
Michael and Rachel Ludwig  serving in Niger.
Upcoming Ordination and Commissioning Anniversaries:
The Rev. David Blackburn (7/1) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. James Neumann (7/1) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Linda Williams (7/1) - Parish Associate of Bay City-Westminster
The Rev. Tom Schacher (7/17) - Member-At-Large
The Rev. Jim Offrink (7/25) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Lindsey Carnes (7/29) - Transitional Pastor of Flint-Trinity United
The Rev. Robbie Carnes (7/29) - Pastor of Fenton-First
The Rev. Noel Snyder (7/31) - Member-At-Large
The Rev. Leslie Piper (8/1) - Interim Pastor, Bay City-First
Elder Kathleen Rowe (8/1) - 5 Years - Commissioned Ruling Elder of Tawas
The Rev. Dr. Steve Shugert (8/1) - Honorably Retired, Pastor Emeritus of Mt. Pleasa nt-First
The Rev. David Eshelman (8/3) - Honorably Retired
Elder Shaun Hardimon (8/11) - Commissioned Ruling Elder of Swartz Creek-Mundy
The Rev. Glenn Grant (8/15) - Pastor of Grand Blanc-Kirkridge
The Rev. Ken Hetzel (8/16) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Ted McCulloch (8/20) - Pastor of Saginaw-First and Stated Clerk of Presbytery
The Rev. Charles Marquardt (8/29) - Honorably Retired


We ask that you consider including these requests each week in your bulletin and/or newsletter.
 
We also encourage everyone to send a card or e-mail or make a phone call to those listed. Sometimes a small gesture creates a big smile. 

Contact information for anyone on this list may be obtained by calling the presbytery office at 989-799-7481 or replying to this email.
From The Lions' Den
Dan Saperstein
From the Lions’ Den - General Assembly Edition, Part 1

The 224 th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was unlike any other ever held. The original plans to hold the biennial gathering in Baltimore June 20-27 were scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, creating a major challenge that threatened to become a denominational crisis.

After exploring many options, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) decided the best was to convene the Assembly online – effectively, a giant Zoom meeting – to conduct essential business only, and to refer all other matters to the 225 th Assembly in 2022. Because our bylaws did not anticipate electronic business, all matters decided by this Assembly would have to be reviewed and approved retroactively by the next one. Moreover, as we discovered at our virtual Presbytery Assembly in June, online platforms are less effective for complex deliberation. Without having Assembly committees review, vet, and perfect business coming to the full Assembly for consideration, hours of listening and deliberating in smaller groups was lost and items came to the Assembly floor unfiltered.

The virtual assembly convened on June 19 and again on June 26-27 using two principal platforms. Official participants were able to present and deliberate on Zoom, with a public audio-visual feed broadcast on the Assembly website. Meanwhile, PC-Biz, a proprietary Assembly business platform, was used for documents and voting. Technologically, the Assembly was very impressive.

Presbyterians being who we are, however, the plans to conduct essential business only broke down over different understandings of what matters are truly essential. Matters that would ordinarily be routine – like adopting the docket, adopting the “consent agenda” of pro forma or non-controversial items, and approving the list of business to be referred to the succeeding Assembly took hours to transact, forcing the election of the Assembly moderators to be put off to a hastily arranged Saturday night session. Our new Co-moderators, Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies and the Rev. Gregory Bentley of Huntsville, Alabama were introduced in our last Bi-weekly Brief. They are excellent choices to lead our denomination over the next two years.

As a veteran Assembly watcher, I find that every gathering of commissioners wants to leave its mark on the life and mission of the church. Commissioners and advisory delegates don’t want simply to be rubber stamps; they want to do the job for which they were elected. That was true of this virtual Assembly as well. So, in addition to routine matters: elections to Assembly entities and boards, budgets, and the like commissioners decided to invest considerable time and energy on four major items of witness or controversy: the status of San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS); matters related to support of Native American ministries; a response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and a response to racial injustice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

The SFTS controversy was sparked by the determination of the General Assembly Committee on Theological Education (COTE) that SFTS ceased to be a PCUSA-related school following the absorption of the seminary by the University of Redlands, a non-denominational institution. The action has significant financial and ministry consequences for the seminary, and there was neither transparency nor agreement regarding the process by which such a determination is to be made. Various attempts to bring the matter before the Assembly were quashed by the Stated Clerk, building a sense of disenfranchisement among the commissioners.

I will have more to say about the other significant actions and their fallout in the next edition.

Faithfully, 

Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter
Matthew 25 Dismantling Racism Online Event
Matthew 25 Online Event July 29

With a focus on dismantling racism, churches can take steps to bring about racial justice.

The  Matthew 25 invitation  continues to be embraced by congregations and mid councils, even through a pandemic and times of social unrest. Or, just maybe, because of those things.

The three focuses of the Matthew 25 vision are to build congregational vitality, eradicate systemic poverty and dismantle structural racism. In view of the current unrest and protest in our nation, the call to be a Matthew 25 church is more compelling than ever.  The first Matthew 25 event  was held on June 10, with over 500 churches registering. The event facilitated sharing and dialogue that was so well received, more events were requested. With this in mind, the next online event — Matthew 25: Dismantling Racism — is scheduled for July 29 from 2–3 p.m. Eastern Time via Zoom.
This event will feature mid council leaders who will share how they are using Matthew 25 to impact their ministries and communities around the focus of dismantling racism.

This online event is open to all Matthew 25 congregations, groups and mid councils that have made the commitment to embrace the Matthew 25 vision, as well as anyone interested in learning more about Matthew 25.

“We are inviting all those who are still discerning the commitment to Matthew,” said the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “This may very well be one of the first ways that churches can take steps to bring about racial justice.”
The invitation to become a Matthew 25 church was officially launched in April 2019. Over a year later, there are almost 600 churches, groups and mid councils that have made the commitment to become a Matthew 25 church. This represents over 5,900 congregations across the country that have received the invitation and have been engaged in this bold vision.

”I am grateful for the number of churches who are joining the Matthew 25 vision and committing to the focus of dismantling structural racism,” said Moffett. “Racism is a sin. We are all created in God’s image and called to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. Given our current context, it is especially important that the voice of the church is heard. We must not be silent in times like these.”

To register for the Matthew 25 event,  click here .
You're Invited
Inter-Racial Book Club

Note: Even though this series has already begun, it will continue throughout the summer and you may join at any time.

Join Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Flint for an online Inter-Racial Book Club this summer.

Wednesday nights on Zoom, starting July 8, 7-8pm.

"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Winner of the National Book Award

Description: Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

About the book: Ta-Nehisi Coates' letter to his teenage son is a moving personal account of what it's like to be black in America.

It's also about:

  • Race as the child of racism, not the father
  • Resilence in the face of racism
  • The "American Dream," including it's myths, privileges, and prejudices
  • The power of education for growth and awareness
  • The irreplaceable value of the body, individual lives, our collective resources

One thing Coates teaches is that it's okay not to have the answers. He encourages us to face our discomfort--to sit with our questions. It's the asking and the seeking that matter most. Let's start the conversation!

Sign-up: To RSVP for Between the World and Me email Pastor Lindsey pastorLcarnes@gmail.com or Pastor Robbie pastorRcarnes@gmail.com . Please read the Prologue, Chapters 1 & 2 prior before July 15.

Books are available via online booksellers like Amazon, Kindle, public library, or via free pdf. If you need help ordering or accessing contact Pastor Lindsey.

First 3 chapters available for preview here: https://www.mtsac.edu/elj/english/documents/engl1a/engl_1a_reading_n.pdf  
Presbytery Office
Presbyterian Planning Calendar 2020-2021

This 16‐month calendar (September, 2020-December, 2021) contains many planning aids for pastors and other church leaders. Includes lectionary for Sundays and special days, liturgical days, liturgical colors, resource information for PC(USA) programmatic emphases, updated synod, presbytery and Presbyterian Mission Agency staff directories, color foldout synod/presbytery and world maps.

Cost per calendar is $10.00 and all orders must be pre-paid either online or by check. Payment is needed by July 29, 2020. Unfortunately, there are no cancellations after this date.

You will be notified when the calendars have arrived (expected around mid-August) and arrangements for pick up or delivery can be made at that time.

Click here to order.  
Synod Sabbath Sunday
Synod Offering Pastors and Worship Leaders a Sabbath

All of you who plan and lead worship services have been so inspiring since the pandemic began. You have met the challenge of coordinating worship that is meaningful in such an uncertain time, of navigating new technology, and of deciding the best format in your particular context. More recently you have worked to address the issues of racial justice that are all around us.

The Synod of the Covenant is offering you pastors, musicians, and worship leaders a Sabbath from worship preparation and leadership in recognition of your faithful ministry.

Interim Synod Executive Chip Hardwick is coordinating a service based on Romans 6:12-23, one of the lectionary passages for June 28th. You’ll be able to download the worship service as either the whole service (which will involve liturgists from throughout the Synod), or just the scripture and sermon. You could use this service on 6/28, or any time afterwards. You can download the worship service from here beginning 6/25/20.

Of course, there is no requirement to use the service! The Synod is offering it with hopes that many of our churches will receive it as a gift, to give you a Sabbath Sunday. For questions, contact Chip at  synod.covenant@gmail.com  or 309-530-4578.
Resources Regarding COVID-19
We have set up a page with numerous resources to help you navigate through this challenging time.

Among other things, our COVID-19 page includes information regarding:

  • Virtual Worship and Live Streaming
  • Zoom and online meetings
  • Funerals
  • Online giving
  • Grants and loans
  • Denominational resources
  • Mental wellness
  • Re-opening considerations

If there are other items/resources that you would to see added please contact Staci Percy at spercy@presbylh.org.