Dear Fellow Riversiders:
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
- Psalm 133:1. Maybe the psalmist understood the difficulty of separation from each other.
We’re all looking forward to the time when we can gather together in person to worship, plan, play, work, and pray. Our technology tools are wonderful resources for maintaining and even building community, but the list of their shortcomings is long. We all want to get together under one roof, in one place, and the sooner, the better - but only if it’s safe to do so. There are still many unknowns when it comes to COVID-19. As we consider this in light of church life, difficult decisions will have to be made for the safety of all of us. Here’s what we know at this time:
Staff are continuing to work from home unless their work requires them to physically be in the office. Our office phone continues to be answered and we are always available via email. At this time, visitors to the office are not encouraged. However, we recognize there are situations in which visitors will be on campus. If you are a visitor on campus we ask for you to follow the same safety guidelines we are asking of our staff.
While on campus, masks should be worn and, if in the presence of others, 6 feet of social distancing should be observed. If you are not feeling well or are displaying any symptoms of illness please stay home.
We are forming a committee, the Safe Gatherings Committee, that will meet regularly (for now, remotely). The purpose of the committee will be to continue to monitor information from our local health authorities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guidance from the Presbytery, and the practices of other congregations. Informed by their research, members of the Safe Gatherings Committee will make recommendations to the Session on how we can begin to safely re-open the church in phases. This discussion will continue in the days, weeks, and months ahead. The online and live stream resources that we are developing will continue to be available even when we’re able to meet in person for those who must continue to avoid groups. Worship will continue to be online only through mid-June but could be extended for a longer period. We will look to our Safe Gatherings Committee to provide guidance on when we can safely reconvene on campus. We will clearly communicate scheduling and safety requirements at that time.
Many of you are grieving the loss of celebrating milestones like graduations and birthdays and plans for the summer. Unfortunately, these milestones also include church summer programming. We will not have traditional Vacation Bible School (VBS) this year. It is unlikely we will have Reviving Baseball in the Inner City (RBI) on the originally scheduled dates. Many of the youth trips have officially been cancelled. A separate communication will be sent to all youth families regarding summer youth trips. In light of this, we are looking at how we provide summer opportunities for children and youth in safe and creative ways. While we know it’s the right decision, we are grieving the loss of the traditional RPC summer.
We’re learning to connect with each other and grow in our faith in new and meaningful ways in this difficult time. We have a deeper appreciation of the things we used to call “normal.” Each of us, in our resourcefulness, optimism, and patience bolster and inspire another. There are many helpful reminders and lessons in this very strange experience of separation, but we look forward with excitement and glad hearts to the days when we can see each other in person, face-to-face - but only when it’s safe to do so and even if that face is donned with a mask!
We will keep you informed and encourage you to communicate your ideas, questions, and prayer requests.
Blessings and peace to you,
Bill and Kathy
Rev Bill Hoff, Associate Pastor
Kathy Para, Clerk of Session