Dear UPC friends and family,
Like everyone, your UPC leadership has been deeply engaged in monitoring and preparing for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus. Last night, your Session reviewed and affirmed a whole range of plans established by your Safety & Security Task Force, outlining potential precautions and closures that UPC may undertake as this pandemic continues. While Travis County has yet to report a single local diagnosis of Coronavirus, the situation requires us to be flexible and responsive, and so I wanted to bring you up to date on UPC’s current status, and on the ways you can help.
As of now, we are still currently planning on gathering for worship on Sunday morning here at UPC. Christian Formation programming will meet. We will do our best to accommodate all of the regular programs of a UPC Sunday. However, we also want to create a space that is as anxiety-free as possible, which means that I want to remind you of a few normal flu season sanitation protocols, as well as introduce some new ones:
- As a reminder, during normal flu season, we sanitize and disinfect all of the high-touch areas in the church multiple times a week. This includes doorknobs, toilet handles, pew backs, and the like. We also provide hand sanitizer in all of the pews.
- In addition, this Sunday, we will be removing some of the additional high-touch objects in the sanctuary: Bibles, hymnals, friendship pads, and offering plates. Hymns and scripture passages will be printed in the bulletin. Baskets will be available in the narthex at the back of the sanctuary for those wishing to leave a contribution.
- We will also observe a general “hands to yourself” rule before, during, and after worship, by offering alternative ways of passing the peace and of greeting one another in the courtyard.
- We will suspend the regular service of communion, as well as restricting food service at UPC to commercially-wrapped goods for all events.
- Finally, following CDC and other guidelines, we will encourage one another to maintain an appropriate social distance — which you can do by spreading yourselves through the sanctuary and other church spaces.
These precautions are designed to alleviate our anxieties, but of course they cannot entirely guarantee a safe environment.
So if you are wondering whether you ought to stay home on Sunday, go ahead and stay home. We will still be church, and you will still be part of our church family.
In the days and weeks that come, this is precisely what I want us to remember: that we are University Presbyterian Church, and that the work of the church continues, no matter what our gatherings look like. It may be that we have to cancel some of our upcoming gatherings, or move our worship to some online format, but we will still be the church. It may be that we have to severely reduce the ways we can use our building, but we will still be the church. It will almost certainly be the case that this Lenten season will look drastically different than any of us expected, but we will still be the church.
And as the church, one of the most important things you can do right now is to love one another. We know that one of the likely consequences of “Social Distancing” is a profound epidemic of loneliness. So, who are the people who sit near you in Sunday worship? Who are the folks that you know from this family who might just need to hear a friendly voice? Your Elders and Deacons will be at work trying to help us stay connected, but you don’t have to wait for them. You can pick up the phone, right now, and call your UPC neighbor, and say: “I know these are anxious times. I just wanted to call and say I was thinking of you.” It won’t hurt to get more than one call. It will keep us more reminded of who we are and whose we are, just when we need it the most.
(If you need to find a phone number, instructions on using our online church directory are available below this letter).
The other critical thing you can do is to help us communicate effectively about any necessary changes to our church programming. Read the newsletter thoroughly. This week's UPdate will be in your inbox tomorrow, with additional programmatic information. Check the church Facebook group. If you know of folks who might not quickly get news through either of these channels, give them a call. As this season unfolds, we will be constantly evaluating the appropriateness of our regular programming and ministries, and if we need to make changes, we will communicate them as soon as we possibly can; what you can do is keep a watchful eye, and help our whole family stay informed.
None of us have done this before, and I know we all need a little grace and a little wisdom as we try to understand something entirely uncertain. But I also know that we were created by a God who is bigger than this moment. And I know that same God will be with us every step of the way as we move through it, together, as one church family. Love one another. Pray for one another. Pray for the church. And wash your hands.
Yours in Christ,