“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NRSV)
To the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina,
Friends, like you, I have worries around this pandemic called Covid-19, also known as the Coronavirus. I worry about those that will get sick and those that will die. I worry that I may have missed the opportunity to respond in ways that could have saved lives, and I worry that time will prove my recommended response to have been an overreaction that does harm to our faith communities. I’m worried about our presbytery staff and ensuring that they have the resources they need to do the jobs that they are called to do in the safest and healthiest ways possible. As the pastor to this presbytery, I’m concerned about adequately resourcing all our congregational leaders to ensure that congregations are doing the right thing for themselves and their neighbors. As a father I’m worried about my family. I have children in schools and my wife has health concerns that put her amongst those most at risk. Like you, I have worries as I read about the spread of this pandemic.
Yet as I wrestled these past few days, I have found reassurance in our confessions – documents written when the church was facing challenging times and felt the need to unify around declarations of faith or to teach the faith. These days I have leaned upon the words offered in the Heidelberg Catechism and the Brief Statement of Faith. Both speak about a deep trust in God. They speak about trusting God completely and totally. They speak about trusting God who is both present and active amid all that is known and whatever is to come.
We trust that we belong to God, the confessions affirm. We trust in Jesus Christ. We trust in the Holy Spirit. Aware of what is going on around us and no matter what the outcomes may bring – in life and in death – our trust is in God. This is the trust that we sing in one of my favorite hymns as we proclaim Christ is like a solid rock upon which we stand when all other ground is sinking sand.
These are the thoughts that have encouraged me as I’ve discussed with your presbytery staff about how to respond as faithfully as possible to the challenges raised by Covid-19.
- Our faith does not make us blind to the terrible reality of pandemic around us. Instead, with Bible in one hand and “newspaper” in the other, we seek to share the Gospel in word and in deed…but to do so in ways that will be healthy for us and for those that we seek to encourage with Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Our deep faith and trust in God does not mean that we ignore what is going on around us. Instead we are challenged, and I believe we are guided by the Holy Spirit to respond in new, innovative, and creative ways.
Guided by both a firm faith that we are called to ministries bearing love, light, and peace found in Christ (a message needed these days) and that we must do this work in ways that do not place us or hearers of the gospel in danger; I am recommending to the 180ish churches in the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina that all gatherings be cancelled until April 1st.
It is my hope and prayer that things will improve and as April 1st approaches we can reconsider how we do ministry in the coming weeks and months.
Meetings and events of the presbytery may be rescheduled for a date after April 1st. Some meetings of presbytery committees will shift from face-to-face meeting and become meetings that are convened either by conference call or using web-based video conferencing. And it is my recommendation that worship services and fellowship activities in local congregations be cancelled until April 1st. Please know that this is my recommendation based upon information received from the Centers for Disease Control, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, state and local health organizations. It will be the responsibility of each session to determine whether they will cancel gatherings of their congregation.
- Some sessions may decide to cancel services.
- Some may decide to worship over conference calls (low tech option) and some may decide to offer live streamed worship services (a high tech option). Trying new things will be challenging and frustrating.
- However, I’m optimistic that choosing options that limit face-to-face interaction are not only safest options but may put us in contact with new ears in our communities that are searching for words of comfort and hope.
If a session decides to continue meeting face-to-face, Rev. Laura Lupton, Mission Coordinator for the West Community, has developed a list of things that need to be considered. This is not an exhaustive list but it a great place to start for those deciding to worship as they normally would worship. (see the text below).
As your presbytery staff receives information, we will do our best to disseminate it as quickly as possible so that you can make healthy, safe, faithful decisions for yourselves, your families, your congregations, and your neighbors.
Friends remember that we do not just “do church”. We are the CHURCH. May we approach this crisis with eyes wide open about the challenges we face, but also with hearts wide open that we may be guided by the Holy Spirit to respond in full trust that even now God is with us and has given us Good News of Christ to share with the world! I am not sure what the future holds but I am confident that it is God who holds the future.
May God bless us all!
Rev. Jerrod B. Lowry
General Presbyter and Stated Clerk Presbytery of Coastal Carolina
Live Streaming Tips & Helps:
- The ADMINS of your church’s Facebook group can livestream (or upload) video that will appear to be “ABC Presbyterian Church is live”
- a good internet connection or quality data plan is needed. (practice in advance of worship)
- Some ministers might do a video message sitting at their desk if the congregation is not gathering.
- a phone holding adapter can be purchased for use on a tripod
- Please consider copyright issues when livestreaming music.
- Consider SLOWLY showing the bulletin at some point in the video. This will give people away to find song titles and names of persons speaking, if they want to know those things.
- Consider videoing the service horizontally (wide not tall).
- Clean the camera lens of the phone being used.
- Please read this cautionary advice www.guideone.com/safety-resources/be-safe-not-sorry-when-live-streaming-your-worship-services
- PAUSE the video stream when simi-PRIVATE prayer concerns are being shared (think HIPPA). The video is available GLOBALLY when online with many platforms.
- If you don’t want to use Facebook, please check out
SHARE with your Sister Congregations:
If you are offering a live streaming option or a call in option, please let your mission coordinator know the details (time, link, phone number, etc.) because some churches are unable to do this and would like to invite members to be part of your service.
Phone Calling Services
- One church is recommending the use of www.DialMyCalls.com as a way to text, call or email congregants news, updates, a devotional message, information about online events or call-in access information, and other advisories. This service has a free trail but is a paid service at reasonable cost. If you have questions Rev. Shane Owens of Union PC in Carthage may be able to help you. Reach him at (910) 638-1609.
- Mt Pisgah PC is using www.OneCallNow.com to contact members.
COVID-19 Practical steps Congregations can take:
- Hand sanitizer at all entrances
- Clean the upper back edge and arm rests of all pews
- Do not use hymnals – print or display words
- Do not pass offering plates; Have persons come forward during the offertory music or have donation plates at the exits
- Persons handling money after the service should wear gloves (and persons handling mail)
- Some are suggesting that water fountains be closed with a “do not use” sign.
- Enhanced cleaning of nursery area and toys.
- Wipe down all door handles, push plates on doors, chairs, tables, light switches, thermostats, etc.
- Persons preparing communion should wear gloves, masks and hairnets.
- Add signage about hand-washing in all restrooms.
- Put bulletins on a counter for pick up rather than handing them out.
- Doorman/woman to hold doors open so it is not touched by all person entering/exiting
- For Communion (see below)
- Ask people to sit with spacing between them (sitting in every other row is one idea)
- In SS classes ask persons to sit in every other chair.
- Do not pass the peace – when greeting use hand on the heart gesture, elbows or the peace sign, etc.
- Do not serve communion by intinction – use cup trays held by one person (do not pass the trays), Consider the use of the sealed self-contained communion cups. To order these search online for “Prefilled Communion Cups with Juice and Wafer”
- If anyone is coughing, ask them to wear a mask or go home.
- Establish Care Team (Response Team) of persons willing and able to help persons who need to be quarantined at home. This team would be available to pick up groceries or prescriptions, etc. and leave them the porch or in a mailbox of the home-bound person. Arrange for payment online or by some other non-cash means.
- Increase the use of Live Streaming on Facebook or recording and posting to church website or YouTube or Vemio, etc. for spiritual messages – sermons, devotions, hymns, etc.
- Pray for one another and for the virus to cease!
Inform & Educate
- In the bulletin print appropriate reminders (washing hands, available hand sanitizer, maintaining social distances) instructions for the offering and information about care teams or a point person in your congregation.
- Let people know about any livestreaming options.
How to participate online in worship or by phone
- Communicate the need to continue to financially support the church.
- Remind people of the need to get medical care if ill. Some hospitals are offering drive through COVID19 screening, call your hospital to find out more.