March 27, 2020
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea…
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob
is our refuge!”
There can be no doubt that our world continues to shift and change due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. And what makes matters worse is that the changes come rapidly. It is hard to find comfort in a new rhythm that continues to be challenged and changed. These disruptions, while for the common good, are still disruptions from our comfortable norms.
Nevertheless, I find great comfort in the affirmation of the 46th Psalm. In this Psalm I am reminded that in the midst of overwhelming change, God is my place of refuge. In this Psalm, I am reminded that God is the strength I need to thrive in chaos. It is in this Psalm that I am reminded that God has been and continues to be present, steadfast, with us in times of trouble. Even if the mountains (or things we thought permanent) were to change, falter, or disappear; the Lord is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. Thanks be to God.
Yesterday, the Board of Directors for The Presbytery of Coastal Carolina, responding to the challenges of our day; mandated that all scheduled presbytery gatherings be convened virtually until May 1st and recommended to sessions that face-to-face worship services prior to May 1st transition to incorporate use of available technology.
In March the board took similar action to cancel events of presbytery scheduled in the month of March. This recent action of the board requires that meetings of presbytery commissions, committees, and subcommittees be convened virtually at this time. By meeting virtually, we can continue to do the work that needs to be done resourcing congregations and “equipping the saints for the work of ministry”.
Please note that the board is again recommending to sessions that face-to-face worship be suspended until May 1st. The board can only make recommendation to sessions regarding the worship of a particular congregation.
To aid session deliberation, I have attached(linked) to this correspondence
- Two Advisory Opinions from the PC(USA):
- Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order #121.
The two advisory opinions from the PC(USA) will help answer questions for those considering virtual meetings (session and congregation) and celebration of the Lord’s Supper when worship is not face-to-face. Additionally, sessions should use the attached executive order. This order acknowledges places of worship as “essential activities” (Section 1, paragraph 3, subsection vi & Section 2C.10). This document provides information about management of administrative staff, the number that constitute a mass gathering, and the number of attendees allowed for funerals.
Sessions should also consider ways to stress the importance of faithful stewardship.
- Ensure utilities are not running in unoccupied facilities. Inform members that ministry is on-going.
- Remind contributors to the ministry that their financial support is critical.
These are strange and challenging times. Nevertheless, I have been encouraged by the commitment of our congregations to share The Good News – news desperately needed during these times – in new and different ways. I have heard of a commissioned ruling elder that posted a sermon reflection to YouTube for a congregation of 20. By the afternoon that sermon had over 200 views. And another pastor reported that she received a message from a sick-and-shut-in member that they felt connected to their church for the first time in months thanks to a sermon she posted on Facebook.
Be encouraged! The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge!
Rev. Jerrod B. Lowry
The PCUSA has provided a resource page of helps for getting online and ways to respond to this emergency. View it here
Click here to see a list of the latest resources from the PCUSA Mission Agency – Prayers, Advisories, Grants from PDA for COVID19 response, ways to help, and more.