May 3, 2020
Covid-19 Update: From ‘Triage to Transition:’ Moving from “red” into the “yellow” phase beginning next Friday, May 8 in our region of Pennsylvania. The staff of the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant has been busy working on a phased ‘transition’ plan for the past few weeks. During the “yellow” phase the church will remain closed. And the state phases won’t necessarily dictate the church’s phases. That is, expect the church to move forward slowly with the health of the congregation, staff and community of utmost priority. New cleaning and gathering protocols are being developed. Online worship, Zoom faith formation and Zoom committee meetings will continue for the foreseeable future.
From Doubt to Trust… Thoughts from Pastor Chris
“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.” -Habakkuk 3:17-19
It has been six weeks since we have worshiped together in the sanctuary. In many ways it feels twice as long. We have learned how to conduct meetings online, worship on Facebook, celebrate communion and Holy Week, and stay connected. I am grateful for our staff which meets weekly via ZOOM to plan worship, brainstorm ways we can creatively stay connected, and think about church life after this pandemic.
The Session discussed and affirms that we will be continuing our worship via Facebook LIVE at least through the end of May. There is little sense in trying to anticipate when stay-at-home orders might be rescinded, or how; but when that time comes, we will carefully evaluate how the congregation should resume in-person worship, and when outside groups will be welcome to gather in the church. We will base our decision upon advice offered by organizations such as the CDC and the W.H.O. As Paul advised the congregation in Corinth, “’All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are beneficial” (1 Cor. 6:12). In other words, just because the governor says we can worship together doesn’t mean we should. We remain vigilant in protecting our most vulnerable members, neighbors, and friends.
I hope you are as happy as I am to learn that our Facebook LIVE worship services average 110 connections on Sundays. We “guesstimate” two people watching for each connection, accounting for singles and families. That means our worship attendance has increased during the pandemic! We are looking into how to continue to offer worship online when we return to in-person worship in the sanctuary.
Church finances are stable. Members and friends continue to support the mission and ministry of the congregation, with more using the electronic giving options. As we pray for a swift end to this crisis, I hope we will see this as an opportunity to reflect on how our spending habits affect our neighbors and community. “Shop local”.
I shared the above closing verses from the prophet Habakkuk who writes about moving from confusion and doubt to trust in God. I hope these verses remind us that no matter the circumstance our reliance and our Joy is in the Lord.
March 17, 2020
Covid-19 Statement #2
First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Erie, PA
As the information from the CDC, the PA Dept. of Health, the PA Governor’s office, Erie County Health Dept. and the PCUSA is updated daily and hourly, church leaders and staff made the decision to close the church building to ALL groups and to postpone the physical gathering for worship on Sunday mornings until further notice and/or updated recommendations from those five parties.
World doctors and scientists are saying loudly, clearly and unanimously that the more isolated we make ourselves now, and in coming weeks, the better local doctors and hospitals will be able to keep up with emergency demands and the more likely our most vulnerable community members will be protected from this virus.
Toward this end, we want to comply with “social distancing” best practices. Suggested gathering limits have reduced from 250 to 10 in recent days. It feels extreme, but we want our congregation and neighborhood to fare well through this pandemic. Since we have never experienced anything like this, it seems prudent to err on the side of caution. As we watch one country after another grapple with the spread of Covid-19, we wish to live out: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
Effective Tuesday, March 17, all church and community groups using the building will need to make other arrangements and postpone events/gathering. This will be for an undetermined duration, but definitely through March 30. This applies to all groups, including: choirs, committees, NA/AA groups, neighborhood and Gannon gatherings and room/event rentals. One exception will be the emergency housing “Our Neighbors’ Place Shelter” in Knox Hall, currently implementing new health-safety policies and planning an earlier than expected termination.
Until further notice, “Sunday Suppers” will adapt from sit-down dinners to “takeout” meals provided at the door from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday afternoons.
The church staff will work from home, where possible. In coming days, the staff will sanitize and disinfect surface areas throughout the entire building.
Church staff and Elders decided after testing “virtual worship” on March 15, to proceed with an 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning Facebook Live virtual worship service. There will be no physical gathering on Sunday mornings until further notice. You can find the service here: http://url.ie/16jof
Last week’s worship livestreams are available below or here on this website:
Part 1: http://url.ie/16jow
Part 2: http://url.ie/16jos
Please tune in on Sunday mornings. Let us not give up “meeting” together. Make it interactive: Pray and sing along from your living room or kitchen. We will include lyrics to songs and all words for liturgy in our online bulletin. Watch for a Wednesday noon Bible study led by Rev. Britney Knight, also live on the church’s Facebook page. Let’s use this electronic tool to tune our hearts and minds toward God during Lent and this unprecedented health situation.
Don’t be surprised to receive more changes and updates. They will be posted on Facebook, the church website and sent by email. Check in on your church friends by phone. Call your neighbors. Do you know anyone who is sick? Or a single parent with kids at home? Or someone with a vulnerable immunity or respiratory system? Or someone losing income due to closures? Is there something you can assist with? Talk and pray together, from a distance. Revive the lost art of note writing and snail mail. This time of self-isolation will be challenging. How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus at this time?
Continue to pay attention to science, pray for wisdom, take courage, consider “the least of these,” and press onward while loving our neighbors. Be the Church, even if we can’t gather in the church building. Be well. Pray for us as we try to navigate this uncharted journey…
— Your Church Staff