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Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Greetings from your church Session! We hope this letter finds you both physically and spiritually well. We are reaching out to update you with our plans and preparations in light of the continued challenges that we face as a body of believers during the current climate.
First of all, we want to assure you again that our approach has always been and will always be centered on Christ and biblical teachings, which call us to be a people of faith and not a people of fear, trusting in God’s providence for His children, and yet focused not on our own wants or desires but always acting in love for and understanding of the needs of those around us. We are pleased with how smooth the reopening has been so far, and we are grateful to the many volunteers who have worked hard. We also thank you for your patience as we consider and act upon leading our church in the will of God through our current pandemic.
We would like to share with you our vision for worship and ministry at Washington PCA for the next month and beyond, as we understand it so far. It is our prayer that this update will address any lingering questions or concerns that you might have, but also that, if it does not, you will bring those to our attention right away.
To begin, in our discussions and deliberations we have been aware of the recommendations from public health officials, both local and national, and we have specifically been paying attention to local trends in public healthcare. As you are probably aware, Washington County and all of Southwestern Pennsylvania continues to be in the “green phase” of reopening and, while there has been some indication that continued diligence is due, we are grateful to God that our area remains relatively healthy.
We wish to state clearly that should the state leaders and healthcare professionals give the “all clear,” lifting the “green phase” and essentially returning life to pre-pandemic patterns, Washington PCA will follow suit and resume worship and ministries without the protocols that are in place now. Nonetheless, in the current situation, your leaders have decided that it would be best to continue worshipping with most of the current procedures in place, including asking attendees to wear masks (if medically able) and to maintain social distancing within the church building.
With that being said, after reflection, observation, and prayer, we have also taken steps to loosen some protocols that had been in place.
Social Distancing in Pews
We recognize that some family groups are meeting socially outside of church; for these groups, the policy requiring social distancing in the pews is irrelevant. Therefore, we invite groups who are already gathering socially outside of church to share pews, if they desire to do so; we hope that this will also free up space within the church as more brothers and sisters feel ready to return to corporate worship.
In addition, given that we have had several weeks to get used to the new protocols, we have decided to reduce the number and the role of the volunteers who assist in pre-worship gathering on Sunday mornings. Specifically, while we will continue to offer a sanitizing station and encourage all attendees to take advantage of it, we will no longer be staffing this station. Also, we will reduce the number of ushers directing worshipers to their seats from two to one. Finally, we will be asking the greeters to simply greet worshipers at the door (although it may be necessary to help direct newcomers or visitors). We hope that these changes will not only reduce the strain on volunteers, but also take steps to help create a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in our weekly gathering to worship. Again, we are grateful to those volunteers who were instrumental in making things run smoothly in June, and we are hopeful that more of you will be encouraged to volunteer as a greeter (as a family) or as an usher in the weeks to come.
Finally, we want you to know that we as church leaders are not only committed to surviving these unusual times but also to thriving as a spiritual body; consequently, we are continually exploring ways to nourish and minister to our church family. Foremost, we are excited to offer a new format for Sunday School for families interested in attending. Beginning on July 12, we will be offering a family-oriented Sunday School time on the church lawn, 9:15–10 a.m. ahead of the 10:30 a.m. service. We encourage participants to bring your own chairs or blankets and to maintain social distancing, but masks will not be required in this outdoor space. We do ask that all non-communicant members be accompanied by at least one adult. While our goal is to make our time of study nourishing to a wide range of ages, the lessons will be of greatest benefit to members age 5 and older (younger children are welcome to attend with their families, of course). We are also exploring the possibility of offering an “adults only” study during this time in the Sanctuary, but are still working out the details. In the event of inclement weather, the Sunday School time will be cancelled, with an announcement being sent via email by 8:30 a.m.
Fellowship and Other Activities
In addition, we are exploring other opportunities to encourage the life and growth of the church body. Interest permitting, we hope to conduct a “family photo scavenger hunt” with a time of fellowship (and pizza!) following on the church lawn. We will also be surveying the congregation shortly to determine interest in a book study aimed at parents; we are prepared to offer up to two sections of this book study, one which will happen small-group style in person in the church, and another to be conducted in an online format for those who are interested in attending but would prefer the convenience of an internet-based study. We would be happy to hear ideas from you on similar book studies, if you have suggestions. Finally, in lieu of a traditional VBS which is not feasible in this climate, we are exploring offering “backyard Bible clubs” for our children, with the possibility of opening it up to specifically invited children from the community at large. We ask that you pray for all of these ministries—that they will be glorifying to God and nourishing to His church body.
In closing, we wish to thank those of you who have reached out to us with your feedback; we appreciate the notes of support and encouragement, and we also continue to invite you to be open with us with any concerns or criticisms that you might have for us. Most of all, we solicit your continued prayers and patience.
Your brothers in Christ,