message from the Presbytery of Florida
Dear Friends in Christ,
The Coordinating and Planning Commission (CPC) of the Presbytery of Florida met via conference call on Saturday, March 14, 2020 regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We discussed how our congregations might be most faithful in responding to this crisis in our communities. We are aware that these events are causing fear and anxiety among us, as we are uncertain of what we may face in days and weeks to come as more cases of the virus are diagnosed.
The latest information from the CDC warns of the emerging, rapidly evolving situation involving COVID-19. Community interventions can minimize the risk and reduce the impact of the disease, especially among those most vulnerable: age 60 and over, those with heart or lung disease; and those with diabetes.
With increased concern for the well-being of our community, the CPC recommends “suspending all in-person worship and all on-site gatherings beginning March 18, 2020 to the end of the month, according to the decision of each church session. We will reassess the situation at that time to decide how to proceed from that point.
The CPC encourages each congregation to find ways to offer alternative styles and opportunities of worship and fellowship through the use of websites and social media such as Facebook and YouTube.
If your congregation plans to continue gathering for worship, we recommend the following practices to protect the health of the congregation:
- Having ushers/greeters wear gloves as they hand out bulletins at the door;
- Wearing gloves in preparation of food to be shared, as well as the elements for communion;
- Using individual cups for communion service rather than a community cup with intinction;
- Eliminating the Passing of the Peace and handshaking at the door following worship;
- Eliminating passing the offering plates but having people at the doors on exit holding the plates to accept offerings and donations;
- Removing soft toys and books from nurseries where small children might put them in their mouths;
- Having hand sanitizer widely available in the church building;
- Increasing frequency of cleaning of church buildings;
- Encouraging members to stay home if they feel sick or are anxious about coming to worship and other activities.
It is very important that we continue to care for one another and for the most vulnerable in our communities during the crisis. We encourage pastors and sessions to think about how they will continue to provide pastoral care to the congregation. We also encourage congregations to consider ministries of compassion and assistance to our most vulnerable populations:
- Older adults and those with chronic health issues who may fear going into public places but will need assistance with shopping, errands, etc;
- Public school children who depend on free breakfast and lunch programs who will be in danger of food insecurity if schools are closed for a long period of time;
- Older and disabled adults who depend on meal programs for food;
- Those who feel insecure or lonely in situations of isolation.
Please stay connected with reliable resources for the latest information on COVID-19:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/COVID19
- The World Health Organization: www.who.int
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: www.hhs.gov
- Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Office of Theology and Worship Pastoral Statement on the Coronavirus/COVID-19: www.presbyterianmission.org
- Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield: www.highmarkanswers.com
Blessings and Peace,
Coordinating and Planning Commission:
Rev. Sharon Schuler, CPC Chair
Elder Roseanna Phillips, Presbytery Moderator
Rev. Michael Askew, Presbytery Vice Moderator/Committee on Representation Chair
Rev. Trinity Whitley, Committee on Preparation for Ministry Chair
Rev. Lisa Martin, Committee on Congregational Revitalization Chair
Elder Ken Densmore, Committee on Dogwood Acres Chair
Rev. John Kupar, Committee on Educational Resources Chair
Rev. A. J. Mealor, Committee on New Congregational Development Chair
Elder Leslie Yandle, Committee on Nominations Chair
Rev. Mark Broadhead, Committee on Ministry Chair