COVID-19 News and Information
All activities and events at Westminster Presbyterian Church are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and are subject to change. Worship services are being streamed online at 8:30 a.m. Sundays and 11:45 a.m. Wednesdays.
For the most recent information, sign up for our twice-weekly eNewsletter. You can also learn how to stream services online, or watch videos on our YouTube channel. Available videos include daily prayers, meditations, children's book readings, and adult education classes.
Update: July 31, 2020
Dear members of the Westminster Community,
Summer greetings. We write to update you about the work of our COVID-19 task forces and decisions from our Session. As you know, information continues to develop daily about the coronavirus/COVID-19, and we are pivoting as best we are able. We are taking faithful and mindful steps so that we can gather again in some capacity at our beloved church campus.
In mid-June, we disseminated a questionnaire to the congregation to ask for your insight on resuming worship, meetings, and congregational activities during the pandemic. We received over 400 responses. A PowerPoint presentation with the responses can be found HERE. In summary:
- 34% of respondents indicated that they would likely return to worship when the city of Nashville meets metrics for resuming large gatherings, while 27% would return at the first opportunity. In addition, 25% said they would continue to worship online for the foreseeable future and 14% said they would wait to return when a vaccine is available.
- More than two-thirds of respondents expressed interest in attending an outdoor worship service, with 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. being preferred worship times.
- More than two-thirds expressed a willingness to attend small group meetings on Westminster’s campus (either outdoors or indoors), while practicing safety precautions.
- Approximately 50% of respondents are participating in at least one church Zoom activity.
- 77% feel connected to the church, even during this period of physical distancing and suspension of in-person gatherings.
*Please note that the above responses were gathered prior to Nashville’s designation as a COVID-19 hotspot.
Westminster continues to follow all local, state, and federal regulations with special consideration for the most vulnerable among us. Matthew 22:39 reminds us “to love thy neighbor as thyself” and we are working from this directive in our decision-making process. At this writing, the city of Nashville has reverted to Phase 2 of its reopening plan. Notably, gatherings over 25 persons are prohibited at this time. Masks are required in all public places; physical distancing of 6 feet is recommended, and those over the age of 65 are encouraged to stay home as much as possible. Given the city’s Phase 2 status and the rising number of COVID cases in the Middle Tennessee region, worship in our sanctuary, as well as indoor, in-person meetings, will remain suspended for the foreseeable future. However, on a bright note, the Session has approved outdoor small group meetings and plans for outdoor worship. Along with this approval is the requirement of a mask for any in-person event on the church property (indoors and outdoors). Please read the Mask Protocol HERE.
Small Group Meetings
The patio outside the Youth Café (up to 15 people), the patio outside the parlor (up to 25 people), and the Blevins Garden (up to 12 people) are available by reservation for meetings. These spaces must be reserved at least 48 hours in advance. Masks are required for the duration of the meeting, and a temperature check and wellness screen will be conducted upon entry of the meeting space. Full details of the protocols can be found HERE.
With prayerful consideration, we are working toward the goal of holding an outdoor worship service on the Westminster campus on Sunday, September 13th. Specific protocols, instructions for reservations, and attendance requirements will be announced as we move closer to that date. We want to caution that this is the plan at this time. With COVID, plans could change at any moment and we need to be prepared for that possibility. We remain hopeful that we will be able to proceed and be “together at a distance.”
Youth and Koinonia
For now, Sunday School and most youth activities for the fall will remain in a virtual format. However, our rising kindergarten through sixth-grade youth have been participating in physically distanced outdoor activities on the playground and other locations through “Marvelous Monday” and “Thankful Thursday” gatherings. Our older youth have enjoyed bike rides and picnics in our wonderful city parks in addition to their virtual coffee hours and Sunday worship.
While we formulate the logistics for outdoor worship and eagerly anticipate September 13, we encourage you to continue to live out the truth that the church is not a building. Be in touch with one another. If you are socially distancing with other church families, worship online together, and share fellowship. If you have access to outdoor space and can see church members while taking the precautions you need to be safe and healthy, we encourage you to do so! It will be so fulfilling to be back on campus, but our operations are going to look and feel different. So during this time of waiting, may we all think creatively about how we can be the church for one another.
We are most grateful for your prayers and your patience during this liminal time. We are working without a playbook and endeavoring to make responsible plans despite multiple unknowns. Please continue to keep this team in your prayers and if you have specific questions, let us know.
The Session Action Team
Update: July 10, 2020
Over the past few weeks, two COVID-19 task force groups have been meeting frequently over Zoom to discuss Westminster's plans for reopening. These groups have been looking at:
- operational requirements (cleaning and sanitizing protocols)
- logistics (online reservations, spacing in the sanctuary, outdoor service options)
- small group meetings (assessing outdoor locations such as the courtyards and patios)
- volunteer and staff needs
We have received over 400 responses from the questionnaire that was sent out mid-June and we want to thank you for your participation. It will provide valuable information to the task forces and Session as decisions are made. The results of that survey will be shared soon in a summary document that will be distributed to the congregation.
Update: June 5, 2020
The Session met via Zoom last week and is working diligently to navigate us through this time. We are pleased to report that the church office is now partially open, Monday through Thursday, with staff alternating days in the office and also working from home. In-person appointments with our pastoral staff are available between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. We are working on ways that the congregation can come together in person through a phased reopening, although a definite date has not been set. We know other congregations are gathering again, and we have learned of a few congregations that have had to backtrack. We also know of many congregations who, like us, are taking their time to learn and discern. In this season of discernment, a task force is working to balance our deep desire to return to worship with what we know to be the best medical advice. Our decision making is "data-driven, not date-driven," as we want to avoid any premature decisions and not take any risks with health or safety.
The Task Force, comprised of members of the Worship Committee, Safety and Security, Property, Small Groups, and staff is dividing its work in order to prepare us and create a reopening plan. This work includes:
- Metrics for readiness - synthesizing local, state, and federal guidelines for reopening and applying them to our context; determining what measures we need to meet before we can safely return to our church campus
- Operational logistics - sanctuary preparation, space configurations, reservations, cleaning, supplies, etc.
- Questionnaire - discerning our community’s temperament towards returning and guidance
- Alternative worship - assessing outdoor locations and times
- Small group/committee meetings - assessing locations and times
- Mission and ministry opportunities - evaluating new ways to engage
- Communications and messaging - keeping our community informed about ongoing work and decisions; making our changes to operations clear and concise
Given that the summer is a time of lower attendance, the timing creates space for us to see what happens in Nashville over the next month, to wait for feedback from neighboring congregations, and to determine the best path forward for Westminster. We are comforted by the knowledge that the church isn't simply a building. Since mid-March, we have grown closer in many ways even though we are physically apart. We give thanks to God for all the ways that we are living out the gospel. May we continue to pray and care for each other, to worship together online, and to come together in new and creative ways.
Update: May 15, 2020
WESTMINSTER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
COVID-19 RESPONSE – MAY UPDATE
Dear members of the Westminster community,
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1) So begins the account of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church in the Book of Acts. As we approach the day of Pentecost in the year 2020 and other milestone events in our church year, such as Senior Sunday on May 17, sadly it is not possible for the members of our congregation to be “all together in one place.” We pray that you and your families are well, staying safe during these times of quarantine and social distancing, and finding new ways to live out your faith.
Last week, Mayor John Cooper announced that Nashville would be entering “Phase One” of the Roadmap for Reopening Nashville, beginning Monday, May 11. Following this announcement, several Westminster staff and church leaders participated in the mayor’s office webinar for religious leaders and congregations, which set forth guidelines recommended by our city officials and public health experts.
We recognize that you may be curious about Westminster’s plans for reopening, given this entry into “Phase One.” While some restrictions are being lifted in some places and for some people, the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 global pandemic persists; and it will require that we return to church in a way that is measured and mindful of the needs of the most vulnerable among us, particularly those over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions.
In the interest of transparency and the collaborative spirit of our Presbyterian heritage, we share with you these updates:
1. We are working on a plan for a phased and incremental reopening. Our pastoral staff, Session, and Session Action Team are doing this through a careful process of discussion and discernment, with an abundance of caution and concern for those who are most vulnerable; with consideration of the best scientific knowledge at our disposal; in the spirit of constant prayer, and with full trust in the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit. We will share those plans with you in our email communications and on the website, when they are available. At the bottom of this letter we have included links to city, state and federal guidelines, and several PC(USA) documents that we are using as resources to formulate Westminster’s plan.
2. We expect an extended period of time before we can return to worship and other in-person gatherings and meetings. In accordance with the Roadmap for Reopening Nashville, gatherings over one hundred (100) people, such as our worship services, are included in “Phase Four” of reopening. At this point, the earliest that we would enter “Phase Four” would be the end of June. We may even move backward in the phased reopening timeline in the weeks and months ahead, if metrics are not met and COVID-19 cases increase in the Nashville area.
For now, we will continue to worship through live-streamed and uploaded services until further notice. All other events, classes and gatherings are occurring virtually as well until further notice. Already several summer events for our children and youth, including
Outdoor Challenge, mission trips to Mobile and Chicago, Summer Music Camp and the Westminster and Laudate Choirs’ tour to Spain have been cancelled or postponed; and we expect other announcements soon.
As we grieve the losses and disappointments of this season, we anticipate with hope the ways in which God will continue to teach us how to be the church in this new time, even as the elements of our life together are evolving as a result. We are encouraged by the stories of the collective and individual joy that you’re experiencing in worship, small group gatherings via Zoom, congregational care outreach, Bible study groups, classes and our Koinonia youth ministry.
3. When we reopen, we should anticipate that worship and gatherings will look and feel different for some time, as we continue to be guided by the medical community, other worshiping communities and our city, state and federal governments. This will likely include wearing face masks in the building; maintaining social distance; and using no-touch alternatives for passing the peace, collecting the offering and participating in Communion. Look for specifics and details when we release Westminster’s plan for reopening.
Lastly, we ask for your patience and prayers, as we develop new ways to worship and be together. We will continue to seek to be together, whether that is in the Sanctuary or online. When we offer the invitation to the Lord’s table, we often use the words, “People will come from east and west and north and south to share in this great feast.” (Luke 13:29) While those words may be literal directions, they are also a metaphor to remind us that we come from different places on different issues, yet remain united in faith in Christ and at his table. Even as we see things differently, we are called to be in communion with one another. Let us be faithful, then, to God and to one another, as we receive the gifts and work through the challenges of this time in the life of our congregation and world. Let us be guided by the Word, responsive to the Spirit and open to the grace of God. Let us remember that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus!
Yours in Christ,
The Session of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville TN
Links of interest:
Roadmap for Reopening Nashville
Mayor’s Office Guidelines for Religious Congregations
The Governor’s Office Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/governorsoffice-
Centers for Disease Control – Guidelines for Community and Faith-Based Organizations