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