Session Letter | In-Person Worship
May 16, 2020
Dearest Christ Church Family,
On behalf of the session of elders, I am delighted to announce that next Lord’s Day, May 24th, we will begin a three phase re-entry into normal congregational life at Christ Church. It was not without much discussion, research, and prayer that the session resolved to move forward with this initial plan. The health and safety of our congregation, as well as our community at large, is important to us. Moreover, we want to honor the civil authorities, while also making sure that the worship and discipleship of the gathered church remains a priority. These are complex issues, and churches will respond in different ways. Some congregations began meeting two weeks ago, and others will wait until June. We believe our plan, however, is both cautious and reasonable, considering our geographical context and all of the relevant data brought to our attention. The slow opening of our local economy by Governor McMaster and Charleston area mayors has contributed to our decision to move forward in the following way:
Next Lord’s Day, May 24th, we will begin meeting in-person for our evening worship service at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 5:30 p.m. Both morning and evening services will continue to be live-streamed for those who are not yet comfortable returning to gathered worship. We encourage those who are immunocompromised or at risk because of age and/or pre-existing conditions to consider worshipping at home via live-stream for a few more weeks. In addition, if you or a member of your family are symptomatic with a cough, fever, or headaches, or you know that you’ve very recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19, or you have travelled internationally or to a domestic hot spot for the virus (e.g. New York City), we encourage you to stay home for at least two weeks.
In this initial phase, there will be no nursery care available. We recognize that this will be a challenge for some of our young parents, but we encourage you to have your children in the service if you feel comfortable doing so. The nursery space will be available during the service for parents who need to tend to their children’s needs (4 and under). We know it may be a little noisier than usual in our service, but that’s okay! It will be such a blessing to all be together again as a church family. Also, parents with fussy children can always utilize the nursery or an empty room at the church, if necessary. I can’t wait to see our covenant children again!
The meeting space at Moultrie Middle School is still unavailable “until further notice.” Indeed, we don’t know if it will be available to us at any time in the near future. The kind folks at St. Paul’s are happy for us to begin meeting again; but as you know, the sanctuary is fairly small. Therefore, it would be impractical to try and implement social distancing rules. We simply ask that during this phase we would refrain from “hugs and handshakes”, and make sure to wash our hands and use the ubiquitous anti-bacterial gels around the church. Also, those who feel more comfortable wearing a mask are encouraged to do so, but the session will not require them.
Another precautionary measure is that we will not pass the offering plates or the communion plates. The offering plates will be located in the front of the sanctuary for those who would like to give before or after the service, and the online giving option will remain on our website. Communion will be served differently, with members coming forward to receive the elements from the pastors. The pastors, while wearing gloves, will hand the bread and the wine to the communicants, who will then return to their seats with the elements to await further instruction. It will be different, of course, but a profound blessing to once again partake of the Lord’s Supper with our beloved congregation!
Selective weekly online ministries through facebook Live and Zoom will begin to be slowly discontinued during this phase.
On Lord’s Day, June 14th, we will begin meeting in-person for both Lord’s Day services. The live-stream ministry for both services will continue, however, for those who in good conscience feel that they need to continue to worship from home. During this second phase of re-entry, the session would also like to encourage small groups to begin gathering again for monthly meetings.
During phase three, all Christ Church ministries, including Sunday school, will begin meeting again. The session will use discretion as it concerns returning to normal practices related to offerings and the Lord’s Supper. Because of the present uncertainty regarding when exactly we’ll move into our newly renovated facility at 486 Wando Park Blvd., we hesitate to put an exact date upon phase three. It will likely be sometime in the early fall.
We will continue, expand, and improve our livestream services on a number of different platforms into the future. In fact, this week, with the technical help of Mr. Alex Clement, we have purchased (and will begin to use) new video equipment for an improved livestream presentation. We are also working on a new and improved Christ Church website, which we hope to launch soon. One encouraging development during these days of quarantine is that many who otherwise would not be in church are tuning-in to online Christian worship services. We hope that our new online presence will be an outreach tool for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls!
Dearest members of Christ Church, the spiritual and physical welfare of our members and visitors is of utmost importance to us. We realize that there are many divergent opinions about what precautionary measures to take in relation to the virus, and that sometimes these matters can become quite sensitive and emotional. Many are suffering intensely during this pandemic. It’s important, therefore, that every member proceed in these matters with love, humility, and a good conscience. Let each of us demonstrate the judgment of charity towards those who view things differently as it concerns these precautionary measures. Also, please understand that all those who attend in-person services will need to be comfortable with the uncertainties of matters that are out of our control. We want to be cautious, but we don’t want to live in fear — for fear is what often cultivates division and strife. Therefore, let us proceed in love, humility, good conscience, and with a deep and abiding trust in our sovereign heavenly Father. The Church has faced pandemics before. Like Christians before us, we shall get through this. We are in the Lord’s hands, and that’s the safest place to be!
Of course, it must be said that the plan we’ve set forth is contingent upon any potential changes with the pandemic. The session will continue to monitor to situation week to week. Please pray for us to lead with wisdom and grace.
After carefully reading this letter, if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to send them along to your shepherding elder. Of course, you can always reach out to me or to Pastor Michael. We love you, and can’t wait to see your faces and join our voices together again in heartfelt praise to our great God and Savior!
“I was glad then they said unto me,
‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Ps. 122:1)
Your Pastor, Servant, and Friend,
(On behalf of the Christ Church Presbyterian Session)
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