June 11, 2020
Dear members of Westminster:
We are so grateful to all of you for your faith in Christ, your patience, and your fortitude throughout these past three months.
Since the beginning of May, our Covid-19 Task Force has been hard at work discussing a wide range of issues that surround reopening our church. Some of the immediate issues that the Task Force addressed were reopening the church office and establishing policies and protocol for weddings and funerals at WPC during the pandemic.
It’s time for an update so that all of you have a clearer sense of where we are now and where we’re going.
Here are some basic principles that are governing the work of the Task Force:
- We understand reopening a church to be different than reopening other places, like a business, a gym, or a school. Church is a place where we belong to one another, a place where we are called to care for the most vulnerable in our community (1 Corinthians 12:14-26). We do not want to reopen in ways that will include some members but exclude others.
- We will pay close attention to the science and data about Covid-19 as we consider what is best for the health and safety of our congregation. We will also keep a close eye on what other Presbyterian churches our size (1800+ members) are doing. Our staff is in continual communication with colleagues throughout our region so that we can share ideas and plans.
- We intend to reopen in phases. Once we see a 14-day consecutive decline in the number of Covid-19 cases in Greenville, we hope that smaller gatherings of WPC members may occur. This would represent Phase One.
- All available evidence suggests that worshiping together in-person is the riskiest event for a church of our size. While we have been discussing how this might happen at some point in the future, no timeline has been set. If any of you have asked “When will we return to our sanctuary to worship in person?”, the most direct response is “Not yet.”
- We will respect one another’s decisions. The most faithful ways to follow Christ during the pandemic will vary from person to person, and church to church. We will trust our Presbyterian process of governance, which places decision-making authority for most matters with the Session. We trust that you will honor our Session’s wisdom and decisions, even when you see other churches making different decisions.
- We will continue to search for ways that we can be the body of Christ for our community. We understand our church to exist for our greater community’s common good. While the pandemic cancelled some of our traditional spring mission activities, like “Hands On Greenville,” we will continue to reach out to our mission partners to share our gifts and resources in safe ways.
We know that everyone misses seeing one another in person. All of us on the Task Force and the staff feel that loss just like you. We understand that being unable to worship in person on a weekly basis as the body of Christ is no small thing.
It’s also true that we are learning new ways of being the body of Christ during this time. The generosity that our congregation has exhibited during the pandemic has been outstanding. The words of support from all of you to one another and to our leadership have provided both encouragement and hope. Our online worship services have continued to draw similar numbers to what we would have had in our sanctuary on pre-pandemic Sundays. Please know that the grace of God has been visible in our community of faith, and that the vitality of our congregation has been exceptional during this unexpected and challenging time.
We will continue to update you on a regular basis as things change and decisions are made. We hold all of you in our prayers, and we covet your prayers as well.
Trey DuBose, Covid-19 Task Force Chair
Ben Dorr, Pastor