JULY 21 UPDATE (WORSHIP PLANNING):
The Session met on Tuesday night and once again discussed the current levels and spread of the COVID-19 cases. We are aware that two (not Presbyterian) churches in our county reopened and have closed again over the last couple of weeks due to COVID infections. Of course, there are other congregations that have reopened without incident so far. The Session decided to continue to hold off on an in-person worship service for now, and will meet again on August 4. That will give us time to see what decision the schools make about whether to return to in-person classes, as well as get more information from a “Town Hall” meeting on reopening being hosted by the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta earlier on August 4.
At the same time, the Session has decided that it would be safer to begin with an outdoor in-person worship service rather than an indoor one. Such a service would be held earlier on Sunday morning than the normal service to avoid the heat, would be in a shady area, and would be a short service. There would still be precautions in place, though, such as temperature checks, social distancing, masks, and no congregational singing. We are beginning to figure out how such a service would be handled, and cannot say yet when we might be able to begin this service. But we are actively making plans in that direction.
Even when we begin some form of in-person worship, we will continue to provide the high quality “Sofa Sanctuary” virtual worship on which we have received a great amount of positive feedback.
Some of you have been participating in our Wednesday morning (8:00 a.m.) and Thursday evening (7:00 p.m.) Bible Studies under the oak tree in front of the youth house. We have enjoyed wonderful fellowship, discussion, and prayer. There are still some spots available in both groups, so if you would like to join one, please contact Alex. We also encourage you to join our “Virtual Coffee Fellowship” on Sunday mornings and Alex’s New Testament lessons. The Smart Lunch Smart Kids effort, and your food donations, have been a great success.
If you have questions, ideas, or just want to talk, please feel free to call or email Alex or any of the elders.
JULY 7 UPDATE (OFFICE REOPENING):
Fayette Presbyterian Church is reopening its office starting this week. The office will be open Monday-Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There will be two staff members in the office each day. Obviously staff members are also continuing to do a fair amount of work from home.
In order to maintain the safety of our staff, the Session asks that all members continue to communicate by phone, text, or email if at all possible. Please only come by if you need to physically do something at the church.
If you need to come to the church during those days/hours, please know that the following procedures will be in place:
1. The doors will remain locked. Please ring the bell and a staff member will meet you at the door.
2. Everyone who enters the building (even to do something down the hall) should first go to the table outside the office where your temperature will be taken and your presence will be recorded in a log. This is in case someone tests positive for COVID, we can tell who was on site with them at the same time.
3. Everyone in the building must either remain socially distanced or wear a mask. If you need to enter the office, you will need to put on a mask. Please bring one with you, but we also have some extras along with hand sanitizer on the table outside the office.
4. You are also still welcome to leave contributions in the drop box at the back door. It will be checked regularly.
These office hours are in addition to the two new Bible Study Fellowship Groups that will be meeting “under the oak tree” on Wednesday mornings at 8:00 and Thursday evenings at 7:00. The Session is also continuing to make plans and monitor the COVID numbers with an eye on providing an in-person (with precautions in place) worship service in the next few weeks. Thank you for all of your faithful support. Please let us know if you have any questions.
JUNE 18 UPDATE:
Hello my brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Session met again last night as it is continuing to do every couple of weeks. Its next planned meeting is scheduled for June 30 on Zoom. We are very pleased with the effort going into providing weekly meals as part of Smart Lunch Smart Kids (but with COVID-altered preparation and procedures) and with the weekly food collection for Fayette Samaritans. Karen and Melanie have begun putting together VBS take-home kits, with a different kit each week beginning this coming Sunday. If you drive through the overhang from 12:00-3:00 you can drop off your food donation, pick up a devotional, and pick up a VBS kit for your child. Thank-you to all who are making this possible. We also give thanks for our “callers” who are regularly calling and checking on groups of church members.
We would like to remind you of the Zoom congregational meeting on June 28 to elect two elders. We will email out the invitation and bios for the two nominees the week before.
Judy gave us a financial update. Giving is down a little for the year, but so are expenses, so we are about $4000 to the good for the year thus far. The church also received a PPP loan and will use it as needed. This loan is part of the economic stimulus plan passed by Congress and will be forgiven as long as it is used to keep employees employed. With the summer months coming, we encourage you to maintain your giving. We are so grateful for all of you, our faithful givers who make our ministries possible and are making sure we are on a strong financial footing even during this uncertain time. THANK YOU!!
Finally, the Session is tentatively starting to look at offering an in-person worship service beginning at the end of July. Some of you have been asking about this, but we have also heard from many who say they will not feel safe to return to a large gathering for a while yet. The Session is considering the COVID-19 data as well as input from the governor’s latest executive order, the CDC and other public health agencies, the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, and what we are learning from other churches. Resuming in-person worship will require some noticeable precautions which will not be optional, some of which you have probably experienced at the doctor’s office, the library, or other places. The service would be recorded and provided online for those who choose not to attend. We would like you to follow the following link to a survey that will give you more information about what precautions would be in place and what such a service would be like. Then let us know if you would or would not want to participate and if you have any additional input for the Session as it considers this possibility. [NOTE: The link to this survey has been emailed to our church members]
Thank you for your support of our church. Grace and peace to you all.
JUNE 2 UPDATE:
On Tuesday, June 2, the Session of our church met and wanted to give you as much of an update as possible on the status of our worship and activities. The Session has been meeting about twice a month on Zoom and will continue to do so. It is out of a deep love for all of you that we discern what is the best course for our congregation, and we do so in conversation with the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, other churches in the Presbytery, and advice from the CDC and public health officials.
Currently we cannot project a date when we will begin to worship or meet together in-person. We are monitoring the ongoing conditions of the COVID-19 spread and discuss any changes to the situation each time we meet. Last week two of us participated in a town hall Zoom meeting of the Presbytery about the process and criteria for reopening, and a committee of both public health experts and pastors presented recommendations. Some of these included “gating” criteria which are essentially a decrease in viral cases for two weeks before the decision can be made to move to the next phase of reopening. There was also discussion of the Baptist church in Ringgold who had tried to resume worship while taking considerable precautions, and yet a full quarter of the attendees contracted the virus and the church chose to shut down again. You can find an article about that in the AJC. We also, as do all churches, have a great concern for the large number of people in our congregation who fall into a high risk category due to age or health issues.
The worship committee has begun considering the possibility for “drive-in” worship, although after an initial discussion we discovered that there are a number of logistical and technology issues that we must work through first. Therefore, while we are actively discussing the details of such a service, we cannot project when such a thing would be possible, or if it would even be desirable during the heat of the summer. We are grateful for the excellent “Sofa Sanctuary” services we have been having, as well as the new opportunities for “Virtual Coffee Fellowship” and Wednesday night discussions on Zoom.
The Session has reviewed and supports the recommended precautions that the Presbytery developed for when we do return to worship. We want you to be aware of these for when we make that decision. They include:
- If you are in a high risk group you will be encouraged to stay home and continue to enjoy the online worship that we will continue to provide.
- Initially, no more than 50 people can be in worship at a time.
- Everyone wears face masks. If you do not have one, we will provide one. But you will have to wear it in order to attend. You may need your temperature taken as well.
- Everyone will have to practice social distancing in the pews.
- There will be no singing by either the congregation or worship leaders. Singing has been identified as a “super spreader” due to the force of air being projected out.
- Initially there will only be worship. There will not be a nursery or children’s church. No Sunday School for any age. No fellowship or meetings.
- The church will have to be sanitized after each service.
If you would like to discuss anything that we are doing, or have questions, please feel free to contact any member of the Session. We love all of you and are seeking to be very thorough in our discussions and planning. We thank you for your continuing support, prayers, and financial contributions (in our last meeting, Judy reported that we are under our normal giving, but doing alright, and also received a significant amount through the PPP economic stimulus program).
Grace and peace to you all,
Alex Moses and Donna McManus (Clerk of Session)