AUGUST 2, 2021 UPDATE FROM SESSION
The Session met after church on Sunday to discuss our current Covid precautions in light of a significant increase in cases in our county, as well as new CDC guidance. Throughout this pandemic, the Session has tried to follow that guidance.
Here is a link to the current number of cases in our county. As you can see, over the last half of July the number of new cases has begun to climb sharply, including 33 new cases in a single day on July 26.
Also, here is a link to the current CDC recommendations for fully vaccinated people. Fayette County is now considered a “high transmission” area.
With that information in mind, the Session:
- STRONGLY encourages all of our members to begin wearing masks again when you are inside the church building, if you are not already. Please bring a mask to church with you and wear it. There will be some free masks available at the tables at the front and back doors.
- Congregational singing will be suspended for now.
- The choir and singers will be required to wear a mask while singing for now.
The Session is very aware that the CDC guidelines may change quickly if the number of cases increase or decrease. The Elders will continue to discuss our precautions on a frequent basis. We know that taking these steps is not what any of us would desire, but feel it is also the right and safe thing to do for right now. We are also aware that we have a number of members who because of age or health reasons have not been able to get vaccinated. While the vaccination seems to decrease the effects of the Delta Variant, there have been quite a few cases among even vaccinated people that would be much more dangerous to one of those unvaccinated people if they caught it. Therefore we think increasing our precautions for right now is the best way to love our neighbors.
Thank you for your help in keeping us all safe, and for your patience as we continue to prayerfully discern our way through these difficult times.
MAY 20, 2021 UPDATE FROM SESSION [Updated again in July, 2021]
Dear friends. Grace and peace to you all. As announced, the Session met this Tuesday evening to discuss the new mask guidance issued by the CDC and what changes we might want to make to our current practices and precautions. Throughout the pandemic the Session has tried to follow CDC guidelines, and will continue to do so.
There were three major themes that formed the background of the conversation
- The new CDC guidance is an indication that vaccinations have proven highly effective. We hope and believe this process will continue to move in a positive direction. However, while we know that many of you are ready to reset to normal immediately, we believe we are not there yet, and ask for your patience as we move toward normal in deliberate and well-considered steps. But we are moving in a good direction and it won’t be long before we get there.
- Not everyone in our church has been vaccinated – some by choice, but others because of health issues, and some because of age. Our middle schoolers, for example, just became eligible last week, and there have been many cases of Covid reported at the county middle schools as recently as last week. Children under 12 still are not eligible for the vaccine yet, but we have several children in the church who have caught Covid with varying but not insignificant symptoms and required quarantine along with their parents. Therefore there is still a significant risk to a number of people in our church.
- According to the CDC guidance, there are still certain activities deemed riskier than others for those who have not yet been vaccinated – two of the most notable ones being full-attendance (and therefore no social distancing) indoor worship, and indoor group singing. In making our decisions, we weighed which activities were riskier in deciding how to approach our various precautions.
With those themes in the background, and with much prayerful conversation, the following is what the Session agreed will be the best course of action for right now, with the understanding that these areas will be revisited in the weeks ahead.
- Masks are recommended for everyone. If you are fully vaccinated and choose not to wear a mask we still require you to maintain social distancing from those around you. If you are not fully vaccinated, you are at greater risk and we strongly recommend that you wear a mask.
- Check in tables will no longer be used.
- Social distancing will still be required in the pews for now, as per the CDC guidance that full attendance (and therefore unspaced) events are one of the highest risk things unvaccinated people can do, and some people in our church have not had the choice yet to be vaccinated.
- Individual communion cups will continue to be used for now rather than passing plates of open bread/juice or dip bread into a common cup.
- The choir may unmask if they choose. If you are fully vaccinated and choose not to wear a mask we still require you to maintain social distancing from those around you. If you are not fully vaccinated, you are at greater risk and we strongly recommend that you wear a mask.
- We still are not encouraging the congregation to sing every song, since singing is still a high risk activity. We will continue to print the words in the bulletins. The congregation is invited to sing the final song of every worship service, so that those who are not comfortable with the singing yet may slip out to the lobby.
- The requirements for groups meeting indoors (ie meeting only in the 3 designated rooms, with the attendance limits, with a 1 hour limit, and masks recommended for everyone) will remain the same for now.
As you can tell, there are many things to consider as we make these decisions. We expect this process to continue moving in a positive direction, and will continue to make changes to our practices with well-considered steps. If you have questions or concerns, please speak with one of the elders. In the meantime, we ask for your patience and grace, and to focus on the great steps we have already been able to take. This time last year we were worshiping virtually only, and then moved to in-person outdoor worship, and now are able to worship back in the sanctuary but with some temporary precautions. We feel like we have come a long way already and will keep moving forward step by step.
Blessings to you this day.
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)