Dear Members and Friends of HPC,
We come to you today hoping that everyone is safe and healthy. In this time of uncertainty and fear brought on by the COVID19 pandemic, please know that God is with us always. We don’t have to be in the physical church to feel His presence and His strength.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
In this time of closed businesses and churches, quarantine, and social distancing, we hope you have been able to take advantage of online services for church. Rev. Betsy Westman from our sister church in Theresa has provided a link on our website and Facebook page for her weekly service, as well as Rev. Marti Montovani from her services with the Sacketts Harbor church.
The HPC session members have been discussing and planning how and when our church will open for services. Our main priority moving forward is to worship together without fear. We will have many restrictions and strict guidelines we must follow in order to ensure that everyone remains safe.
We are planning to begin services on July 12 at 10:30 in the pavilion. This outside setting will provide a more open space.
The following guidelines will be followed:
· A shortened abbreviated service
· No hymnals, no Bibles, no bulletins, no singing, no choir
· A power point projected on a screen will provide service highlights
· Mandatory masks and hand sanitizer will be availableif needed
· Music will be played but no singing will take place
· Everyone will bring their own chair and sit in the marked positions 6 feet apart
· No collection of offering but a basket will be available
· Individual prayer requests can be emailed or phoned ahead to Tara for reading at the service
We realize that there are many of our friends and members who are not ready to return and are fearful. We respect your personal choices. You return when it’s the right time for you.
Your session members want you to feel safe. The health and well-being of our congregation and our community is our primary concern. We will assist you in any way we can to make this transition comfortable for all.
Prayers and blessings,
Members of the Session
Lynn DeCondo, clerk
Rev. Betsy Westman, moderator (pastor, Theresa Pres. Church)
Ten Best Practices for Doing Church in the Age of COVID-19
Recommendations from the Regional Synod of Albany, March 11, 2020
Here are some recommendations to make worship safer during these days when we are concerned about stopping or slowing the spread of the Coronavirus.
People who have other underlying health issues or are over sixty years of age should consider staying home from worship if there is an active outbreak of Coronavirus in the area.
These are interim guidelines, given the current severity of the situation. Churches may need to reevaluate and cancel worship temporarily if community leaders decide to implement a social distancing policy. Churches may also decide to temporarily cancel children’s programs, even if regular worship continues.
Churches should do their best to provide resources to help people worship at home, including streaming worship services (Facebook live makes this fairly simple), recording sermons or emailing bulletins and sermon notes.
1. Avoid shaking hands, kissing or hugging.
a. Bow or wave to bless one another during the passing of the peace.
b. Worship leaders and pastors should not shake hands with attendees at the start or end of worship.
c. If you do decide to hug or touch somebody, ASK FOR PERMISSION FIRST!
2. Sit, stand and talk at an increased distance from others. CDC recommends 6 feet apart.
3. Worship attendees should not pass offering plates.
a. Ushers should hold plates the entire time, or
b. Put collection receptacles at entrance to the sanctuary, so people can leave their contributions as they enter or leave worship.
c. After worship, counters should not touch their faces and should wash hands after counting the offering.
4. Worship attendees should not pass communion plates.
a. Use bread pre-cut into French fry shaped pieces, or crackers (which are easier to pass).
b. Use juice/wine pre-poured into individual cups.
c. Congregants should come forward and servers should hand them their elements, taking care to not touch hands.
d. Servers should thoroughly cleanse their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before distributing the elements.
e. Servers should practice distributing elements before worship! Practice will make this change in communion less awkward.
f. Extra care should be taken to sanitize communion cups following worship.
5. If you have more than one worship service on Sunday morning, consider projecting worship music on a screen or inserting hymns in the bulletin, to prevent spreading Coronavirus by hymnbooks.
6. Make hand sanitizer, tissues and trash receptacles (with liners) available in multiple, visible locations throughout the sanctuary.
7. Encourage people to wash their hands. Post reminders over the sinks in the restrooms and kitchen noting that handwashing should be 20 seconds long (a verse or “Amazing Grace”).
8. A host with clean or gloved hands should serve all food at coffee hour.
9. Churches should follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting their buildings, especially worship spaces, kitchens, bathrooms and children’s areas.*
10. Leaders should talk in worship about the above changes, encouraging people to embrace these changes though they might feel unnatural at first. We are taking on these changes to be sure that people are safe and healthy, and because we love one another!
*CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting are here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html
CDC has handouts available on their website, which can be printed and distributed at church. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/factsheets.html
New York State information and updates:
More information and other helpful suggestions can be found in this article on fatihward.org.