Dear Family in Christ,
I bring you greetings from the Presbytery Council, eighteen wise leaders who have been elected to attend to the overall health and wellbeing of the Presbytery of Ohio Valley, and to act as a Commission of the Presbytery between Assemblies.
The Council met via Zoom video-conference today to address the evolving COVID-19 situation. It was the unanimous opinion of the Council to recommend that sessions and congregations follow the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that all in-person worship and meetings of ten or more people be cancelled through May 10, 2020 (eight weeks from the beginning of the CDC guidelines). Out of an abundance of caution, we also recommend that congregations of fewer that ten worshippers adopt the same practice, as many of our folks are in a higher-risk category and should be staying home as much as possible. One member of the Council, the Rev. Deborah Fortel, noted that “as an older member of society, I recognize that my job is to be careful and stay home and healthy to avoid putting additional burdens on the medical system at this time.”
This is difficult news, both to give and to receive, but we believe it is vital to the health and safety of our members, friends, and communities. Another member of the Council, Rev. Kevin Fleming, reminded us that this is now one of the ways that we can embody the second great commandment, to “love our neighbor as we love ourself.”
Some congregations will be able to offer worship online, mostly through facebook live. This is a good option for those who have the means to do so. The Presbyterian Mission Agency will be hosting a webinar tomorrow, March 19, at 12:00pm EDT / 11:00am CDT on adapting worship for streaming. You can find more information here: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/1001-to-host-zoom-conversation-thursday-on-how-to-stream-worship-services/.
Producing and providing online technology may be difficult for some of our churches and pastors. Later this week, I will send out a list of churches who are providing online worship, along with the links, so that anyone who wishes might join in. We are also thinking about ways to connect our presbytery and its people through Holy Week and Easter. Please stay tuned…
The Council will meet next week as well, and we will continue to address the situation as it evolves, including the financial implications that our congregations are likely to face.
As Rev. Felipe Martinez said to the members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Columbus: Our plans to weather this storm won’t be perfect or polished, but they will be our faithful effort to remain connected with one another. We need to feel that we’re there for one another.
Please know that the Presbytery Council is praying for you and your congregations. And know, as well, that in life and in death, and in all the circumstances of life, we belong to God. And we belong to one another. Thanks be to God for these blessed connections.
Peace and all good,
The Rev’d. Susan C. McGhee
The Presbytery of Ohio Valley