ADVISORY STATEMENT from the Presbytery Council, March 23, 2020
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Dear Friends in Christ,
On March 13, we issued an advisory letter urging our congregations to take responsible and proactive responses to the rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic. We are grateful that so many of you have taken our advice to heart and have responded in faithful and creative ways for your congregations and communities. Many of these responses have been spotlighted on our Presbytery Facebook page. We are writing you again to update our previous letter and to make you aware of new resources and opportunities for your congregation.
As you are aware, cases of COVID-19 are rapidly increasing in our state. They are expected to continue to escalate for several weeks. On March 15, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) advised that gatherings of 50 or more people besuspended for eight weeks (until May 10) to control the spread of the virus. While more than half of our congregations havefewerthan 50 in attendance, they should also take into consideration that persons over 60 years of age are in a “high-risk” category that should not meet in groups larger than 10. It is possible that stricter state requirements will come into effect requiring an extended period of “lockdown.” Today, Governor Whitmer has issued a “stay-at-home” order effective through April 13; and while she has clarified that churches are exempt from public meeting restrictions, gatherings of any size are likely to expose vulnerable people to infection.
Accordingly, the Presbytery Council advises that churches plan to extend suspending face-to-facemeetingsuntil May 10. This will help to reduce the incidence of infections that are already testing the capacity of our health care system in some areas. It is the best, most efficient way for us to love our neighbors in this health crisis. This advice is subject to change as the extent of the pandemic becomes clearer. Please check with your own Session and congregational leadership for plans for your church.
Assistance to Congregations in Need
Because this will undoubtedly cause a financial hardshipto many congregations, the Council and the Trustees have authorized grants and zero-percent interest loans for congregations experiencing financial stress. The initial limit for the grants and loans will be $4000 ($2000 grant + $2000 loan), but that limitcan be revisited as the extent of the need becomes known. The loans will be repayable without interest for up to 20 months, beginning six months from the issuing of the loan. Look for the application form on the coronavirus resource page of our presbytery website www.presbylh.org.
In addition, the Council and Trustees are postponing payments by churches who have presbytery loans, for a period of six months beginning immediately. Normal payments will resume in September. Additional accommodation for congregations, such as postponing unpaid per capita assessments or mission pledges, will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Both the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (PILP) have asked congregations experiencing temporary financial distress to contact them regarding outstanding or ongoing obligations.
Grants from both the presbytery and the Board of Pensions are available to pastoral leaders who are experiencing financial difficulties due to the pandemic. For more information, they should contact Executive Presbyter Dan Saperstein.
Communication and Information
Communication is vital during our time of social distancing. Accordingly, the Council has authorized the Presbytery to assist congregations in obtaining and using electronic meeting services from Zoom meeting services. The Presbytery will pay for congregations that so wish to obtain a basic Zoom license for two months ($15/mo.). This level allows meetings for up to 100 persons by video, smart phone, or voice with no time limit as to meeting length. It allows for documents and even videos to be shared byany member of the group. If a church wishes instead to get an annual license, the Presbytery will provide half the cost of a one-year group license for up to 9 congregations through Tech Soup, which gives a discounted Zoom rate of $75/year (one-half the usual rate). If more than 9 congregations are interested, we will contact you regarding arrangements. Reliable broadband internet service may be required. Please send an email of your session’s interest in such a license by April 1to Staci Percy at the address below.
To assist with peer-to-peer communication, the Presbytery has set up two weekly Zoom meetings: one for Presbytery leadership and larger church pastors, and one for smaller church pastors or clerks of session (if there is no pastor). Information on these meetings can be obtained from Executive Presbyter Dan Saperstein.
Communications Manager Staci Percy continues to develop the coronavirus resource page, with links to helpful information and suggestions for addressing the pandemic and its impact on your ministry and mission. It can be reached by clicking the banner on our presbytery website. In addition to our Facebook page, which includes information updates for the Presbytery, an additional Facebook group for Presbytery Leaders to exchangeinformation and ideas has been started. It can be publicly viewed; posting rights are limited to pastoral leaders of the presbytery. For an invitation, email Staci.
Meanwhile the Presbytery Office will be closed for all but essential business until further notice. Staff will ordinarily work from home but will be available by email to respond to your needs. Voice mail messages left on the office phones might take longer for reply. The staff emails are:
- Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ted McCulloch, Stated Clerkt: email@example.com
- Staci Percy, Communications Mgr/Recording Clerk: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rose Onan, Office Administrator: email@example.com
- Tracy Carr, Financial Secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Presbytery will continue to cancel all face-to-face meetings for the duration of the crisis. Committees and Groups that wish to meet electronically may contact their Presbytery staff resource person for assistance.
“So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” -Galatians 6:10
These are unexpected challenges. But God is bigger and more powerful than any virus and empowers us through the Spirit to serve God and our neighbors with Christ’s love. But we don’t serve alone –so take time for your own physical, spiritual, and mental health. As you care for others, let others also care for you. Know that the Council and Presbytery staff are praying for all our congregations and pastoral leaders. With God’s help, we will get through this.
In Christ’s Fellowship,
The Presbytery Council
(ADVISORY STATEMENT” from the Presbytery Council, March 23, 2020
Presbytery of Lake Huron)
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ADVISORY STATEMENT from the Presbytery Council, March 13, 2020
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Your local session and church leadership will be announcing plans pertaining to your congregation.
(strong)A Statement of the Presbytery Council to the Presbytery of Lake Huron
““God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, and though the mountains tremble in the heart of the sea”–Psalm 46:1-2
Dear Friends in Christ,
The rapidly evolving coronavirus public health crisis is a concern not only for the health of our members and our communities, but also for the churches we belong to and serve. We write this letter to offer the guidance of the larger church to promote faithful, prudent, and compassionate responses in our congregations and communities. We do so,trusting in God and honoring our commitment to love and care for our neighbors in need.
The nature of this crisis suggests that the best thing we can do for the healthand well-being of our neighbors is to act responsibly and proactively to reduce the spread of the contagion and to assist those who have special needs. The governor of Michigan has already declared a state of emergency and has already taken actions to restrict large gatherings (250+ persons). This order includes churches. While that only directly affects a few of our congregations, the Council believes it is in order to take the following actions at this time:
We strongly encourage all congregations to suspend public gatherings including worship through April 5 (Palm Sunday), which is the time frame of the governor’s order. The decision to alter your pattern of worship or to cancel it is the right of each church session to make. However, we urge you to take early action so as to minimize the spread of the virus as the virus may have an incubation period of up to two weeks before symptomsappear. Since most of our churches have an abundance of persons in high-risk categories, it is vital that we do our best not to infect them. Several churches (including Midland Memorial and Mt. Pleasant First, among others) live stream services and will do so with reduced attendance during the crisis. The Presbytery is preparing a list of resources for congregations to live stream their own services or to avail themselves of others’ streams.
The Presbytery will cancel all face-to-face activities through Easter (April 12). This includes the previously announced Hunger Summit at Trinity United Presbyterian Church on April 6. Committees and other groups (COM, Council, PW) may choose to avail themselves of the Presbytery’s zoom meeting service to convene electronically.
The Presbytery office will remain open on an essential staff only basis for the near future. We will remain available by phone, email, and text as at present, but we will ask most staff to work from home during this time.
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” –Jeremiah 29:7
As we respond to this crisis,we should keep in mind that as God’s people we have a special mission to the world, beginning with those in our immediate circles of care. We therefore urge that:
Congregations take special effort to carefor the elderly and home-bound who might have special needs and are likely to feel more isolated during this crisis
Sessions consult with local emergency management leaders as to how the church might be of assistance as the crisis develops. There are children who need food; parents who need help; homeless people whose normal resources may be suspended. Sessions adopt compassionate policies towards their pastors and other employees who may need to self-quarantine either due to infection or out of precaution. Many may have family members who need special attention such as children whose schools have been closed.
We realize that suspending worship and other activities may make it difficult for churches that are already financially strapped to meet ongoing bills. The Presbytery has resources for emergency assistance of congregations both from its own reserves and from partner congregations. If this is a concern, please contact Executive Presbyter Dan Saperstein.
“I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and he shall comfort your heart; wait patiently for the Lord.” –Psalm 27:16-17
These are unusual and challenging times. The Presbytery will do its best to facilitate clear, reliable, and helpful communication. Please check our Facebook page and website frequently. We will also have periodic Town Hall zoom meetings to answer questions and field concerns.
God is our refuge and strength. We are God’s people, and God will lead us through this crisis together. Stay safe, care for one another, and remember those who are in need.
In Christ’s Fellowship,
The Presbytery Council
(ADVISORY STATEMENT” from the Presbytery Council, March 13, 2020
Presbytery of Lake Huron)
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