The elders and staff of both Emsworth and St. Andrew’s have spent no small amount of time lately discussing how to best keep everyone in our church family and community safe from Covid-19 while remaining connected to one another. We lament with you the loss of public worship these past few months and want to share with you how we are proceeding in the weeks and months to come.
In Greek, the language of the new testament, there are actually two words for “time”. There is “chronos” time, which means a specific time on the clock and calendar. For example, your favorite TV show is on air at 8pm on Tuesday. That’s chronos time. There is also, however, “kairos” time. Kairos time is a time God has appointed and we’ll know when it’s there. An expectant mother might have a “due date” given by a doctor that expresses a moment of chronos time, but as most of us know, babies aren’t usually born on their due date. The baby will be born at the appointed moment. They operate on kairos time.
We know most of you would like to know the chronos time we will be back in our sanctuaries. As of right now, the leadership of the congregations do not feel comfortable assigning such a date. There are too many unknowns. But we also know that it’s helpful to have some information about the way we are proceeding. So we’d like to tell you a bit about the kairos time on which we’re currently operating.
At this time, we still do not plan on resuming Sunday morning in person public worship until we have a clearer idea of the dangers of gathering in person and the measures necessary to keep everyone safe. We have been reading research items, consulting what other congregations are doing at this time, and keeping a close eye on the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. You can rest safe and confident that your church is taking every effort possible to help curb the spread of this dangerous disease.
These are difficult times and there is a great deal for all of us to learn about the technology we’re using to keep connected these days. We are aware that there are gaps in access for some. Therefore, we have formed a task force to help make technological access to online church events and services more available for everyone, as well as providing instruction as to how these events and services work and planning for long term livestreaming and conference call options. Stay tuned for more exciting details about this program. It is our hope that Emsworth and St. Andrew’s can be pioneers of a program like this and can blaze the trail for other congregations struggling with the same questions and hurdles during this time. There is precedent for our congregations setting the tone for new things to come: here is our chance to do it again! If you would like to be a part of that team, please contact us.
Attached is the session’s current plan for phasing the reopening of the church buildings. You will see that we have used a similar color coded system to that which the state of Pennsylvania is using for opening counties. We will not, however, be exactly following the timing of county openings. We will let you know in weeks ahead when the church moves from red to yellow or green and when all restrictions are lifted. Even though Allegheny County has been moved to “yellow” by the state, the current plan for our churches is to wait some additional (kairos) time to assess danger and outbreaks before moving the church to yellow. We are currently in the red phase. Because of the high risk status of the vast majority of our congregations, we plan to make our decisions with an abundance of caution.
Since the information on Covid-19 is constantly changing, please know that these recommendations will probably change some in the weeks and months ahead before we get to the “green” stage and it’s possible that we could go up and down along this scale a few times before all restrictions are lifted. We will keep you informed as to the changes that might affect you and will keep an updated copy of the plan on the church website. If at any time you would like or need an updated hard copy, just let the church office know and we will provide you with one.
Please know that while we are making every effort to keep you as safe as possible, as we begin to gather again, even in small groups, we cannot guarantee everyone’s safety 100%. If at any point you are uncomfortable participating in person, there will continue to be options for you to participate online and by calling in as we have been doing over the past two months.
The staff and elders thank you for all your prayers and participation, as well as your grace in these difficult weeks. St. Andrew’s and Emsworth have, thus far, weathered this crisis as shining examples of how God’s people can adapt and change to continue sharing the Gospel message in the most surprising and difficult of circumstances. It is this pioneering spirit of creativity and joy that will help to keep the ministries of these congregations active and vital as we move forward into the unknown.
I (Pastor Charissa) would like to take a moment of personal privilege to express to you how deeply humbled I am to be walking through this with such extraordinary people and how very proud I am of you all.
Stay safe and healthy, friends.
Rev. Charissa Howe
Leslie Linko, SAUPC Caretaker
Paul Zende, EUPC Caretaker
Emsworth Session 2020
St. Andrew’s Session 2020