Our response to coronavirus and COVID-19
As the realities of the Coronavirus pandemic continue to evolve, we are faced with difficult decisions about how we continue the life and ministry of the church.
July 21, 2020
On March 15th, Myers Park Presbyterian Church held its first “virtual worship service.” That was 128 days ago. I remember hoping that day that we could get back to live worship by Easter. That became Pentecost. Then it became Labor Day. Given current trends in Charlotte, now I’m beginning to wonder about Christmas. Our public schools will be virtual in the fall—something I couldn’t conceive of at Spring Break. Early into this new COVID-19 reality, a friend shared this video. It’s about church life in a “VUCA” world—that is, Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. The video offered four assumptions about life in the coming year:
- Stop and start society until the fall of 2021
- Long-lasting economic recession
- Climate change and technology continuing to disrupt life
- A hybrid society (more online and more small groups)
Watching this video again four months into all this, it makes much more sense to me, particularly “hybrid society.” A hybrid society is one in which there are no large group gatherings. Why? Because as the virus spreads, large group gatherings hold the potential to be “super spreader” events. Georgia Tech has developed a COVID-19 Map that assesses risk by county. It enables you to place a number of people gathering and then tells the percent chance that a person with COVID-19 would be at the gathering. Right now in Mecklenburg County, according to Georgia Tech’s data, a gathering of 25 people holds a 68% chance that someone there has COVID-19. If that number goes to 100, the risk rises to 98%. Hence, no large group gatherings.
The second aspect of a hybrid society is more small group gatherings. Our youth are leading the way in this endeavor. This week they’re having a hybrid Montreat experience, gathering in socially distanced ways and connecting with Montreat virtually. They’ve been gathering in small groups for lunches, Bible studies, fellowship groups, and even a running club. While I’ve participated in some of that, most of my small group gatherings have been COVID happy hours! What a joy it’s been to connect with people face to face in safe ways.
The third aspect of a hybrid society for the church is more online opportunities. MPPC has thrived in this regard, thanks to our amazing staff. We have continued to worship faithfully, with Sunday worship attendance averaging 1,083 viewers, a conservative estimate based on a 1.6x ration per computer screen. In addition, we are now worshipping every weekday with morning prayer at 8 a.m. Our Faith Formation ministry has expanded its online presence. Our 21-Day Race Equity Challenge ended up connecting over 1,000 people and dozens of congregations from around the country, as it providentially began the Sunday after George Floyd’s death. That race equity work continues on Sunday nights. In addition, we are in the midst of a “Back to Basics” class on reformed theology, meeting every Sunday morning this month. Ongoing education opportunities continue, and the faithful saints of the Rhodes-Johnson-Boyce class continue to gather virtually every Sunday!
A final implication of ministry in a VUCA world is that mission matters more than ever. In April we created a COVID-19 fund to provide immediate resources for our mission partners in the community who are being overwhelmed by the demand for their services. This past Sunday, the fund eclipsed $300,000! That has been raised while your giving to our operating budget has continued. God is blessing both our community and our congregation through your amazing generosity. Disciples are joining God’s work around our city, providing food, housing, children’s programming, and much more. If you’re looking for ways to join in on this work, you can do so here.
The video ends with a challenging question: “Do we want to be a church for 1962, 1992, or 2022?” Over the past four months, MPPC has taken some amazing steps toward becoming a 2022 church. As the video adds, “It won’t be easy. It will take time. We will mess up. We will have to trust…” Four months into this, these words ring so true to me. Yet God is doing something great in the midst of all this. What we said at the beginning of this journey continues to be true. Whatever the future holds, we know God holds the future and can be trusted with it because, in Christ Jesus, God has demonstrated such abundant love for us all.
Keep on keeping on, faith family. May God continue to transform us into a church for 2022 and beyond!
In Christ’s love,
May 20, 2020
“Grace to you and peace in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This greeting is included in many of the epistles of the New Testament. In most instances, those letters go on to give thanks for the saints of the churches to whom the epistles are written. Through this pandemic, I give thanks for you, the saints of Myers Park Presbyterian Church.
You have remained faithful in worship, study, fellowship, and service. Though we are not gathering in person these days, by God’s grace and power we are being the church in these times. Your generosity will be remembered when we look back on this time. You have demonstrated amazing faithfulness in giving. On top of regular pledge commitments, you’ve given over $210,000 for our neighbors in most need through the COVID-19 fund. I thank God for working through your generosity to empower ministry in our community.
I am thankful for your faithfulness in worship, both in our weekly morning prayer services and on Sundays. As North Carolina is moving toward Phase 2 of our reopening, the Session considered this week the question of when we return to in-person worship. After considering the counsel of our Medical Advisory Team, and the conditions under which we would need to worship (with masks, no singing, socially distanced, limited capacity, etc.) the session voted to continue virtual worship for the foreseeable future. The Worship Council of Session will revisit this issue on a monthly basis. Other gatherings will be considered as government guidelines are defined, in accordance with CDC recommendations for safety, and the council of our medical advisory team.
God’s Easter power continues to work among us, friends. From this cross the world is enduring, new life will come, for that is who God is and that is what God does. We trust this resurrection power to continue to fuel our life and witness as the church in these days.
May God continue to bless you and sustain you.
March 17, 2020
We are now another week into the evolving reality of a global pandemic. Given the unprecedented nature of this, we are all learning as we go. So where are we going? God only knows. Each day has a new development. So what should we do? In the words of the famous signs posted around Great Britain as World War II began, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Which is to say, we must carry on in the work of ministry. Our ministry centers in worship, faith formation, care for one another, outreach, and generosity.
Regarding worship, the plan approved by Session last week to live stream worship through the end of the month will now extend through May 17. This is in accordance with the CDC guidelines. This will mean the postponement of so many major events including Third Grade Bible Presentations, and Senior Sunday. It will mean a very different Holy Week and Easter Sunday. So our worship will be very different. We will continue to offer Live Stream worship at 8:45 a.m. every Sunday morning. Please join us here. In addition, we will begin Morning Prayer Services tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18 at 8 a.m. You can join us here. These are opportunities to orient our lives toward God for a sacred moment, to praise God, and go to God in prayer. Developing this discipline during these days will bless your life and facilitate deepening your relationship with God during these troubling times.
Regarding faith formation, we will be offering Sunday School options on Sunday mornings via Zoom, as well as weekly Bible studies. These will also be available through Zoom. We tried our Tuesday morning group this morning, and we will be offering Millie’s Bible study and John’s Bible study on a weekly basis as well. In addition, Disciple Bible Studies will continue on Wednesday nights, likely in a more abbreviated format. Links to zoom pages will be made available on the events list on the coronavirus page as these become developed.
Regarding care for our church family, we are receiving emails from people willing to volunteer and some requests for additional help from our firstname.lastname@example.org email. Keep them coming as you become aware of people who may need additional care during these days. Regarding outreach in the broader community, you can learn about the latest efforts here. I have received messages of thanks from many of our Outreach Ministry partners. The response to the Grier Heights Community Center’s grab-and-go meal ministry has been amazing. In fact, it has been overwhelming! We are so thankful for all who donated money, food, and other critical items. Over 200 meals have been served already. Right now, the best way you can help is through cash donations that can be directed as that ministry continues to evolve.
Thank you for your continuing generosity. Our church’s ministry continues, and so we ask you to continue your giving. Our ministry partners will need our support more than ever. We hope to be able to continue to pay our staff through the duration of this event. Your faithful response to God’s call to generosity makes that possible. These gifts may be made through our member portal.
This is all to say, our ministry is not canceled. It continues in new ways. In the coming days, we will all get much better at using technology as a vehicle for ministry. Bear with us as we are learning right along with many of you. I close with an excerpt from a beautiful poem shared with me by a member of the church. The poem is called, “Pandemic” by Lynn Ungar. The full poem can be found here. Here is a portion of it:
“Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all your tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise the world your love—
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.”
May the grace of Christ attend you, the love of God surround you, and the Holy Spirit keep you, so that you might live in faith, abound in hope, and grow in love this day and forevermore.
March 13, 2020
The coronavirus is now officially in our community. According to Mecklenburg County Health Director, Gibbie Harris, “We are now in a situation where we could potentially have community spread.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “community spread” happens when people in an area are infected, but officials are not able to identify the source of the individual’s infection. Mecklenburg County Commissioner, Susan Rodriguez-McDowell, emphasized that residents should limit their exposure to large groups of people. “You need to try to curb being in large gatherings,” she said at the announcement of the Mecklenburg cases.
Out of an abundance of caution, and in keeping with the community’s desire to “flatten the curve,” (for information on that go here) the Session has approved the following recommendations:
- There will be no in-person worship this Sunday. We will go to a live stream only worship service this Sunday at 8:45 a.m., to continue through the end of the month. The service would be available for people to stream live at 8:45 a.m., or at their convenience. We invite you to join our live stream Watch Party on Facebook, or watch on our website.
- Through the end of the month, all other on-campus Sunday activities, including Sunday School, after church meetings, and Sunday evening meetings are canceled. We will strive in the coming days to develop online options for these activities, including Facebook Live, Zoom meetings, and other technology to enable we stayed connected.
- All gatherings scheduled to happen at the church during the week (Bible Studies, Wednesday Lenten Prayer Service, committee meetings, group meals, etc.) will move to virtual meetings or be postponed for the remainder of the month. Decisions about events in April will be made in the coming weeks.
- Effective 5 p.m. Friday, March 13, the Wellness Program will be suspended through the end of the month.
- CROSS ministry will also be suspended through the end of the month.
- The Church Building and the Outreach Center will be closed to the public this Saturday, and the Outreach Center will remain closed through the end of the month.
This decision is not made lightly. Our hope is that action now will make possible a return to regular activity sooner. This is a rapidly changing context and we will continue to make decisions in response to new information as it emerges. At this time, we plan to maintain regular office hours, however, alternative work arrangements are being explored in case they are needed. To view ongoing communications and event cancellations, visit our coronavirus webpage. The Weekday School leadership will be making decisions later today and will communicate with parents directly.
In the days of the early church, a plague of dysentery rocked the Roman empire. When people contracted dysentery, they were put out of their homes and left for dead. In the midst of this, Christians would take in those with dysentery, keep them warm and give them fluids – which is, in fact, the treatment for dysentery. It turned out to be the greatest evangelism effort of the early church. People thought it was a miracle. It was simply the miracle of loving care. Today the church is called to be the church in ways beyond our imagination. While we will not meet corporately for worship, we are still called to be the body of Christ in and for the world. In the midst of this present challenge, this calls us to open our hearts to our most vulnerable neighbors, within our church family and beyond.
To that end, we encourage you to contact the church at email@example.com if you are self-quarantined, or if you know of members who have been quarantined, so that we may support them with meals and errands and other ways. Our Deacons are mobilizing call teams to keep in touch with our most vulnerable members. We are a faith family and will provide care for one another as we are able to do so.
If you are willing to be part of a response team that supports the least of these in our community, please email Chrissy Carlton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Urban Ministry Center, our partner that serves neighbors who are homeless, has published this wishlist, and this about food drop off.
We will rise to this challenge and answer Christ’s call in these days, as we always have at Myers Park Presbyterian.
May God grant us wisdom and courage for the facing of this hour.
Love in Christ,
March 6, 2020
With the report this past week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it is not a question of “if” but “when” the coronavirus will spread in the United States, we seek to respond to this new reality faithfully. This means facing the realities of what is happening responsibly, but not fearfully.
There are now two reported cases in North Carolina. National health experts say our risk for getting Covid-19 is still low, but we can help stem the spread by observing these common-sense practices to reduce risk:
- If you are ill with any contagious disease (flu, cold), we ask you to stay at home rather than attending worship, committee meetings, or any other church functions. Live streaming is a great option to stay connected with your church. Here is a link.
- We will stop passing the peace during worship by shaking hands or giving hugs. Come up with a creative way that does not involve physical contact to pass the peace this Sunday!
- Following worship, the clergy will not be shaking hands at the exits. We will be available for conversation.
- We will be cleaning surfaces at the church in advance of Sunday’s worship. We are expanding the number of hand sanitizer stations in the common areas on campus and encourage you to make use of them regularly.
- Please follow basic hygiene practices by washing your hands regularly, coughing and sneezing into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
- If you have any questions about the coronavirus, Mecklenburg County has set up a hotline. That number is (980) 314-9400.
Our faith teaches us we are connected to one another beyond borders and boundaries. This event reminds us of that reality. We will continue to stay connected with one another. Should you or a family member, friend, or colleague become ill with this virus, please let us know so that we may offer prayer and whatever pastoral assistance we can. We will be following whatever updated guidelines public health officials may provide in the future as this event progresses.
The Brief Statement of Faith in our Book of Confessions asserts, “In life and in death we belong to God,” and “nothing … can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” With confidence in God’s abiding presence, let us remain calm, engage life, and be available to our neighbors in need.
May the grace of Christ attend you, the love of God surround you, and the Holy Spirit keep you, that you might live in faith, abound in hope, and grow in love today and forevermore!
Worship At Home and In Person
Sundays at 8:45 a.m.
Join us for worship each week in our Sanctuary (up to 50 participants) and on our live stream.
- RSVP by phone: (704) 927-1255
Weekdays at 8 a.m.
Join us online for a brief prayer service grounding us in faith for the day ahead. Zoom ID: 532-670-347
Note: Morning Prayer will not be held on 11/26 (Thanksgiving) or 11/27.
Get started with Zoom
- Download Zoom Cloud Meetings app
- Download the Myers Park Pres app
- Join the gathering
- Find "digital gatherings" in the app
- Select the meeting from the calendar link above
Zoom is a free online platform for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. Their quick start guide is a great resource.
Pass the Peace
Share the peace of Christ! Record you or your family saying "The peace of Christ be with you" and upload it at the link below!
Health + Safety
Practice Good Hygiene:
Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
Antibacterial gel and wipes are good secondary options.
Greet one another with a wave or a smile instead of a handshake.
Cover coughs and sneezes to the best of your ability.
Our frequently touched surfaces are cleaned regularly by our housekeeping staff.
Restrooms, door handles, water fountains, and foodservice equipment have been given particular attention in response to coronavirus and COVID-19.
We encourage you to contact the church at email@example.com if you are self-quarantined, or if you know of members who have been quarantined, so that we may support them with meals and errands and in other ways. Our Deacons are mobilizing call teams to keep in touch with our most vulnerable members.