Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
This week I will be meeting with a small group of presbytery members to develop a plan to reopen our congregations. As we move forward into May, the governors of Illinois and Missouri may allow some congregations to open that are located in counties with low COVID-19 cases. In preparation for this inevitability it may be wise to be pro-active and think through the steps that need to be taken to make sure everyone is safe and kept well as we meet together.
As your presbytery leader, I am listening to pastors from across the presbytery. They are saying that if the governor allows congregations to assemble, pastors would be hard pressed to prevent people from wanting to have church. And I understand that. People are clamoring to have any social contact! Therefore, we should prepare our physical buildings and our mental and spiritual selves for reopening and coming back together.
I’m assuming that smaller counties which have had little or no exposure to the virus will open up first, perhaps as soon as May 4. I doubt any churches in St. Louis city or St. Louis county will open before June 1. I will know for sure later this week when the governor of Missouri makes his announcement.
But no matter when a county is approved to move to phase one of the re-opening plan, each session must lead the congregation forward. A church can only open with the authority of the session. The session should create a plan that includes sanitizing the building, keeping safe distancing, how to handle offerings, movement within the building, children, and many other factors. I hope to provide a guide by the end of the week that will help the session answer some of these questions while asking other questions.
My hope is that we continue with online services for those who choose to stay home. What a wonderful way to expand our ministries! What an opportunity to continue reaching out to the community! The presbytery stands ready to help congregations with technology grants for this purpose.
Let’s get to work figuring out how we will reopen and serve God together in our gathered communities.
Rev. Craig M. Howard