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Devotionals

June 17, 2021


Dear SPC Family,


Thank you for continuing to be a supportive and loving community during these challenging days. We rejoice that vaccination rates are moving us ever closer to putting this pandemic behind us! But this time of in-between—of opening up, and still not quite on the other side of things—can be really hard. Everyone is navigating their own comfort levels and vulnerabilities, while also very much longing to just be done with it all. Please know that the church is a place where we can support one another along this sometimes bumpy road, even when we are at different places along it.


As we map out our own reopening steps as a church, we continue to be mindful of the most vulnerable among us. So we are being intentional about our welcome to our youngest children and others who cannot be vaccinated yet, as we also move forward into the joy of brighter days.


This letter summarizes the Session’s most recent decisions. Please feel free to contact the church office with questions or feedback.


1. We will continue worshipping outside through Sunday, July 4th (unless it rains or is very hot, in which case we will move into Fellowship Hall for worship). Masks will now be optional for adults who are fully vaccinated when we worship or gather outside. Children may follow the masking guidelines established by New York State for outdoor play at school. Of course, all are welcome to continue wearing a mask according to their own comfort level. Live streaming will be available for those more comfortable worshipping from home. Refreshments may be enjoyed outside following the service.


2. For the hottest part of the summer—from Sunday, July 11th through Sunday, September 5th—we will worship most Sundays in Fellowship Hall, with live streaming available. As of now, because not everyone in the congregation is vaccinated, and we want to continue some singing, masks will be required when we worship inside. Refreshments may be enjoyed outside following the service.


3. Our summer Sunday services will be briefer (30-45 minutes), as is currently recommended when worshipping inside.


4. Committees or groups of 12 or less may remove masks and enjoy refreshments while meeting inside the church building if all present are fully vaccinated. Those entering the church building on weekdays who are fully vaccinated may remove their masks, unless gathering with someone who is not fully vaccinated. Please continue to reserve space for your meeting/gathering through the church office.


5. We will return to the sanctuary on Sunday, September 12th!


As guidance changes, we will communicate updates. Thank you so much for your continued grace with us and with one another.


Peace,


Your SPC leadership and staff


Dear SPC Family,


Grace and peace to you! We are filled with gratitude for your patience, resilience, and care for one another during this pandemic. Your Reopening Team and the Session have made some decisions about our next steps, including a timeline for resuming worship in the sanctuary, and we are writing to share with you those plans.


We recognize that the most recent guidance from the CDC and yesterday’s changes in New York State allow gatherings inside, permits removal of masks, and loosens social distancing requirements for those who are fully vaccinated. Given that many of our members are still in the process of getting vaccinated, the vaccine is still not available for all children, and the changes are so very new, the Session plans to consider whether to relax our own masking policy at its June 16th meeting. Until then we ask that, for the comfort of all present on Sunday mornings, you continue wearing a mask while we worship together. (As has been our practice, worship leaders will remove their masks at times to enable their participation in the service.) Thank you again for your gracious cooperation and patience.


As always, please reach out to the church office or to the Interim Pastor with any questions or feedback. Both scientific guidance and governmental policies are changing quickly and regularly, as we have seen just in the last couple of days, and we will likely need to make adjustments as we go. But we hope the following offers some clarity about how we will move through this final stretch of reopening the church building.


This Sunday, May 23rd (Pentecost) through Sunday, June 6th (the usual end of our Church School year)

We will continue our current practices: worship outside with masks and social distancing. Simultaneous live streaming is accessible through our website, App, and Facebook group. As a reminder, we encourage you to bring a chair if it is easy, water in a reusable bottle, sunglasses, a blanket, an umbrella for shade, or anything else that will make you comfortable as we worship outdoors. And dress comfortably! In the case of inclement weather, worship will be online-only.


One significant change will happen this Sunday, May 23rd: we will invite you to sing the hymns in worship! The science now seems to indicate very low risk in transmission outside, especially when masked. So we will sing! And what a joy it will be to raise our voices together on Pentecost!


As a reminder, Ashley’s installation service is also this Sunday at 2:00PM! If the weather prevents outside worship for the installation service, the worship leaders will move the service into the Fellowship Hall with the Session and Community Outreach Pastor Search Committee witnessing on behalf of the congregation, and others may join by Zoom.


Sunday, June 13th through Sunday, September 5th

Throughout the summer, we will continue to embrace the beauty of worship outside (and live streamed), but we will plan to move into Fellowship Hall if the weather is lousy—either raining or too hot. Worship outside allows everyone in the congregation the most flexibility in following their own level of comfort, and it optimizes safety for the youngest children of the congregation, who will not yet have access to the vaccine this summer.


There are several reasons why we will move into Fellowship Hall, rather than the sanctuary, when weather requires indoor worship this summer. Fellowship Hall is the coolest location for worship in the building (as you know, we had been using it often for summer worship in recent years). It is also the most flexible space to allow social distancing as needed and cross ventilation by opening windows. Childcare can be down the hall in the Martha Jayne Room, which is a larger space than the much tighter quarters in the Toddler Room. And significantly, the sanctuary balcony is still unavailable due to organ-related construction and will be for many more weeks. Using the Fellowship Hall as our inside option throughout the summer allows us to prepare and get excited for what comes next…


Sunday, September 12th: Return to full capacity worship in the sanctuary!!

Assuming that infection rates continue to be low, we will celebrate Kick Off Sunday in the sanctuary, with the completed new organ accompanying our worship! Surely, tears of joy will flow on that day!


A few other notes about Sundays


· The weekly food drop off will continue on Sunday mornings—simply drop your donations in the open van near the church garden. Food can also be dropped off to the church office during the week during the regular 9AM-2PM office hours or directly to Grace Presbyterian Church on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

· Our post-worship time of fellowship will continue to happen informally immediately following the conclusion of the in-person service.

· This Sunday is the final Adult Education discussion for the program year; Church School concludes on June 6th (in person at 9:45AM, or at 10:30AM on Zoom when weather interferes).


Changes to Weekday Use of the Building


The Session also has approved the following regarding weekday use of the building:


1. Committees and church groups can meet inside of the building. Masks continue to be required inside the building, with the exception of staff in their offices or internal meetings. Because studies encourage ventilation and briefer duration of meetings inside, we ask that meetings in the building include open windows, are less than two hours in duration, and take into account the number of people the room can comfortably accommodate with distancing. Please also consider allowing some participants to be included by Zoom. All meetings in the church building must be booked through the church office.

2. The building is available for use by outside groups as space allows and in accordance with existing protocols by contacting the church office.

3. The serving and sharing of food within the building continues to be limited and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Refreshments may be shared outside using commonsense safety measures.




We will continue to be in touch at every stage of this process, and as guidance changes—and we’ll work things out together as we go. Thank you for your continued grace and cooperation with us and with one another.


Peace,


Your SPC leadership and staff

Dear SPC Family,


After more than a year of worshipping online for our 9:30AM Sunday service, what a joy it will be to gather for worship in person this Sunday, April 18th! Our Reopening Team, Session, Deacons, and committees have been hard at work planning for this day, and we are so excited to share with you all of the details.


This letter seeks to answer questions and concerns you may have, with as much certainty as we can give. But as has been the case since March of 2020, we are doing things we’ve never done before! So we invite you to share with us any additional questions or ideas—and we ask for your patience! We are taking the transition back to in-person worship one Sunday at a time, and we’ll make adjustments along the way as we learn and grow together.


And as a reminder, this Sunday we also have a called congregational meeting immediately following the worship service for the purpose of changing the Rev. Ashley McFaul-Erwin from a temporary pastoral relationship to an installed Associate Pastor. Please plan to stay after worship, or join the meeting on Zoom—details are below.


Where will worship be located?

We will worship outside in the parking lot circle. Please park in the lot as usual, and Deacons will welcome and guide you when you arrive. How many people can attend? Current New York State guidelines permit outdoor public gatherings up to 200 people, so we anticipate being able to accommodate all who regularly attend worship.


What do I need to bring?

Please bring a mask and your own portable chair. The Deacons will be ready to help anyone who would like assistance carrying their chair to/from their car. If you do not have a portable chair easily available, the Deacons will be happy to retrieve a folding chair for you from Fellowship Hall, or find seating that will be comfortable for you. We also encourage you to bring water in a reusable bottle, sunglasses, a blanket, or anything else that will make you comfortable as we worship outdoors. And “comfort” is also our only dress code!


Will I need to wear a mask and practice social distancing, even if I am fully vaccinated?

Yes, those who attend outdoor worship agree to the following: to wear a mask covering the mouth and nose at all times; to follow the direction of the Deacons in arriving and departing; and to honor social distancing of at least 6 feet (unless you are in the same household). These guidelines are in place because we want everyone to be and feel comfortable and safe. We’ll have extra masks available if you forget one. The worship leaders, who will be positioned at a much greater distance from the congregation, may remove their masks when speaking for clarity of sound.


What do I do when I arrive this Sunday?

2 After parking your car, you will stop at one of the tables set up adjacent to the parking lot circle. We’ll ask you to sign a sheet with your contact information and some basic COVID screening questions. This Sunday, we’ll also have nametags. Hand sanitizers will be available for your use. If you need to use the restroom, a Deacon will be ready to provide access to Fellowship Hall.


What will the service be like?

The service may vary week to week, but it will include the basic liturgical pieces, with a briefer sermon and a more informal style. We’ll make some safety adjustments, like having offering baskets available on the way in and out of the service, expressing signs of Christ’s peace without shaking hands, and using individually wrapped elements for communion. We will have paper copies of the bulletin, but we also encourage saving paper and welcome the use of personal devices during the service to download the order of worship from our website or App. Will we sing? Initially, we will not be singing because the risks are still unclear. We have arranged for instrumental music that will be part of our worship. Hymns will be played, and the words printed in the bulletin, allowing us to experience the music and words in a fresh way. And we will continually reassess the safety of singing as the weeks progress.


What if I’m not ready or able to attend worship in person?

The service will be live streamed to YouTube, and the link will be posted on our website, in our App, and in our Facebook group. If you have any questions about how to access the service, please call the church office for assistance. Thank you for understanding that our technology outdoors is limited, so the live stream video and sound may not always be smooth, there will be background noise, and we only have the capacity for a stationary shot. Please note that the live stream will only capture the worship leaders, and not the congregation—you won’t be on camera! (We are in the process of installing audio-visual equipment in the sanctuary for the future.)


What happens if the weather is bad?

Should the weather be inclement on Sunday mornings, we will pivot to online worship only, with the worship leaders live-streaming from inside the church building. If the weather is at all iffy, please check your email before you leave for the church, as we will send out a message if worship will be moved to online-only.


Why can’t we have worship in the sanctuary or Fellowship Hall?

COVID infection rates are still high locally, and outdoors is safer than indoors. Both the sanctuary and the Fellowship Hall would require limiting attendance, while worshipping outdoors gives us the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the warmer weather and welcome more people to worship, including those who may not yet be ready for a return to indoor worship.


Will there be a time of fellowship following the service?

Please enjoy talking with one another after the service from a safe social distance! We will not have refreshments. With the resumption of in-person worship, we will not have fellowship on Zoom after the service. Please also take advantage of the several opportunities during the week to connect with SPC friends on Zoom (call the church office for more information).


What about Church School and Adult Education?

Children are always welcome to stay for the entire service. A combined Church School class for ages 2 through 6th grade will be offered in the playground area starting at 9:45AM, providing children the opportunity to share in worship at the beginning of the service. Additionally, our toddler room staff person Ryan Dorfman (along with a second adult) will be at the playground during the entire service for children ages 2 and older who need to move around. Children ages 2 and older must wear a mask. Children will be signed in and out of the playground area by their adult, who will be asked to leave a cell phone number in case a trip to the restroom or other need arises for their child. If the weather is bad, and worship is online-only,


Church School will meet on Zoom at 10:30AM. An email will be sent with the link. The Adult Education class will continue to meet on Zoom, with a new start time of 10:45AM to enable everyone to travel home after the service.


Adult Education will use this Zoom link each week:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83319749181?pwd=QVFvaERiY1VGNlBzS0k4YTZzTTV4dz09 Meeting ID: 833 1974 9181

Passcode: 074310


How will the congregational meeting work this Sunday?

If you are attending worship in person, simply stay after the service for the meeting. If you are worshipping from home, we invite you to log into Zoom immediately following the service to join the meeting remotely. We will use this Zoom link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83319749181?pwd=QVFvaERiY1VGNlBzS0k4YTZzTTV4dz09 Meeting ID: 833 1974 9181

Passcode: 074310


Will the weekly food drop off continue?

Yes, but it will be on Sundays instead of Monday mornings! Bring your nonperishable food donations with you to worship, and we’ll have a vehicle ready to collect them. (Food can also be dropped off to the church office during the week during the regular 9AM-2PM office hours.)


We are so very excited to see many of you this Sunday, both in person and online, and in the weeks ahead. Thank you for all of your support and flexibility over the past year and, now, as we move into yet another stage of adjustment to the pandemic. This has been an incredibly challenging time of isolation, anxiety, and grief, and you have been a resilient community grounded in love and faith. We worship the God who has accompanied us through it all.


See you on Sunday!


Peace & grace,

Your SPC staff and leadership