Updated: Dec 4, 2020
I'm an Elder and chairperson of the Personnel Committee at First Presbyterian in Lake City. Today I'm speaking on behalf of the Session with regard to our deliberations on the Church's approach to the virus pandemic. The Session has been meeting regularly over the past few weeks and months to assess and direct the path forward for our church.
Pastor Goodrich has been an inspiration and an invaluable resource in our deliberations. We have highly endorsed his and the church staff's excellent use of electronic media in keeping our mission going. Still, our thoughts have been on getting back to “normal” and what normal may mean in the future.
These discussions always boil down to “how” and “when” we open. With regard to “how” we have considered limitations such as social distancing and mask usage, seating capacity, movement into and out of the church, communion and offering protocols, number of services, Sunday school, youth worship, classes, fellowship time and many others.
A plan for managing these issues was developed. The past two Sundays the Session attended worship to give the plan a try and to modify as necessary. We now have a plan and procedures ready to implement. It should be noted that session members will be personally present and involved in bringing our church back to in-person services. With regard to when, we are first guided by our knowledge of the congregation and our responsibility to each of you to provide a meaningful worship experience in a safe and secure way.
We are then guided by the overall status of the pandemic in our city, county and state. Not least we are guided by the published State of Florida guidelines for re-opening. The Session, then, must consider these factors and make a decision on when to open. We have considered these factors and determined that our approach will be to weekly evaluate the disease data and overall circumstances and make a decision based on the best available information.
We met on Sunday June 7th and determined to continue with on-line services only on Sunday June 14th. Our discussion considered that virus cases in Columbia county are increasing and that the state is still in phase 2 of reopening which recommends against gatherings of 10 or more for groups of 65 years old or older.
The Session is acutely aware that other churches in our area are opening and apparently without close regard to virus protocols. We are also very aware that in our community there have been large gatherings that appear to ignore virus avoidance guidance and that commerce is starting to pick up. We are also aware that we are faced with a disease that spreads rapidly and without warning and with terrible results for a group such as our congregation.
It is a judgment call, but for now we think it best to remain with our on-line service. We will reassess each week and keep you informed of our decisions. We ask for your prayers for the Session and Pastor Ken and the staff as we steer through this mine field.