The foremost question in all our minds is when will we be able to return to normal worship at First Presbyterian Church? When can we gather together in the chapel and sanctuary and lift our voices in song and prayer? Unfortunately, no one knows the answer to this question. At our April meeting, the Session discussed the possibility of reopening the church and the consensus was that we must not rush. The health and safety of our congregation as well as the larger community must be our top priority. Worship can wait. That is the sacrifice we must make for our church and our neighbors.
As your pastor, I keep a close, daily watch on the news regarding COVID-19. Right now, there is no vaccine or treatment and testing is extremely limited. We still know very little about this virus. Our doctors and scientists are trying to ascertain essential information such as infection rate, gestation period, even symptoms. Why is this disease seeming to cause heart attacks? Why is the disease seeming to cause strokes in people in their 30s and 40s?
Ken Braddy is the pastor of a Baptist church in Nashville and also works at Lifeway. Recently, he posted “24 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return.” It is an excellent (and daunting) set of questions that need addressing before we safely re-open our doors. (You can ignore the question about social distancing in the baptismal pool.) A church is a complicated organization that presents especially challenging scenarios for dealing with COVID-19.
At this point in time, I do not believe that FPC should consider resuming our normal activities before June 1 at the very earliest. Even that date is probably overly optimistic. For now, like the rest of the nation, we are dealing with this pandemic week by week. And we will continue to be a church.