Dear Friends, Colleagues, members of the Presbytery of Newton
We are writing to address concerns about the spread of COVID-19 aka the coronavirus. As you know things are changing rapidly. It feels like each hour new information drops into our emails, news and social media. This is uncharted territory for all of us.
The governor of New Jersey has requested that there not be any gatherings of 200 or more. The Center for Disease control is encouraging that communities do all that they can to “mitigate” the spread of COVID19 through “social distancing” when near other people and to avoid gathering in groups. For the church this is problematic. We are community. We gather to worship, to learn, to care and to serve.
The leadership of the Newton Presbytery has had several conversations about how we are being invited to live into this new context.
Our Book of Order instructs the session of each congregation to, “provide for the church’s worship and encourage the people’s participation.” (W-2.0303) The leadership of the presbytery advises all pastors and sessions to have this same conversation now. We recommend you follow the advice of the CDC and your local health department, take into consideration the recommendations of the local schools and institutions of higher education and listen to the concerns of your congregation as you deliberate your next steps. You may also wish to remind them that our Directory for Worship says, “Because heaven and earth belong to God, we may worship in any place.” W-1.0203
Several congregations within our presbytery in the last 24 hours have determined to suspend worship in the sanctuary for the next few weeks and to cancel meetings within the church building.
This is a season that presents many challenges. There are also opportunities. Pastors have been having conversations about ways to provide alternative forms of worship, spiritual nurture and gatherings that connects people in real ways in what could be a very isolating time. The presbytery teams are emailing and meeting online to develop ways that we can all stay connected and provide resources for all our congregations and pastors.
Information will be shared and posted on our website, Facebook, E news and Twitter.
The presbytery office will be open as much as possible a schedule will be posted each week in the E news. NO meetings will take place at the office until further notice. All staff is available by email, phone call or text.
Matthew 25 reminds us that our call is to be there in all times of crisis and calm to provide for the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the shivering, the sick and in prison. Now is the time for us to reach out, to be creative and find ways that we can be the people of God.