Letter Regarding Suspension of Worship Services
Dear Starmount Presbyterian Friends,
It is amazing how quickly situations and circumstances can change. Last week in worship, we were just getting used to the idea of trading “holy hand waves” and elbow bumps instead of handshakes, and this week the measures being taken all around us to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus are far more drastic. I wanted to give you all an update on how we here at Starmount are preparing to address this growing health concern.
The Session had a discussion last night and has made the decision to suspend worship gatherings and all Sunday morning classes and activities for the next two weeks. (March 15 & 22) We are listening to local health experts, state officials, and other faith communities who have all recommended that gatherings over 100 people are not advised at this time. Plans are being made to offer a weekly virtual worship service that will be posted to our You Tube page and can be accessed through our website. Printed materials and a list of scripture readings will also be made available for those who prefer them. We will send a follow up email in the next few days with links to these materials. We realize not everyone in our congregation will have access to the internet or even to email. If you know of individuals in our community for whom that is the case, we would encourage you to contact them and offer assistance. We will also have printed materials available in the church office.
Especially in times such as these, we are all grateful to be a part of such a caring community. As we make preparations for the coming weeks, our hearts immediately turn to those in our community who may be in need. Our Caring Committee is currently reaching out to our homebound and at-risk members to check in on them. Volunteers are also reaching out to the families of our tutoring students to do the same. We encourage all those in our congregation to touch base with friends and neighbors to see if they are in need of encouragement or support during this time. If you do become aware of congregation members who are in need, please contact the church office.
Call to Serve
We realize that while the disruption to daily life caused by this health concern may be minor to some, it could potentially have significant effects on the most vulnerable in our community. We are currently contacting our mission partner agencies in the area to inquire about any immediate needs. If and when we become aware of opportunities to serve, donate goods, or contribute financially we will pass those opportunities along to the congregation. In the meantime, if you are purchasing supplies or food for your home, consider also purchasing additional supplies that could be donated to neighbors, schools, or community agencies.
Many of you may have already received word that we have cancelled our Bach’s Lunch concert series scheduled for next week. This is disappointing for all of us who love this event both in our church and in our community, but at least a few of the artists scheduled to appear have already said they are willing to participate in next year’s event. Other church events, such as Wonderful Wednesday’s, are already not scheduled to meet in the coming week. Going forward, these events and others like them will remain on the calendar, and we will assess them as needed. The Session will be meeting on Sunday evening and we will discuss all events on our church calendar. If you have any questions regarding a church event, please contact the church office, or check our online calendar.
Flexibility & Communication
In my day’s leading a youth group, whenever we would plan a mission trip we would always include one important item on the packing list: a flexible spirit. On a mission trip, flexibility is always a must due to the unpredictable nature of what might occur. I believe we find ourselves in a similar situation as we prepare for the next few weeks. Conditions and updates are constantly changing, therefore we will maintain a flexible and positive spirit throughout this process. Please pay close attention to your email inbox, the Starmount website, and our Facebook pages for any communications or announcements. Also, when you receive these announcements, please help us by sharing them with others.
Finally, I would like to leave you with three words from the Gospel of Matthew that have been coming to my mind a lot over the last week or so: “Consider the Lilies.” In the closing section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives his followers yet another important set of instructions that are at the same time powerful, yet difficult to follow. Jesus says to them, “Do not worry.” He reminds them that if God cares for the birds of the air or the lilies in the field, how much more does God care for each of us. This is a wonderful reminder for us during this time, no matter what the next few weeks might bring. Therefore, just as we take steps to educate ourselves regarding this health concern, and take actions that are prudent and responsible, may we also place our trust in God and serve as a non-anxious presence in our families and our communities. I will be praying for each one of you, and I hope you will keep all of creation in your prayers as well.