Dear Calvary family and friends,
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). The Book of Acts opens with these words about the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. As we approach Pentecost’s celebration on May 31, 2020, we understand that Calvary’s family of faith will not be “all together in one place.” While some restrictions are lifted in Indiana County’s “yellow” phase designation, the ongoing life-threatening behavior of the COVID-19 virus requires that we remain careful and mindful of the safety of the most vulnerable, particularly those over age 65 and those with underlying health conditions.
Calvary’s Session has prayerfully considered information from public health authorities and scientific experts in a careful process of discernment about reopening the church building. In the interest of transparency and the collaborative spirit of Calvary, we share with you these updates:
- A plan for phased and incremental reopening will be shared with you when available. In the meantime, with an abundance of care and caution, the Session has decided that the church building will remain closed to the public. We will continue with online-only worship services. This decision will stay in effect while Indiana County is in the yellow phase, and the Session expects it will be an extended time before we can return to in-church worship services.
- Exceptions: We have made two exceptions.
- First, we have approved the use of the church building, specifically the dining room area, to be a polling location for the June 2, 2020 election. Calvary has been a polling location for many years. It was a difficult decision with all the COVID-19 safety considerations. To not allow our church building to be a polling location solves a problem for Calvary by making it a problem elsewhere in the Indiana community. That’s not Calvary – pushing a problem aside with only our faith community’s well-being in mind. We will do all we can to offer a safe area for poll workers and voters.
- Second, we have approved, with safety provisions, the use of the church sanctuary for private, church member, family-only memorial services. During the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, our usual funeral rituals have been disrupted. At the time of the death of a loved one, we turn to the familiar, “normal” practices of our Christian faith. We know that this disruption for a grieving family is especially hard. As a family of faith, we want to do all we can so that families can gather safely, celebrate the life of their loved one, and witness to the love of Christ.
- When we do reopen, worship and gatherings will be different for some time, as we continue to be guided by the best information available through public health experts. Changes will likely include wearing face masks in the building; maintaining social distance; and using no-touch alternatives to pass the peace, collect the offering plates, participate in Communion; removal of common-use items like hymnals and bibles; and other prudent precautions.
While we all grieve the losses and disappointments that the COVID-19 pandemic brings to our lives, we anticipate with hope the ways in which God will continue to teach us how to be the church in this new time. We are encouraged by the resilient spirit and caring heart of Calvary. It is good to hear stories of Calvary folks caring for each other and their neighbors. We are experiencing the strength and courage of our common faith by engaging in online worship, community outreach, and congregational care.
The COVID-19 virus has changed the way we gather, but it has not changed the message of the gospel of God’s love. As we have done in the past during challenging times, we continue, by God’s grace, to move forward in ministry. We will adapt and grow – there are plans underway to develop small fellowship group gatherings and study opportunities via the online ZOOM platform. And as more and more people experience hardships and require help with basic necessities, we must follow our calling as a Matthew-25 church and find safe ways to minister to our local community.
So, let us look for the good, for God’s blessings! May we see glimpses of the good things God is doing, even now, and show through our words and actions that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus!
Yours in Christ,
David J. Hanna, Pastor and Moderator of Session
Thomas Crumm, Clerk of Session