Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Much has changed since our first letter about the church’s response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) was sent last week. On March 15 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended suspending gatherings of 50 or more people for 8 weeks. On March 16, the federal government suggested that no more than 10 people gather for the next 15 days. Cumberland Presbyterian (CP) communities have begun to cancel in person gatherings of public worship and other faith community meetings, including presbytery and synod meetings. These days there is a sense of dark times ahead and a concern over isolation from one another at many levels (individual, family, friends, faith communities, etc.) Some are asking is the “new normal” and how long will it last?
As Cumberland Presbyterians you are encouraged to monitor CDC, federal and state/local guidelines and respond accordingly. Tough decisions will need to be made at the local church level in terms of suspending all church activities and for how long. It is clear there will be an impact on Holy Week and Easter events. Many faith communities are shifting worship and other gatherings to online streaming. Some of our smaller churches, including many rural areas, may not have the resources to shift to online opportunities which will present creative challenges to support and connect the congregation. The reality is how to maintain social distancing while also maintaining social connection.
In order to support the church with resources as well as provide an opportunity for sharing of ideas, a new COVID-19 webpage has been activated on the website.
The CP Center Executives (CIT), have decided to close the Center campus (Memphis, TN) to the public and suspend normal operational hours CP Center in Memphis,TN beginning March 23 through April 5. Staff will continue to work from home.
The General Assembly Office will continue to monitor COVID-19 as it relates to the 190th General Assembly meeting in Louisville KY in June 2020. For now, the
General Assembly/Convention meetings will proceed as planned.
The CP church began the Lenten season with a Day of Pray, Fast and Act on Ash Wednesday. Shortly after that the world began to be confronted with what has become a global health pandemic that has altered our current lifestyles, including how we stay connected as a faith community. We have a unique opportunity to share the gospel in ways we never dreamed of and shine a light of hope in the darkness currently threatening our world. This current crisis may very well spark a revival in the church and press a reset button on how to restore our connection to God.
Let us as a church take comfort in these words from Hebrews 13: “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you. (v. 4) and “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever” (v. 8)