Freed by God's grace, to live to His glory

Letters Explaining EMERGENCY MEASURES

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Communication from the Session regarding changes to our Normal Schedule:

Due to the state of Emergency, policies about worship and church activity are likely to change rapidly due to recommended or mandated measures from Federal, State, and Local governments. Please look below for the most recent policies from our Session. New policies will be added on top as they occur.

POLICY

June 6, 2020

Update
Dear Covenant Family,

As many of you know, Mercer county has been moved from the “Yellow Phase” to the “Green Phase” in its coronavirus safety guidelines.

You may be wondering, what does this mean for our corporate gatherings? The session has laid out a plan for how we can responsibly gather together in larger numbers while still being vigilant to not carelessly contribute to an outbreak in our community. We will provide a detailed communication about this plan next week, as these changes the session has made will not go into effect until Sunday, June 14.

For this Sunday, we will continue under the same guidelines set in place during the Yellow Phase—namely, the service will be limited to 25 participants who will be notified by email as to which service to attend, morning or evening. The service will continue to be available on live stream.

We do give thanks to the Lord for the prospect of gathering in larger numbers as soon as June 14 and thank you each for your patience and prayers throughout this process.

Yours in Christ,
Jeremy Jones

May 18, 2020

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life” – Psalm 54:4

Dear Covenant Church Family and Friends,

Greetings from the Covenant Church Session in these interesting times! In God’s providence, we have all had a time to reflect on the Lord, his world, and our place in it. We know that for many of you, this has been an incredibly difficult and stressful time, whether losing employment, becoming injured, suffering social isolation and many other difficulties. The time has been tough, but our God is good. He is the light who shines in the midst of the darkness in the image of his glorious Son, Jesus Christ.

We, your elders, wanted to let you know the plans we have made for the resumption of public worship. We praise God that the governing authorities have decided to lift our county (Mercer) out of the red phase into the yellow phase and so many of our recommendations and guidelines have flowed from the recommendations and guidelines for that phase as outlined by the governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Please know that we want to keep open communication with the congregation, so please reach out to an elder or pastor with any questions or concerns you might have during this time. Lord-willing, here are the guidelines for resuming public worship that have been agreed upon by the session.

General Guidelines

  1. Public worship will resume Sunday, May 24th, barring any sudden outbreak in our area. The session is keeping a watch on increasing cases in Mercer county. At present there have been no new cases in our zip code for at least 10 days. If there is a sudden spike in cases for our zip code before Sunday, new arrangements will need to be made.
  2. Public worship will consist of morning and evening worship, at the normally scheduled times of 10:55am and 6:00pm.
  3. Attendance at public worship for the time being will be capped at a maximum of 25 persons in the church in accordance with the governor’s recommendations on large gatherings.
  4. In this document below is a link to a poll about your family’s comfort level returning to worship on the below conditions. Please only have one person in your household fill this out. In the coming week, your shepherding elder will also be contacting your family to follow up. If you are willing to return, your family’s name will be added to a list of those coming to either morning or evening worship, and we will simply go through the list alphabetically inviting families as long as these policies are in place. Please know that you are under no pressure to come if you are concerned about the novel coronavirus. In order to limit the congregation size to 25, you should not plan to attend services at the church building except when you have been particularly invited.
  5. While we cannot require anyone to stay home, the session has laid out some guidelines for those questioning whether or not to come to worship: If you are feeling sick in any way, we strongly discourage you from coming to the church building. If you are in a high risk category, we would encourage you to stay home. If you work closely with anyone who is in a high risk category, you are advised to stay home.
  6. We encourage the congregation, as hard and as painful as it might be, to refrain from physical contact between family units (hugs and handshakes) as well as to keep a six feet social distance.
  7. Sunday School, snacks, and coffee will be discontinued until further notice.
  8. Please plan on arriving at the church 10-20 minutes before the start of service for proper seating time and to make sure everyone is there before the doors are locked. The only unlocked doors will be the double doors at the front of the church, and there will be a door-holder as you enter. The door holder will be checking the attendance list and confirming that we remain at or under the current congregation limit of 25.
  9. Worshippers will be seated on one side of the sanctuary during the morning service and the opposite side during the evening service. Every other pew will also be roped off to encourage social distancing.
  10. It is recommended that you use the bathroom at home before coming, but the upstairs bathroom will be available for emergencies.
  11. The downstairs part of the church is restricted except for emergencies.
  12. The use of face masks is welcomed, but not required. There will be a table with free masks available should you desire to have one. The door-holder and your pastors will be wearing face masks except during the worship time.
  13. Hand sanitizer will be available at strategic locations throughout the church for your use.
  14. Tithes and offerings will be collected as they were the last week we gathered fully for public worship: the plates will be placed at various locations throughout the sanctuary and can be utilized before or after the worship service. You can continue to give either online or by mailing a check as well.
  15. The Lord’s Supper will not be served until further notice.
  16. We will not be staffing the nursery, though the room will remain open for the convenience of families with children. It is the parents’ responsibility to sanitize all toys and surfaces that they or their children touch.
  17. Live streaming of the worship service will continue and plans are being made for a permanent setup going forward for those who are sick or shut in.

Requests

  1. Please have one member of your household fill out this poll on returning to worship: https://forms.gle/FL3Ut3ai6j2Kb2Ws9
  2. We are looking for donations of masks, sanitizing wipes, and disinfectant/sanitizing aerosols. If you or your family have excess supplies or would like to purchase any of these things for the church, please reach out. We would like to have plenty of these supplies in stock by the time we resume worship on the 24th.
  3. We are looking for a team to sanitize the used parts of the church between the two worship services on the Lord’s Day. If you would like to volunteer for that, please contact one of the pastors, elders, or deacons.

We know that these temporary adjustments are difficult, but we believe the Lord is sustaining and maturing us during this unique period of our church’s history. We greatly look forward to worshiping our triune God together again.

ENCOURAGEMENT

April 4, 2020

*A Letter from the Pastor*

Dear Covenant Church Family,

A previous communication from the session noted that we had suspended corporate worship in the church building until April 12th, the date we had hoped to celebrate the Resurrection together. However, given current realities and projections concerning COVID-19, we have now extended this temporary closure of the building to large gatherings until further notice. The session has determined this out of concern for our neighbor and in seeking to honor the governing authorities which the Lord has instituted for the protecting of life. During this temporary closure, we will continue to provide a live stream of the worship service.

We do not make this decision lightly, knowing that watching a service online is no substitute for the physical, corporate gathering of God’s visible church on the Lord’s Day. The absence of this corporate gathering is occasion for lament and prayerful longing for the day when we can gather together again. But even as we grieve the loss of being able to meet together for the time being, we should not fail to see God’s loving kindness and care for his flock even in times of exile from the corporate gatherings of God’s people. The Psalms give full expression to how the Lord is at work in such times to grow the faith and increase our hunger for his holy presence with God’s people: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?…..Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:1-2, 5.

Confident of God’s continued care for his flock in days of famine, we want to encourage you to make good use of the live stream services, not as spectators but as participants in the service: singing aloud as you are able, praying, actively listening to the Word of God read and preached. And we encourage you to continue the good work of staying connected with one another through phone, email, video conference, or card in order that we might pray for one another and be ready to help as needs arise. The pastors, elders, and deacons are eager to hear how we might be praying for you or of help to you in this challenging time. We will continue to reach out to the various households of the church and please don’t hesitate to contact us with any concerns.

Although we are again not able to meet corporately together next Lord’s Day, as we had originally hoped, we do look forward with eager expectation to the day when we will gather again to proclaim with one voice, “He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!”

Yours in Christ,
Jeremy Jones

March 20, 2020 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In light of the ongoing concerns and heightened restrictions and guidelines for slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we as your pastors and elders are writing to keep you informed about ministry plans moving forward as well as to provide some scriptural encouragement in light of this opportunity that the Lord has provided us.  
First with regard to the coronavirus, it is important that our congregation takes seriously the threat to the health of our community that this virus poses.  Given the rapid rate of increase of new cases each day in our own state and in neighboring Ohio, and given what we know about how the coronavirus has overwhelmed the health systems of other nations impacted by the virus, it would be irresponsible to ignore the warnings and restrictions that have been given by our governing authorities.  As part of our responsibility to love our neighbor and care for the most vulnerable among us, we need to be vigilant to do what we can to slow the spread of this virus.
As you may be aware, the President’s Guidelines for slowing the spread of the virus include avoiding social gatherings of 10 or more people for the next two weeks (though many professionals are suggesting the social distancing will need to be measured in months rather than weeks).  Because many with the virus may not show symptoms before they spread the virus to others, social distancing can be an effective tool in slowing the rate of infection.  

Therefore, out of protection for Christ’s sheep and concern for our community at large, the session will be temporarily suspending or significantly altering our weekly activities.  See details in the other letter.  We know that these changes are among the many life-altering changes that are taking place at a rapid pace all around you and all around the world.  In the midst of such circumstances, in which it seems that life is changing by the minute, it is good to be reminded of what hasn’t changed.  

Our God has not changed.  He remains the one who has created the heavens and earth, who fills the earth and sea and upholds his creation by the word of his power.  He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.  Great is the Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. (Ps. 147:4-5).  He waters the mountains, satisfies the earth with the fruit of his work, he causes the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate (Psalm 104:13-14). He remains in control, and is the one who works all things, even unseen viruses, according to the counsel of his will for his own glory.  And not a bird from the sky or hair from your head can fall to the ground apart from the will of our gracious Heavenly Father.   Because he never changes, and his goodness is from everlasting to everlasting, he can always be trusted.  He remains our ever present help in time of trouble.  

Our calling has not changed.  As his redeemed people in Jesus, we are called and equipped by his Holy Spirit to love and serve our God with all that we are in all that we face.  And we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.  These present trials are not a suspension of these holy obligations but rather a new opportunity to express our faith, hope, and love.  The Lord graciously gives us seasons of fiery trial to refine our faith, to burn away the dross, and bring his people through to more radiantly reflect the one who made us and who redeemed us.  Let us make good use of this time to call upon the Lord, to meditate on his goodness and holy perfections, to entrust ourselves to our faithful Savior.  
The call to love one another has not changed.  But the way in which we must express that love for one another will need to take new shape in these days of social distance requirements.  It is important that as we engage in the recommended social distancing, temporarily avoiding public places, we are to do so not out of fear of our neighbor but out of love for our neighbor–being thoughtful to not carelessly contribute to the sickness of another. And so long as we must be apart physically from one another this is all the more reason to reach out by phone, or text, or letter, to find creative ways to remain relationally engaged with one another, especially remembering those who are alone.    Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (I John 4:7).

Finally, the basis of our confidence and true hope has not changed.  The Lord in his grace at times sweeps away every false security, every false support and leads us once more to rest fully upon and take refuge in him.  In these days we have graciously been reminded of how fragile we are and how quickly the seemingly stable things around us prove to be utterly weak.  It is good that we recognize our own weakness and in so doing look to the one who is alone strong to save.  

Trusting in Christ Jesus, who has conquered death itself on our behalf, we can have every confidence that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).  

The changing landscape is no doubt unsettling, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8).  

Please know that we are praying for you and are grateful for your prayers on our behalf as we continue to make plans for carrying out the ministry the Lord has given to his church.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns or matters for prayer.  

In humble reliance upon our ever faithful Lord,
The Session of Covenant OPC

POLICY

March 20, 2020 Dear Covenant Church Family,

Grace and Peace in Troubled Times! 

As you know, we the session, in light of the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 Coronavirus, are prayerfully and cautiously making some changes to our worshipping life for at least the next few weeks.  Our accompanying letter outlines the why of some of these changes.  This letter highlights the changes themselves.  Here are some of the changes:

  1. Sunday Worship Services – It has been decided that both morning and evening worship services will be temporarily moved to a digital format: livestreamed via Facebook Live and recorded.  We recognize this is not ideal and we too share in your grief that we will not be able to worship gathered as we normally do.  The timing of these livestreams will be the same as our normal worship times (10:55am and 6:00pm) on Sunday and we encourage all the members of the church to join us in their homes as we seek to worship our God together.  Links for how to access the livestream of the worship service will be sent out on Saturday. 
  2. Tithes and offerings – The Finance Committee is working on a strategy to collect virtually the real dollars and cents of your tithes and offerings. More details will follow. Thanks for your patience.
  3. Sunday School – For the time being, Sunday School will be postponed until such a time as we can meet together again.  While we are sad about this as well, the Sunday School format (interaction, etc.) is not one that translates well to a digital format.  We look forward to the day when we can rejoin one another for Sunday School once again. 
  4. Other studies/meetings/showers – The other events put on by our church have been encouraged to continue by the session in a number of digital formats by those who lead them.  There will soon be a plan regarding each of them coming from the people who lead them, in conjunction with the session.  We will be sending out the weekly prayer agenda and encourage each household to be in prayer for the needs of your fellow brothers and sisters, and for your neighbors next door and across the world.  We encourage all of you to reach out to each other and encourage each other during this time of social isolation and quarantine, as we will be doing with each of you. 
  5. Please be on the lookout for future updates from the session and other members of the church who lead various ministries and projects.  Emergency and other big updates will be found on the website as well as sent out to members via email.  Please let us, the session, or the deacons, know of any needs, spiritual, financial, or physical, that you have or hear of in the church and in the broader community.  The opportunity for the church to be a light to those around us is all the greater in dark days. The elders will be in regular contact with the members of their shepherding groups and will be inquiring of what needs each household is facing.   If we discover there is a need in our body or in our community for basic necessities we will make those needs known and seek a safe way to collect and distribute those items (such as food, soap, toilet paper, etc.).  As we begin to take stock of the new pace of life set before us, we hope to quickly assess the needs of the congregation and the community around us so that we might be able to best serve Christ during this time. 

May the Lord give you his Peace,

The Session of Covenant OPC

March 17, 2020 College and Career Group will not meet tonight

March 16, 2020 All upcoming showers are cancelled; please contact Krista Burger for alternate plans

March 13, 2020 Letter to Congregation
Dear Congregation:

A number of you have asked about worship services and general church preparedness in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until further notice, we will have worship services and Sunday school as scheduled.

We are following developments closely, and in light of the current situation are making the following recommendations and/or actions at both the individual and corporate levels. Further recommendations may be made as events warrant.

Personal actions and behaviors
We encourage everyone to follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations to prevent the spread of this and most other viruses. The CDC recommendations include:
Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds or more under warm water with soap.
Use alcohol-based sanitizer if unable to wash hands.
Avoid touching your eyes, face and mouth with unwashed hands.
If you cough, sneeze or have a runny nose, always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue.
Throw used tissues into a trash can immediately and wash your hands thoroughly before touching anything or anyone.
Do not share food, drink, utensils or dishes with others, and wash dishes, cups and silverware after use to prevent someone else from using contaminated items.
In addition, we recommend:
Staying at home if you or a member of your family is feeling ill.
Staying at home if you are 60 and above and are concerned about contracting the virus.
Staying at home if you find yourself with a bad cough and can’t seem to stop. In that case, we further recommend you consult a doctor.
It would be a good idea for each family to consider bringing some hand sanitizer for themselves.
Avoiding shaking hands – and yet still warmly greet one another in Christ!
These are all pretty ordinary precautionary measures we should take any time there’s a sickness going around. All these steps will help mitigate the risk of contracting the virus, but of course, nothing we do can be 100% effective.

For the vast majority of people, the symptoms of COVID-19 seem to resemble a mild cold. For those with weaker immune systems it can have more serious symptoms. If you think you may have been exposed to it, or if you are concerned about contracting it, feel free to remain at home.

We also encourage and invite you to contact us about any and all needs and concerns you may have.

Corporate actions
There will be some temporary changes to a couple of our customary practices in the worship service – these current practices have the highest risk of virus transmission. These changes are temporary, and they are solely designed to reduce the risk of virus transmission during our worship together. The two practices that will be changed are (1) the Lord’s supper and (2) offering collection.
For the Lord’s supper, we will not pass the plates among the pews. Instead, we ask that congregants come forward, pick up both the bread and cup together, then return to their seats. After all have received the elements and resumed their seats, then we will partake together.
We will be serving communion this Sunday. Those preparing the meal are going to take extra care to handle the elements so as to minimize any risk of germ exposure. Our pastor and elders will be using hand sanitizer prior to making the elements available.
For taking up the offering, we will not pass the plates among the pews. Instead, offering plates will be placed at strategic locations in the sanctuary, and congregants are asked to deposit their offerings into the plates before or after the service.
We do have hand soap available in all bathrooms. Please let the janitor or one of the elders know if the hand soap is running low.

Depending on availability, we also hope to have hand sanitizer dispensers placed at strategic locations around the building and sanctuary.

Finally, let us all pray together to our all-powerful Triune God, asking Him to grant
recovery and health for those who are ill,
strength for those whose lives are being affected by the disease (including family, friends, and healthcare workers),
protection for those who are particularly vulnerable (including the elderly, the pregnant, those with heart conditions, etc.), and
wisdom for those officials and decision-makers charged with the task of managing during this crisis.
Yours in Christ,
The Session

Morning and evening worship services NOW LIVE STREAMED & MEASURED REOPENING LIVE STREAM