Dear NPC Family, June 2020
It has been a long time since we all were able to gather in person. Since March, actually. This was a decision made by the Session in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, North Carolina’s shut down order, and a desire, during this unprecedented time, to demonstrate love of neighbor and faithfulness to God by physically distancing ourselves from others. I am grateful for the wisdom, prayerfulness, compassion, and decisiveness displayed by your elders during this time.
In the last several weeks, we have seen NC move into Phase 2. And we have seen the virus begin, on a national level, to dissipate (though it continues to spike in some areas, with Avery County gaining 7 cases in the past few days). Your Session has continued to meet bi-weekly throughout our time apart, praying, discussing, monitoring circumstances, state and federal regulations, utilizing common sense, and attending primarily to a sense of God’s direction.
A basic progression for reconstituting corporate worship and church activities has emerged from these conversations, a pattern we hope will provide safety, flexibility, and ongoing opportunities for us to be together in the presence of God, who is our Life and the life of our community.
Stage 1 (began in March)
Online Worship – has given us a chance to continue hearing the preached Word and sharing in common prayers.
Stage 2 (June 14, 10am)
Outdoor Worship on the Lawn + Livestreaming – provides outdoor space where potential viral spread can be mitigated, and those uncomfortable sitting on the lawn can remain in their vehicles while still participating in community worship. Those remaining at home can tune in online at 10am to participate in a “Live” service, or watch the recorded version at a later time.
Stage 3 (sometime in the near future)
Small Group gatherings inside the church building – will resume with physical distancing imposed. The Fellowship Hall & Sanctuary both provide large spaces for groups to spread out.
Stage 4 (sometime in the future)
Return to Indoor Worship (9am & 11am) + Live Streaming – with limited capacity and physical distancing.
Stage 5 (by the Lord’s mercy)
Return to “Normal” Schedule (9am & 11am) + Live Streaming – with no restrictions. Other church functions (Family Night Suppers, etc.) will resume.
This Sunday, June 14th, at 10am, will be our first Outdoor Worship Service on the Lawn! Details below:
June 14, 10am ~ Outdoor Worship on the Lawn ~ Practical Considerations
- Begins promptly at 10am (for the Live Stream), and will last roughly 25-30 minutes. This is considerably shorter, and intended to help parents with squirmy kids in the car, or little ones who want to run and play while outside. 10am will also allow us to be a respectful neighbor to Newland Methodist and First Baptist, who typically worship at 11am.
If you plan to sit outside:
- Park on the church office side of the building (near the bell) and walk around so that folks remaining in their cars will have ample space to park.
- Bring a lawn chair from home, a mask (in order to protect others), and make sure that you keep at least 6 feet between you and other people. If you don’t have a chair, don’t worry; we’ll have access to the folding chairs in the Fellowship Hall.
- We know that it will be difficult to keep appropriate distancing, but please, for your sake and for the wellbeing of those we love, do not engage in hugs, handshakes, etc. In fact, the most important thing is not to get within 6 feet of one another!
If you plan to sit in your car
- Glenn Johnson and a few others will begin parking cars at 9:30. We are going to barricade Park Street (between NPC and the library) from 9:30-11am.
- Turn onto the Square using Library Rd. (between First Baptist and the Avery County Library), then turn left onto Park Street and follow parking directions.
- We are planning to have an FM Transmitter working. This will allow folks in their cars to tune their radio station to a particular channel and control volume from their vehicle. Station details will be shared on Sunday.
- Given that spaces are compact (forcing vehicles closer than the recommended 6’ distancing requirement) we encourage folks to only roll down their driver side windows for air circulation.
Order of Service
- Opening Song
- Prayers of the People
- Closing Song
- Should you need to use the facilities, please enter by the double door entrance on the Library side of the church. The doors will be propped open, and a station with hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and paper towels will be available upon entry.
NPC Finances and Covid-19 Community Response
- Newland Presbyterian, you have, by your continued generosity and faithful giving to God, allowed for all church employees to continue receiving pay during this time of job loss and economic disruption. Thank you for the ways that you have cared for Ina, Crystal, Holly, and Joy. For the ways you have enabled us to support our nursery workers, Alden, Camryn, and Paige, as well as Herlindo and Felicia, who help maintain our facilities, and for blessing Michael and his family as they have welcomed baby Spencer into the world.
Avery County Community
- Since the beginning of the stay-at-home order, the NPC Session has prioritized food insecurity as the main focus of our community outreach. Working closely with Janet Milsaps of Reaching Avery Ministries, and Dick Larson of Feeding Avery Families, our congregation has contributed $4,400 (to date) to help facilitate the work of these two great organizations, whose food requests have doubled and tripled their regular number.
- Moving forward, we plan to continue regular check-ins with Janet and Dick, trying to determine where we can best continue to share the resources God has provided.
- The next big expected need in our community is help with power bills and rent payment. So, the Session is already setting aside several thousand dollars to help with this anticipated need. There is $1,000 already on the way to RAM for that specific purpose, with the assurance that we’ll be contributing more as needs arise.
- Of course, it would be amazing for us to be able to do more, and we hope that will, in fact, be the case, but it is because of your generosity that we are able to share these signs of Christ’s love, and to be a part of God’s provision in the lives of our neighbors. Thank you for that.
- Online worship has also prompted the need for various subscriptions, recording equipment (lights/microphones/etc), and work to our website. Be sure to check out newlandpresbyterianchurch.org if you haven’t visited in a while. These costs have totaled around $500, enabling us to worship online together.
- The Session, at its most recent gathering, also authorized the purchase of two cameras, one portable, and the other to be mounted at the back of the NPC Sanctuary. These cameras will allow us to Live Stream and record worship services on Sunday mornings, something we plan to continue even after we return to a “normal” schedule. This equipment will total approximately $4,500.
Church Family Care & Connection
Many thanks to our elders:
Marie Gwyn (clerk)
Ina Winters (administrator)
Edwina Sluder (treasurer)
…who have continued, week in and week out, to make phone calls to check on and express our love for folks in our church family. Each of them have been praying for you, and carrying out faithfully the ministry to which God has called them as ruling elders in our church body.
We hope that you have enjoyed and appreciated the calls, emails, and text messages that have allowed us to remain connected, even at home, and we are grateful to Joy, Lydia, Kenneth and Jonathan, to Holly and Olivia, to Ina and Sarah Elizabeth, and to Iris and GT for their musical gifts and the meditations they have offered to us during the week. You can find these by referring to your email, or by going to the Sermons tab on the website and scrolling through the “Podcast” section (SoundCloud). So, too, have we appreciated the Elder updates, photos, and messages, which can be reviewed at the NPC News section of our website (scroll to the bottom).
A Pastoral Note on Returning to Worship!
As your pastor, I know that for some of you, much of our time away from worship has been hard, and that the Covid-19 societal (national/state/local) response seems a bit too much. I know that for others of you, these preparations do not seem nearly adequate enough for life in a pandemic.
The truth is, that your Session has not and will not be approaching any of these decisions lightly, or from any politically driven vantage. We are living in complex circumstances. And in all these things, it is our desire as a leadership body, to listen (first and last) to God, who has revealed his love for us in Jesus Christ our Lord, and who directs our lives and ministry by the Holy Spirit planted within our hearts and by His Word. Perhaps now is the perfect time for each of us to surrender a bit of our own will for the sake of the body? Know that your Session loves you deeply and desires to care for our whole faith family, in body and in soul.
It is apparent from even a cursory viewing of the news, that our country remains, in many ways, divided. And it is my prayer that our church community at Newland Presbyterian can be a witness to the difference it makes to have Jesus Christ at the heart and soul of who we are and what we’re about. If Jesus has given everything for us, so that we might be one as Jesus and the Father are one (Jesus’ prayer in John 17), then it makes sense to me that the moments when this unity is tested are the moments when we can each grow the most.
It is my hope that as we return to worship, we are able, collectively and individually, to “keep the main thing the main thing.” I want for us to see and to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, as our only hope (and the hope of the world) in life and in death, as we together discover the purpose of our lives, which is to glorify and to enjoy God forever. I want for our worship to be about God, not us. About proclaiming the goodness and truth and beauty of him who lives and reigns forever and ever. I want for us to be caught up in the power of the Holy Spirit, who unites us to Jesus, unites us to each other, blesses us with fruitfulness so that we may display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control for the blessing of the world!
Let’s be about these things as we join again in praise of God, remembering “how good it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity, it is like the precious oil on the head […] it is like the dew of Hermon which falls upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, ‘Life Forevermore.’” It is going to be sooo good to see each of you, and to worship our God, together again! The Lord loves to take small acts of faithfulness, and do great things with them. I trust God can do the same with you and me, as we worship on the lawn where the Rev. Edgar Tufts first dreamed of us (a Newland congregation) over 100 years ago, and where, perhaps, a new beginning can be found in the midst of difficult days.
In faith, hope, and love, and with much anticipation in Christ, Michael