Any updates and revisions to plans and precautions set by the pastoral staff and the Session will be posted on this page.
The pastoral staff and leadership at First Presbyterian Church are monitoring the global Coronavirus pandemic and are committed to keeping you informed with the latest guidance and resources.
Updated JUNE 3, 2021
6/3/21 UPDATES FROM THE REOPENING TEAM
The Reopening Team gathered to discuss the recent changes in CDC and State of N.C. guidelines regarding masks and social distancing. The following is a summary of their recommendations and plans for moving forward:
- MASKS- In worship and most church settings, vaccinated adults should feel free to remove their masks. Unvaccinated persons are strongly encouraged to continue wearing masks, as are all persons who wish to wear a mask for whatever reason. We also recommend that children between the ages of 5 and 12, youth, and their teachers continue to wear masks in Sunday School and Christian education settings (close proximity). The current cording and safe distancing in the Sanctuary will remain as there is no shortage of available seating.
- BIBLES, HYMNALS, AND CORPORATE SINGING- Hymnal and Bible placement in the pews will resume in June. We encourage the gradual return of corporate hymn singing, leaving it to worship and music leadership to do this in a thoughtful way.
- COMMUNION & OFFERING- The Sacrament of Communion will continue to be administered with the current sealed wafer and cup method through the summer. We will also not pass offering plates at this time and consider the resumption of the traditional method in the fall.
- ELLER HALL FELLOWSHIP- Eller Hall social gatherings before and after worship will resume in June with significant changes regarding snacks and food service. All food will be individually wrapped and pre-packaged. The appropriate committees will oversee donation and volunteer procedures.
- FIRST SERVICE-An early worship service (before 11 a.m.) will resume in the fall. However, please stay posted as details are still being finalized and any further decisions must be made by the Session.
In-person Sunday School has resumed! Classes begin at 9:45 a.m. All classes will end at 10:30 to allow adequate time for fellowship and snacks outside of Eller Hall at the new fellowship and welcome tent before the 11 a.m. worship service in the Sanctuary.
With Children’s Sunday School resuming in person, virtual classes will no longer be held. If your family would still like to receive the information about each Sunday’s lesson and scripture please email email@example.com.
_________________Youth Sunday School- Youth Room
Wired Word- Room 209; in-person and Zoom format. Click here to join remotely. Password: Wired
Calvin Class- Rankin Building
“Growing Young” Small Group- Session Room; in-person and Zoom. Click here to join remotely.
G.I.F.T. Class- Activity Room
_________________Please be reminded that the Session’s policy of mandatory adult mask wearing while gathered for public indoor worship is still in effect.We also ask that you wear a mask as you participate in Sunday school activities on Sunday morning. We continue to revise and update our policy based on the best public health information available as well as best practices for churches. This cautious approach allowed us to reopen earlier than many congregations. In addition, we have had no known cases of Covid transmission through attendance at church activities. If you need to remove your mask, please leave the sanctuary and step outside, into the narthex, or an adjacent hallway for a break. We know that masks are inconvenient and often uncomfortable, and we appreciate your patience as we move through this time as a congregation.
1/6/21 LETTER TO THE CONGREGATION (Mailer)
I’m writing to you for a couple of reasons today. The first is to make you aware of an immediate change in our gatherings for worship and church programming. The Session has voted, on the advice of our Reopening Team, to take a two-week pause in gathering together for Sunday worship and other congregational programs. The pause includes Sunday, January 10 and 17. It also includes Wednesday Together programming on January 13 and 20. We will return to our current in-person schedule on Sunday, January 24. The church office will maintain normal hours during this time.
With the recent and rapid surge of COVID-19 in our community following holiday gatherings, interrupting our meetings for a couple of weeks will minimize the risk of unintentionally transmitting the virus among our congregation. While we are aware of no direct transmissions of COVID-19 through our church activities, we also know it is impacting individuals and families in our congregation. Your understanding is much appreciated as we take additional steps to keep each other safe and to continue to allow for our meeting together.
My second reason for writing is to encourage you to keep up the good work of social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing! Now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to these practices. It is partly the bolder stance we have taken on these practices as a congregation that has allowed us to remain open for face-to-face congregational life. Please add a fourth practice to your list: get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccinations are rapidly becoming available in our community and are a critical part of returning to more normal ways of being together.
Our Sunday services are available online and other church programming opportunities will be available online during our two-week pause. Information on how to participate in these programs is enclosed.
Better days are in sight! Let’s continue to be resilient in our faith, hopeful in our outlook, and patient in our practice. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the pastors and staff of the church for support and assistance. Our God, of course, is as close to us as our next prayer. These words from the book of Joshua are a needed reminder:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
Dr. Mike Garrett, Senior Pastor
10/01/20 SAFE CHURCH POLICY UPDATES
As we resume traditional ministry programs and reopen more communal spaces to the congregation, the health and safety of all involved are paramount to the church functioning at a greater capacity. All new Safe Church Family procedures have been set in place to screen all who enter church buildings, to properly sanitize spaces after they are used, and to keep all adults, children, staff, and volunteers safe. Program staff and volunteers will be utilizing these procedures during all ministry programs to include Wednesday Together, rehearsals, committee meetings, and more.
What you need to know:
We will check temperatures upon arrival.
Please Stay home if…
- You are feeling sick
- You have a sick family member at home
If you test positive for COVID-19, have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, and/or have a cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of a church-related function or activity, we ask that you stay home.
Please practice good hygiene.
1. Please wear a mask at all times.
2. Use non-contact greeting methods.
3. Use sanitizing stations and practice regular hand washing.
4. Try to stay 6ft. apart.
Outbreaks are a stressful and anxious time for everyone. Your church family is here to support you. Reach out to our pastoral staff and Stephen Ministers at any time.
6/25/20 LETTER TO THE CONGREGATION (Mailer)
Let’s talk about regathering for ministry and worship! The Session has approved July 12 at 11 A.M. as our first Sunday to gather for worship under our phased reopening plan. I’d like to introduce you to the plan and encourage your support. You will receive more detailed explanations in our next congregational newsletter and a series of video messages.
First our plan is based on a solid biblical principal, “Love does no harm to a neighbor.” (Romans 13:1) We’re seeking to protect the physical health and meet the spiritual needs of our congregation which is very diverse in both age and stage of family life. I have no doubt some will find this plan too cautious, some not cautious enough, and others just about right. As you consider your own reaction to the plan please remember it is guided by a deep concern for the well-being of the whole body of Christ at First Presbyterian Church.
Second, our plan is based on three things that have become consistent advice from public health experts for people sharing space together: wash your hands, wear a mask, and maintain social distance. The plan is a specific application of this advice for the life of the church.
Third, our plan is phased based on the advice of health experts and those working directly on the challenge of regathering churches during the Covid-19 pandemic. What is true is “Phase 1” will be quite different than what will be true in “Phase 3”. Things will change. How fast they change will depend on public health information in our area and the needs of our congregation.
Phase 1 – Begins July 12
One worship service at 11 AM in the sanctuary. (Online worship continues.)
- Hand sanitizer stations at entrances
- Seating marked and limited to enable social distancing (6’)
- Mask required for those age 5 and above unless there is a medical exception (disposable masks will be provided for all who need them)
- No congregational singing at this time (based on best advice from organizations dedicated to congregational worship and choral singing)
- Children welcome in worship but no childcare provided, “Family Friendly” space available
- Entrance and dismissal through the sanctuary
- Overflow seating (socially distanced) and live streaming in the chapel
In person Sunday School classes for children, youth or adults will not meet at this time.
- Online classes and meetings for adults, youth, and children continue
No indoor, on-campus, gatherings for fellowship, meals, or large programs at this time.
Phase 2 – Begins as soon as possible but not later than the beginning of public school.
Transition to two worship services, 8:30 and 11 AM. (Online worship continues.)
- Specifics continue as above consistent with best current health information.
- Congregational singing reevaluated based on best current information.
In person child care and Sunday school classes for all ages resume, class size regulated by current health and safety recommendations.
Indoor gatherings for meals, programs, and fellowship limited based on best current public health information.
Phase 3 – Time to be determined.
Two worship services, traditional times and in traditional spaces, with less or no restriction.
In persons Sunday school classes continue, with less or no restriction based on class size.
Indoor gatherings for meals, programs, and fellowship continue with less or no restriction.
We enthusiastically encourage the return to public worship for all who are ready at this time! We also want those who feel either the limitations or risks for regathering are too great at this moment to continue to worship with us online. We understand and want you to feel no pressure in this matter.
Blessed are the flexible for they will not get bent out of shape. Things will continue to change in our life together and not always as we predict. Please know that the leaders of our congregation remain committed to providing for the worship, spiritual growth, and mission of our congregation no matter the circumstances.
Dr. Mike Garrett, Senior Pastor
5/11/20 LETTER TO THE CONGREGATION (Mailer)
Much has changed since my last letter to our congregation concerning the impact of the COVID-19 on our fellowship. We’ve experienced the disruption of our lives caused by social distancing and the closure of schools, businesses, and of course our gathering for public worship. Now, as the state of North Carolina enters a period of phased reopening, I am hearing a number of questions about when the church facility may be open again for regular use. At the moment, under the governor’s phase 1 guidelines, the following rules apply to churches:
- Mass gatherings for public worship, indoors, is limited to no more than 10 persons. Social distancing must be maintained.
- Services may be held that exceed 10 persons if those services are held outdoors in an unenclosed place and attendees follow recommendations to promote social distancing.
- Funerals are permitted to have up to fifty persons in attendance, but social distancing recommendations should be observed as much as possible.
- Weddings are permitted but mass gathering guidelines of 10 or less persons who are socially distanced still apply.
As you can see, very little changes for us under phase 1, projected to last to at least the beginning of June. We will continue to provide online worship experiences, as well as Zoom based fellowship, music, and Christian education opportunities. The church office remains open for limited support during normal business hours. Pastoral care is always available.
What does change is the need to anticipate new opportunities as mass gathering guidelines are relaxed this summer. This month the Session will begin to develop our own phased reopening plan, taking into consideration not only what is legal, but what is wise. There are many questions that will need to be considered. To highlight only a few:
- At what mass gathering size does it make sense to resume public worship and other church activities? Shall we have multiple gatherings on a Sunday or throughout the week? Or can we gather in multiple spaces at the same time in order to maintain social distancing?
- How will we clean and sanitize high traffic, high touch surfaces? Currently passing offering plates, eating together, holding hymnals and receiving public communion are all discouraged by most denominations.
- How shall we adequately sanitize the spaces used by our children, who cannot socially distance? Will parents be comfortable bringing their children into common spaces? Will we gather for worship but not other face-to-face activities?
- What minimum guidelines need to be in place so adults will feel comfortable worshipping together? Will masks be worn in worship? Will seating in the sanctuary or chapel be marked to maintain appropriate space? How will we sing together, given the greater potential for virus spread through singing
These questions have answers, and the answers will likely change as the situation changes. As the reopening plan for our facility and common life is developed by our leadership we will be quick to communicate it to the congregation.
There is both reason to be hopeful and much to be determined. Please pray for your leaders during this time of discernment and decision making. We also should be reminded that the church is not closed, only parts of the building. As long as the Word is proclaimed, sacraments observed, prayer offered, mission done and our shared fellowship through Jesus Christ maintained, the church is very much in business. We are the church.
Let’s continue to be a source of strength and encouragement to one another as we move into a new and different season of life at First Presbyterian Church.
Dr. Mike Garrett, Senior Pastor
Be on the lookout for weekly emails with program updates, messages from the pastoral staff, and bulletins and children’s activities that will help you engage and follow along with each Sunday livestream service.
Children’s Ministry continues to stay connected via weekly ZOOM sessions every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Please contact either Britany Spivey (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sarah Szopinski (email@example.com) to join.
Music Ministry invites all participants to its ZOOM Share & Prayer Meetings on Sundays during the group’s regular rehearsal time. Please contact Dr. Marcia Mervin (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information on how to join.
The Wired Word Sunday School will “gather” at 10 a.m. on Sundays via ZOOM. Please contact Lou Brooks (email@example.com) for more information.
Click here for the first installment of “Moments with Mike”- another way to connect with Dr. Garrett, the life of the church in this new time of social distancing, and hear a word of encouragement in this uncertain time.
We hope you’ll join us for this Sunday’s streaming worship service and modified Children’s Sunday! The service will livestream HERE, on your FPC APP, and live on Facebook. Engage, comment, and share! Use the hashtag #serveandshare when posting and invite friends and family to join in!
3/18/20 LETTER TO THE CONGREGATION (Mailer)
May you know God’s presence and encouragement at this challenging and unsettling time. Last night the Session of First Presbyterian Church met to give special consideration to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the life of our congregation. After much heartfelt discussion several actions were taken. I encourage you to take the time to read the full contents of this letter.
First, all public gatherings for Sunday Worship and related activities are suspended through April 26, 2020. This includes the serving of Homebound Communion on Sunday, April 5. We know this is disheartening, but we believe it is necessary to conform to current Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for public gatherings in an effort to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.
Though our public gatherings are suspended, we are committed to providing Sunday worship for our congregation. Each Sunday the 11 a.m. service of worship will be live streamed and can be watched in real time (or later) on our website or church app. A companion “bulletin” will be available online to enable you to participate more fully. For those who would prefer, a CD of the service will be mailed or brought to you upon request.
Sadly, this includes Easter Sunday. However, we are working on some creative ways to worship on Easter and will communicate those as soon as we are able.
Second, all Wednesday Night meals and programming are suspended through April 29, 2020. Again, this is necessary to conform to CDC guidelines and do all we can to curb the spread of the virus. We are committed to providing creative child and adult spiritual resources on a weekly basis through social media and other platforms. Our Children’s Ministry department is already preparing materials for children and parents. We also strongly encourage Sunday school class, small groups, committees and others to continue meeting together using services
like FreeConferenceCall.com or Zoom.
Third, pastoral care will continue for all members of the congregation and the church office will remain open at this time during our normal office hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Do not hesitate to contact Dr. Garrett or our Director of Pastoral Care, Rev. Mitch Watson, for personal needs or information. In addition, you will be receiving calls from our officers and others to check on your situation and see if there are additional ways the
church can be supportive at this difficult time.
Finally, I encourage you to remember to support the life of the congregation through both your ongoing prayers and financial giving. It is easy to forget to make our tithes and offerings when we are not gathering regularly for worship, but our ongoing support of ministry, both here and around the world, depend on them.
This is a difficult time but certainly no more difficult than many Christians have faced at other times. We will get through this. We still have the tools of prayer, scripture, worship, and the support of one another. Now is the time to draw deeply on the faith that has been given to us, remember our need to love God and our neighbors, and draw on the hope that is always ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Yours in Christ,
Dr. Mike Garrett, Pastor
• Children’s Ministry invites FirstKiz to make and mail cards to those who are hospitalized and home bound. Please email Mrs. Britany at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will provide you with the mailing address of people who would love to receive a card.
• Please call or email Mrs. Britany at email@example.com if you would like a take-home Bible story packet so that you can spend time in God’s Word with your family. These will be made available for pick-up on Wednesday.
• The Fauré “Requiem” performance has been rescheduled for SEPTEMBER 27, 2020. Please email Dr. Marcia Mervin at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
3/16/20 CANCELLATION NOTICE FOR ALL WEDNESDAY TOGETHER FELLOWSHIP ACTIVITIES UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
3/14/20 CANCELLATION NOTICE FOR MARCH 15 WORSHIP SERVICES
The governor of N.C. has issued an executive order banning mass gatherings of over 100 persons and canceling school for two weeks beginning on Monday, March 16. In light of the governor’s action there will be no public worship services or Sunday school at FPC tomorrow, March 15. If possible we will stream some portion of the worship service. Further details about church activities and hours of operation will follow as soon as possible. If you need pastoral assistance don’t hesitate to contact one of the pastors at home.
3/13/20 LETTER TO THE CONGREGATION FROM DR. GARRETT
The Coronavirus – Covid-19, and how to respond to it, is very much on our minds. Our congregation needs to choose a path that avoids the extremes of denial and panic, follows the best expert guidance, and is particularly sensitive to our most vulnerable members. The situation is evolving on a daily basis, but at this moment we will take the following steps to do all we can to protect the health of our church family:
1. Handshaking, hugging, and other forms of close public greeting are discouraged. Please don’t take it personally, but your pastors will not shake your hand at worship. Consider a friendly wave or warm verbal greeting instead.
2. Fellowship time in Eller Hall will be adjusted. Limited food selections will be available this Sunday but will be served to you at your request by persons wearing food service gloves.
Please do not attempt to serve yourself, except for beverages. It is especially important we tell our children about this change.
3. Communion at future services will be served in a different manner. We will discontinue using a common cup for intinction or passing trays in the pews. Instead, folks will come forward to receive communion from a gloved server in an individual manner. We’ll provide more information as we get closer to our next communion service on April 5.
4. Public worship will happen this Sunday on our normal schedule. This too may change as guidance evolves in our community about public gatherings. We know that social distancing is effective in controlling the spread of the virus, so consider how close you sit to others in the sanctuary and chapel. You also have the option of viewing the live stream of the 11am worship service on Facebook and at firstprez.com.
5. The Session will meet on Tuesday, March 17th and will review the adequacy of all our Coronavirus guidelines and practices. It is likely that some things will change. You will of course be informed of any changes.
We can all follow the CDC guidelines, being particularly vigilant about washing our hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If you are sick, please stay at home. If you cough or sneeze, please cover your mouth and nose preferably with the crook of your elbow or a tissue.
Let’s take care of each other at this time. If you are remaining at home due to illness or concern about the virus, please contact me, or our Director of Pastoral Care, Mitch Watson, so we can keep up with you. This is a particularly good time to check in with each other, especially our brothers and sisters we might not have seen at worship in a while. We’ll get through this as we practice the faith, hope, and love that is at the center of our commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
RESOURCES FOR YOUR BENEFIT
- CDC: Protecting Yourself and Your Family >
Advisement from the CDC on how to prepare and care for your household.
- CDC: COVID-19 Situation Summary >
General information about the COVID-19 outbreak, updated regularly.
- Flattening the Coronavirus Curve — NY Times Article >
A good, quick read, that shows the value of precautions in slowing the spread of the Virus.
- Information is Beautiful Data Pack on COVID-19 >
Easy to understand visualizations about COVID-19.