These recommendations are made by Grace Presbytery in accordance with the standing rules which delegate the authority of Grace Presbytery to the Presbytery Council: “In the event of a natural disaster, a state of emergency, or other situation which would delay, postpone or cancel a meeting of the presbytery, the Presbytery Council is delegated the authority to act on behalf of Grace Presbytery.
Grace Presbytery sessions are engaging in conversation about the safety, wisdom, and timing of returning to in-person worship. The Book of Order reminds us that congregations are “the fellowship of women, men, and children united in covenant relationship with one another and with God through Jesus Christ.” (G-1.0102)
As covenant communities, congregations are called to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which (we) have been called, with all patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4.1-3)
The church is being called to exercise patience as we continue to bear with one another in love. Bearing with one another in love requires us to make decisions for the health and safety of the whole congregation and community – especially those at risk due to underlying health conditions and age. Bearing with one another in love and maintaining our unity should not lead to divisions within a congregation. While we long to gather again in person for worship, the reality is that worship as we knew it prior to the pandemic is not possible at this time. When it may be time to return to in-person worship, worship itself will look and feel very different until we are no longer living through the pandemic.
Given Governor Abbott’s Executive Order of April 27, 2020, Grace Presbytery¹ offers the following guidance for sessions and pastoral leaders:
- We STRONGLY ENCOURAGE worship to continue remotely.
- We encourage sessions and staff to carefully read the Minimum Health Standard Protocols required in the Governor’s Executive Order (pages 39-41) and plan how to implement and enforce these protocols prior to any gatherings for public worship.
- We encourage sessions to consult their liability insurance providers for any guidance that may be helpful as they make decisions about church opening and resumption of worship and other ministry activities.
- We encourage Ministers of Word and Sacrament, Commissioned Pastors, and Certified Christian Educators to be in contact with the Committee on Ministry with concerns about their own risk factors and safety in their ministry settings.
- We encourage sessions and pastoral leaders to gather and study additional resources which may be helpful in conversations when the time is safer for in-person worship. A list of resources is included below.
As we continue to live through the COVID-19 pandemic, Grace Presbytery gives thanks to God for our congregations, worshipping communities, sessions, Certified Christian Educators, and pastoral leaders as we seek to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ during these extraordinary times. Additional guidance will be shared following significant developments and new Executive Orders from the Texas Governor. The next expected update will be around May 18, 2020.
Wisconsin Council of Churches: Returning to Church (04.23.2020)
Washington Post: Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith (pg. 7-9)
Grace Presbytery: Guidance on Issues related to In-Person Worship (04.28.2020)
Presbyterian Church (USA): Returning to Public Worship; Theological and Practical Considerations (05.04.2020)
¹ In accordance with the standing rules which delegate the authority of Grace Presbytery to the Presbytery Council: “In the event of a natural disaster, a state of emergency, or other situation which would delay, postpone or cancel a meeting of the presbytery, the Presbytery Council is delegated the authority to act on behalf of Grace Presbytery.”