What Will Getting Back to "Normal" Look Like for Cherokee Presbytery?
Thinking About "Normal"
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.]
[I Corinthians 12: 27 NRSV
Dear Saints and Friends of Cherokee Presbytery,

I give thanks for each and every congregation, member and person connected to the community of faith that is Cherokee Presbytery! You are carrying on your ministry to share the power or God''s love and grace even when so much has changed.

This week I received word that two ministries of Cherokee Presbytery congregations have received approval for emergency funding from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). The 2 grants are for the Brazilian Christian Church to assist in providing emergency relief and the Macland Presbyterian Church for a partnership program to provide meals to students and families at two Cobb County Schools!

This is good news! And it is a reminder of the ways we are connected. PDA is funded largely through the PCUSA''s One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) Offering that is received in many churches on Easter Sunday. Churches may still make application for grants of up to $7,500 for emergency mission project funding until the end of April. If you wish to do this, please contact me. Additional information is here. You may also contribute to the OGHS of sharing at this link.

Churches continue to offer worship and group activity through a variety of media platforms. Puling this off is challenging, but the result is inspiring and deeply appreciated.

This weekend will mark the fifth or sixth Sunday since churches began not holding in-person services. Like so many of you, my mind has turned to wonder what is next. The question is not only - when will we be able to have services, classes and mission projects in our church buildings. The question is also - how have we been changed because of this pandemic? Some changes may be for a time. But other changes to our practices may endure.

Church attendance is a highly sensory experience. We greet each other with a handshake or even an embrace. We pass an offering plate. We share bread and drink from a cup - in various ways - when we take communion. We lay on hands when there is an ordination. We sing praises. All of these ways are baked into our spiritual practice of church involvement. But all of these are also ways to transmit the germs of a virus.

So what would it look like for us to be back together? Pastors, Sessions and leaders need to consider what are appropriate health safeguards to take for the duration of this pandemic. Furthermore, we all need to plan for what can be done for the future of our common life.

Maybe elbow bumps or foot taps will replace the handshake. Maybe we will provide self contained communion elements in kits of some kind. Maybe we will place offering baskets at the entrance and exits of our buildings and make a real push to encourage electronic or mail in giving. Maybe we will place hand sanitizers in rest rooms and at entrances.These are only the beginnings of thinking about what is next. Some of these things are already being done. But we are all called to think more completely and plan more comprehensibly about what will happen next.

Questions crop up at every turn: Will churches continue to share worship, classes or meetings on electronic platforms? Will face masks be required for a gathering or mission project? Will they be made available as a box of tissues might be? Will electronic giving become a standard practice? How will we do deep cleaning? Will we continue mission trips to other parts of our state, nation and world?

Consultants for churches (and all other kinds of organizations) speak of two kinds of challenge: the challenges requiring a technical solution and those requiring an adaptive response. The old saying goes that there are two solutions to hunger issues: Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; Teach a person to fish and feed them for a lifetime.

In one way, the challenges of our time facing the COVID-19 pandemic are overwhelming. They present risks to what has been. They require some technical solutions. Yet at the same time they represent opportunities to refine and rethink what has been done. This could be a moment when not only do we provide fish to eat - as vital as that it. Maybe this could also be a moment when we teach others how to fish. As is often the case, when one is called upon to teach, the teacher learns the most. No doubt we all have much to learn in this time.

Many of the answers to local circumstances will be determined within your congregation and community. At the same time, as people connected through practice, tradition and hope in Christ through Cherokee Presbytery, we can learn from each other.

The Coordinating Team of Cherokee Presbytery will meet on Tuesday, April 21 via a conference call. It will be a time to consider and collect your wisdom and experience. If you have ideas to share, please contact me by phone or email at the address and number below. I look forward to hearing about your experiences and continuing to share our journey of faith together
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In these unrelenting and unforgiving times:
  • May the Peace that passes understanding enfold you
  • May the Grace we need surround you,
  • May the Hope we find sustain you,
  • May the Thanks we have transform you,
 
In Christ may we find:
  • the harmony of God’s creation, 
  • redemption for all people, and 
  • the ability to live together through the power of love.
 
Joel
 
Joel L. Alvis, Jr., Ph.D.
Mission Coordinator and Stated Clerk
Cherokee Presbytery
P.O. Box 1839
Cartersville, GA 30120
678-591-8743
Cherokee Presbytery