We hope you are well, safe, and healthy in body, mind, and spirit. We know that these past few months of being Sheltered-in-Place have impacted each person differently and trust that you are able to find the connections and support that you need during this time.
As you know, on March 9th, 2020, for many reasons, but mostly out of an abundance of caution and love, we voted to close our campus and shift our congregational life to being online. Since then we have been able to make the transition to Zoom fairly well: community and study groups, committee and team meetings, and Early Church and 10am Worship.
We have heard from many of you that, while not ideal for everyone, as a community we have adapted well to the “new normal” of Zoom Worship during this pandemic time. We are grateful for your patience with the technology, the mutual encouragement that you have offered one another, and the willingness to adapt to change thrust upon us in such a sudden manner.
With the country and our surrounding counties entering into a variety of phased “opening up” strategies, we felt as if it were time for us to make another decision about our campus and life together. We did not enter into this discernment lightly, taking time to meet, discuss, read, and have ongoing conversations with the community.
On Monday, May 4, 2020, we held a special Session meeting to begin talking about our future life together in light of COVID-19 pandemic. Bruce lead us through this discussion using the following questions as our guide:
What have we learned about ourselves?
- What have we lost?
- What have we gained?
- What are the realities of COVID-19’s impact on the future of our church?
- Where are the possibilities that God may be revealing before us?
Some of what we learned from these conversations and from conversations with many of you:
- We miss singing together and physically greeting one another.
- Our staff has been able to adapt and adjust to primarily working from home.
- We have enjoyed seeing new faces, returning friends, and a growing community;
- and do not want to lose these newly made connections.
- Scientists that we trust are telling us that we are a long way off from safely gathering together in larger groups, especially with singing.
- Many will not come back to larger gatherings until there is a vaccine or ample evidence that group gatherings are safe.
- While we know that Zoom Worship does not work for everyone, overall folks have found Zoom worship meaningful, worshipful, and inviting.
- There is possibility for growth.
Along with all of the news that we individually take in, we also consulted these resources:
- Guidance from San José Presbytery on “Returning to Church”
- Unitarian Universalist most “Guidance for Gathering” from their President
- “The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them” from Comparative Immunologist, Erin Bromage
- FB Thread of church leadership sharing thoughts on “Opening Up”
With this information and a commitment to an ongoing abundance of caution and love, at our Session meeting on Wednesday, May 20th, we approved the following motion:
“Barring definitive scientific developments that would allow groups to gather without social distancing and safety precautions, and being committed to worship experiences where all are welcome, FPCPA will not hold worship services in the church buildings until after the end of 2020.”
As you know the status of COVID-19 changes on the hour, so we will remain flexible. That said, by making this long range decision we will now be freed to explore more ways to engage one another in communal life, leadership will be able to better plan for the future, and will give ourselves an opportunity to grow into who God is calling us to be during and beyond this phase of the pandemic.
What this means specifically for the FPCPA Campus and Congregational Life:
- Sunday Worship will be solely on Zoom through the end of 2020.
- Staff will continue to work primarily from home.
- Our campus will continue to be closed, with exceptions made for hosting Hotel de Zink in July and other renters/tenants as they develop their own reopening plans.
- We will explore COVID-19 cleaning and safety procedures.
- We will begin a process of congregational discernment about our future life together.
- We will develop and launch a robust online effort to share and invite others to experience life with FPCPA.
- We will care for and maintain connection with those in our congregation who do not have access to the internet.
This decision in no way stops us from being First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto. In fact this decision is a bold statement that we are more than our space, we are a community committed to deepening our personal connection, sharing in our creative gifts, feeding our intellectual curiosity, and engaging in movements for peace and justice.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email the Session at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you are in need of pastoral care or other support from the church, please email the Care and Compassion Ministry Team at email@example.com.
Thank you for your patience, agility, commitment, and love.
Peace be with you all,