Dear First Presbyterian Church Family:

Back in March, together with Session, we made what I thought was going to be one of the hardest decisions in my ministry career: to suspend in-person worship. So much of our shared life together as the church is grounded in Sunday morning worship as we gather to praise God together, to learn together, and to share fellowship as a family of faith. Fortunately that decision was made easier because of our radio, television, and internet broadcast ministry, so we could still praise God and learn together remotely, but I knew that missing out on the opportunity for fellowship was going to be hard. Sunday mornings give us a chance to look into one another’s eyes, to pass the Peace of Christ, and to check in and care for one another. I have missed that so much, and I know that many of you are missing that too, which is what made the decision to suspend worship in March so hard.

Little did I know that an even harder decision would be facing us, the decision of when to re-start in person worship. There is not one “right answer” to this question, and each church has to make the decision that is best for them. Your Session met on Monday, 7/20, to discuss worship for the month of August. Prior to our meeting, we read an article from USA Today about outbreaks in churches that reopened. 

We also looked at the data trend lines of new cases in our region:

Finally, we looked at the metrics that track the engagement of our members including the number of people participating in services, giving, and others: Thank you to all of you for continuing to participate in the life of the church and continuing to faithfully give to our church’s ministry and mission!

After prayerfully reviewing all of this data and spending more than an hour in conversation, Session voted to continue to suspend in-person worship in the church building through the month of August. We will meet again on August 20 to discuss the plans for September. We recognize how hard this decision may be for some of you, it was a hard decision for us to make. There is much grief and lament as we miss the opportunity to gather in person. We ask that you pray with and for the Session as we continue to try to navigate this unprecedented time, seeking to balance the health and safety of our congregation and community with the desire to gather as a family of faith.

The good news is that we will create more opportunities to worship together in August! Following the positive feedback on our Worship in the Park services, pending approval from Hastings Parks and Recreation, we have decided to hold worship in the park every Sunday at 9am starting August 2. So if you want to gather with your family of faith, we invite you to come to Alexander Park on Sunday mornings at 9am (weather permitting). Please bring your own chair and a facemask.

Session also reaffirmed small group and committee meetings in the church building with restrictions and voted on Monday to allow weddings and funerals for up to 100 people in the church building with restrictions including facemasks and social distancing.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me or any member of your Session. Thank you for your prayers, and your steadfast commitment to the Church and our call to serve Jesus Christ in this time.

Your Servants In Christ,

Pastor Greg and the Session of First Presbyterian Church of Hastings

Mary Seiler, Brian Johnson, Kay Georgiana, Mary Fisk, Pat Kern, Kris Horton, Bev Rader, Erik Nielsen, Harold Korb, Joe Black, Neil Riley, Scott Shardelow, Cheryl Lockwood