POJ Recommends No In-person Worship or Events

UPDATE: On March 30, Governor Northam issued Executive Order 55 extending Virginia’s coronavirus quarantine through June 10. The order has a stronger direction to citizens, requiring us to stay at home unless we are going out for food, supplies, work, medical care, or exercise. As with previous orders, all public and private in-person gatherings of more than 10 individuals are prohibited. This includes gathering for religious purposes (whether indoor or outdoor).

On April 7, the Office of the Governor shared specific guidance to help faith communities comply with Executive Order 55. This guidance authorizes alternative religious services, including drive-in or drive-through worship, so long as worship leaders maintain physical distance and number 10 or fewer.  View the document (PDF).

Dear Ministry Partners,

Each passing hour reveals ways in which our society has become (and is being) affected by the coronavirus, COVID-19. The Communications and Coordination Team of Presbytery of the James (POJ) has received several requests for a clear message concerning congregational life across our many ministry settings. The team met by conference call this morning; our strong recommendation is for our ministry locations to cancel all worship events and in-person meetings or programs (including those of non-church groups using the facilities, to the extent possible) until Wednesday, April 1.

POJ is not in a position to mandate what any congregation, ministry location, or individual must do, yet we have a duty to demonstrate leadership to you in this new and uncertain time. As a model to this approach, POJ will suspend in-person meetings through the remainder of March, with its staff working remotely from home. Interim General Presbyter & Stated Clerk Fred Holbrook will help us establish ways by which meetings can continue to occur via teleconference or Zoom (video and audio participation can occur simultaneously), and he will remain available for POJ business during this time. The C&C Team will meet on Monday, March 30 to ascertain future recommendations or actions to be made.

We have never been in this kind of situation before. We all take very seriously our call to care for siblings across this region, nation, and world. Science tells us the potential for this virus to spread grows when gatherings of any size take place. This season invites us to consider new and innovative ways for us to gather, to live in community, to serve and love one another, and to proclaim faith in God, who will never abandon or forsake us.

PC(USA) has compiled information by which congregations, ministry locations, and individuals can help slow the spread. This can be found at www.pcusa.org/covid19. We urge you to continue monitoring the spread in your area and to be safe and hygienic in your habits and activities. If there are ways we can assist or support you, please let us know. Fred’s mobile number is 540-421-4421. He can direct you to the appropriate staff person should you need.

May the God of hope fill us all with a sense of calm, patience, and understanding as we move through these unchartered waters together. Please join us in praying for our leaders and those medical and first-line teams who are working tirelessly to protect us, inform us, and give us direction for this season to be as short as possible.

May the Peace of Christ be with you,

   Your C&C Team

Presbytery of the James