Northminster Responds to COVID19

Categories: Adult Education,Events,Featured,Fellowship,General News,Get Involved

03/27/2020:
One of the constants in this time of extra-ordinary disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 national health crisis is the knowledge of God’s love for us and the comfort we have in that knowledge. A second constant in this unsettling time is the support and care we share for each other within the Northminster community. 

During the past couple of weeks when we have not been able to be physically together we likely have reflected on our NPC community and appreciate it in new ways. And what joy we feel in seeing and hearing each other when technology connects us in worship or when doing the church’s business by Zoom or conference call. 

The Session has taken a number of actions to keep us safe, remain observant of public health guidelines and government mandates, yet still keeping us connected as a congregation and community of believers. Through the entire month of April:

  • Sunday morning worship will continue to be offered only through Facebook Live or other means of technology. Thursday Evening Lenten Services, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services are planned using various technology platforms. Details of each service will be announced with connection instructions provided. There will be no in-person worship during April. Our worship team of pastors and musicians is working hard with Luciana to insure that these services will, within the safety and technology constraints of the current situation, be uplifting and spirit-filled. Please join us for these virtual services.
  • All Northminster live/in-person events are cancelled or postponed through the end of April. Committees will meet virtually as needed. The church building remains closed, with only minor exceptions. Appropriate precautions are required for those few instances when the building will be used during April, including disinfecting the spaces used after each event. Mark monitors the facilities daily to ensure all systems remain functioning.
  • The Capital Campaign is taking a pause until at least the end of May. It will resume at an appropriate time later. The Session understands the immediate needs right now are for us to care and support each other and those in our communities.  
  • Acknowledging that many are now placed in difficult circumstances as a result of the economic impact of the current crisis, the Session reminds us of the importance of continuing our financial support for Northminster to the degree that is now practicable. An option will soon appear on the Church’s webpage for making pledges and other monetary contributions online, including support for Northminster’s response to the current crisis. And of course the US mail is another reliable way to send your financial gifts to Northminster. The Mission and Social Justice Committee will be presenting a strategy for Northminster’s response to the crisis to the Session very soon.
  • The pastoral staff is available to you. Michael, Jessica, and Ann are a phone call or email away. Meredith and Autum remain actively engaged with our children and youth, again using the wonders of technology to stay in touch with Northminster’s youngest.

You likely have questions about the coming weeks at Northminster that we have not answered here, but we are happy to try to answer your questions. All of our email addresses are provided below should you wish to contact any of us for more information.

In such times as we now found ourselves, we are reminded of the important role the Northminster community plays in our lives. While we cannot physically be together for a few more weeks, we can already anticipate the great joy of our first in-person worship on a future Sunday morning – which the calendar will not say is Easter Sunday, but it certainly will be an Easter Sunday in our hearts and minds.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Michael Kirby,  Rev. Jessica Gregory, and Greg Boyer

03/13/2020:
Dear Friends, The situation with COVID19 continues to rapidly evolve. The first patient in Evanston has been diagnosed and more are expected soon. Outbreaks in several states have inspired all organizations that gather, including faith communities, to reassess our current plans.

The staff, key leaders, local clergy, and I have been conferring over the last days almost constantly, seeking to discern what is best for our members and wider community in the days ahead. Until last night, our intention had been to go forward with Sunday services with increased protective measures, but that no longer seems prudent.

The Session has approved the following emergency plan:

  1. As of tomorrow afternoon, all in-person worship is suspended until at least March 25th. We will reassess late next week if that date will need to be extended.
  2. Online worship opportunities will be provided on both Sunday, March 15th and Sunday, March 22nd. An additional email in this regard will be distributed tonight.
  3. After today, the Nursery School and My Morning Out will cease holding classes until after Easter, consistent with local schools. The Second Act Players have cancelled their May production and will reschedule it for November.
  4. All events and meetings scheduled for Northminster between Saturday afternoon and March 25th are cancelled or postponed if they cannot be rescheduled as virtual meetings using our Zoom platform, except for the following: our remaining days hosting Family Promise, Al-Anon, the primary election on Tuesday, a planned Census training event, and one on one counseling by Samaracare staff in their office.
  5. All staff are encouraged to work from home save for a very minimal staff presence in the office each day. Pastors will be reachable best by cell phone and text message. (Me: 773-484-5490; Jessica: 773-802-2036). Regular Sabbath days (Monday for me, Friday for Jessica) will still be observed.

We are therefore cancelling: ALL Meetings (including the Deacons and Session meetings this week), Boy Scouts, OMJB, 2nd Act Players, and all church activities but for soloist rehearsals with Christopher/Paul for Sunday online services. The commissioning of our Capital Campaign teams will be rescheduled. The Capital Campaign Team Workshop planned for March 22nd will likely be converted into a Zoom meeting and those leaders should look for emails early next week with instructions.

The entire worship staff realizes there is something deeply powerful about gathering in person to worship God, and we will miss that these next couple of weeks, and perhaps beyond, but we will still have the opportunity to worship together – online. We will endeavor to create meaningful worship opportunities for us all.

You should also know that the community is coming together to respond. Evanston clergy are preparing an interfaith prayer service on Saturday which will be posted on all social media platforms. Jessica and Luciana are on the planning team for that service and we will all be participating. Links will be sent when they are available.

Further, three local clergy task forces have been created to assist faith communities to: (1) provide necessary care and resources for their members; (2) care for the vulnerable populations around us, and (3) provide a clear voice of calm, compassion, and comfort. Jessica and I are here to help if you find yourself in difficulty. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need to avoid crowds but need groceries or other assistance. A team of Deacons who can assist us with that task is being recruited. Please watch these emails for chances to assist our neighbors during this crisis.

I will be in communication with all of our ministry partners over the next week to assess where they are in making changes to plans for Spring and Summer.  I know this is a lot to take in and it’s unsettling. But this is a time for the church to be the church.  What is God asking us to do?

To keep loving our neighbors, to be good stewards, to look out for the vulnerable, to provide for ministry and mission even in difficult times, and to pray for all impacted by this virus. We belong to one another and to God and we will not live in fear. We will get through this, day by day—as Jesus taught us—relying on today’s mercies for today’s challenges (Matthew 6:34). Inviting you to look for a worship-centered email late today, I close with the final words of a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the young and vibrant church in Corinth some 2,000 years ago. They were facing different but similar challenges, still seeking to answer with their lives the question, what does it mean to be the people of God in such a time as this? 

Paul expressed his wish and mine… 

“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love and God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:13)

With gratitude and hope in Christ,
Michael

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