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Balancing Prudence & Confidence

This week’s eNewsletter feature was written by
Rev. Raymond Hylton, FPCE Senior Pastor,
and Jim Teague, FPCE Communications Coordinator.

Dear friends,

In case you haven’t heard, the COVID-19 novel coronavirus has had a not immeasurable impact on global affairs, the world economy, and even life in Chicago. As of Wednesday afternoon, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been postponed until a future (as yet to be determined) date. That same day, the World Health Organization officially called the outbreak a pandemic, meaning it is having a worldwide reach as an infectious disease.

Over the past couple of weeks, the pastors and staff at FPCE have worked to find the balance between prudent care and the fearlessness of life in Christ.

A week ago, members of the staff here took part in various discussions about what the appropriate reaction to such a situation should be.  There were a variety of opinions. Some suggested anything less than aggressive pre-planning was not only irresponsible but foolish. Others were inclined toward restraint, hoping time might give us a better perspective and that we would not fall into an alarmist, panic-driven process of decision making.

Who fell into these camps is unimportant. We all brought (and continue to bring) our own perspectives. My (Jim’s) views are colored by the daily conversations I have with a friend whose spouse has a weakened immune system. To them, this is a genuinely terrifying situation. They have cancelled a large number of plans, including virtually anything involving group gatherings. But I am also a parent of a child who is in the midst of finishing his college degree, and, selfishly, I want to see him and his classmates celebrated for their achievements with the regalia of caps, gowns, commencement speakers and all the traditional pomp and circumstance (his school has just moved from classroom learning to online instruction).

In consultation with the FPCE session, we have decided to cancel this week’s Fellowship Hour and move up our All-Church Adult Education Class to 10:20 a.m. It was also decided that we would postpone (but not cancel) the upcoming book sale and barn dance activities. Both will be rescheduled at some point in the future.

None of this is done out of any greater sense of fear or any outside directive. It is simply what is believed, at this time, is the best course of action.

We have decided NOT to cancel this weekend’s all-church retreat, and we will continue to hold regular Sunday worship services as well as our Lenten series of Taizé Worship Services of Contemplative Sung Prayer, which take place on Wednesday evenings.

In the meantime, however, we are taking steps to be sure our life as a congregation and church family will have a healthy continuity no matter what is required in the future.

Here are just a few things we have been working on:

  • Beginning March 22, we will be providing a live video stream of our 9 a.m. services on Sundays. These will be available on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/firstpresevanston/ (we will also work to have them available from our website here at https://firstpresevanston.org for those not connected to Facebook). Facebook will store these videos for future reference, which is an added bonus. What this means is those who cannot or choose not to attend the services in person can view them online as they happen or as recordings afterwards.
  • For those who choose not to attend – and for those who do – we encourage the use of electronic funds transfer or other automatic payment options for making your regular donations to FPCE. Not only is it convenient and helpful for budgeting purposes, but it also means fewer bills and checks for our staff to have to handle.
  • We are working to train our ushers and other lay people involved in communion distribution in new procedures to keep communal contact with the juice and the bread to a minimum. Some of these were implemented at this week’s Taizé service, and more details on this will be available as we approach our next communion Sunday on April 4.
  • Our building maintenance and housekeeping teams have continued to increase their efforts toward keeping any surfaces commonly touched as sanitized as reasonably possible.
  • We have also procured plenty of hand sanitizer and we encourage everyone who visits the building to use it regularly while here. This is one of the most effective ways of avoiding transmission of the virus.
  • Finally, we will continue to monitor the situation in Chicago and elsewhere, and adjust our plans and procedures as necessary.

There are a few things that you can do as well.

  • IF YOU DO BECOME ILL, DO NOT ATTEND CHURCH. Please let us know so we can be praying for you and can make sure your needs are being met.
  • Most importantly, be in prayer for yourself, the church, its pastors, staff and leaders. We don’t want to miss any opportunities to be Christ’s representatives in this midst of this, and we want all the wisdom available to us.
  • Take personal responsibility for your health. Use hand sanitizer frequently, great one another with elbow bumps and words of encouragement rather than hugs and handshakes.
  • Respect one-another’s decisions regarding whether or not to take part in various events, including worship.

Again, we are seeking to be prudent without creating unneeded concern or fear. In John 16:33, Jesus prepares his disciples for the times ahead when they will be scattered and no longer with him:

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

He has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of boldness. We can be witnesses to the spirit he has placed within us in the midst of this and all future struggles.

This Sunday, Dr. Andrew Root, who is also the main speaker at our all-church retreat on Friday and Saturday (register here), will be giving the message. He will also lead an all-church adult education session between the two services.

Whether near or far, we here at FPCE pray for the peace of Christ to sustain you.

Blessings,

Rev. Raymond Hylton, Senior Pastor
Jim Teague, Communications Coordinator