I was on a video conference call yesterday with other pastors from Middle Tennessee Presbytery and one of them said, “I’ve never been a pastor in a pandemic.” That simple truth hit home for all of us. With other kinds of first-time crises most of us can find a colleague who has been there and done that. I’d been a pastor for about a year when a husband and wife were killed in a motorcycle accident and the woman’s sister had died in the same way a few years earlier. I was fortunate – blessed – to have a wise and experienced mentor help me through it, logistically, spiritually, pastorally. But I don’t know anyone who’s been a pastor in a pandemic.
In our history room I was looking recently at the pictures Rev. John Todd Edgar, who was pastor during the Nashville’s cholera epidemic in 1849 (the one that claimed the life of James K. Polk) and Rev. James I. Vance who held things together during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. How I wish I could talk to them and receive their counsel. But today, I don’t know anyone who’s been a pastor in a pandemic. Except for all those women and men who are sharing what they are experiencing and doing right now. And it is rather amazing and, dare I say, wonderful, to see how we are helping each other with technological resources and advice, tips for online worship, and sources for devotions and prayers. I feel more confident in the decisions that the session and I are making are the right ones because I can tap into the real-time collective experience of my Presbyterian colleagues and even those in other denominations (I’ll be in another, inter-denominational, online forum tomorrow). Perhaps most importantly, I don’t feel alone even though in-person contact is limited.
And since the session made the difficult decision to cancel in-person worship and other events and meetings through April, we don’t want you to feel alone either. So here’s what we’re doing:
- Sunday morning livestream – we’ll stream an approximately 30 minute service, including music, at 11:00 a.m. to DPC’s Facebook page:
You do not need a Facebook account to view the livestream.
An outline of the service will be available on our website’s bulletin page by Saturday:
- Virtual small groups – each elder will be given a group of DPC members and friends with instructions on how to use the Zoom Video Conferencing service to hold real-time small group gatherings. Zoom is easy to use from computers, pads and mobile phones, even if all you have is audio capabilities. Your group leader will message you with the specifics for scheduling and connecting. And if you’re not on session but would like to be a group leader, please let me know.
- Email, website and Facebook – I’ll be sending out emails in addition to the weekly E-votion and posting to our website and our Facebook pages. In addition to the “open” page above we also have a Facebook group that does require a membership: https://www.facebook.com/groups/76256855303/
I’ll always post everything to both pages. But only the “open” page above will have the Sunday streaming. And you all should feel free to share your thoughts on our community pages.
- Individual calls, cards and emails – we all can make a phone call or send a message to anyone in our community. So if you are a DPC member or friend and would like a copy of our directory, let me know and I’ll forward one to you. The directory had the most up-to-date contact information for everyone.
Now, some other important information:
- As I noted above, we have suspended in-person worship through April
- The session will be meeting at least weekly by Zoom and adjusting our plans as circumstances change
- The office is effectively closed while worship is in recess. Dena will be going in for a short while to gather mail, receive deliveries and do some tasks that have to be done on site but otherwise working from home. Paulino will be coming in to make sure the building systems are working properly and a few other regular tasks, but will not be on site for whole days. Suzie and Michael Korak will only be coming in if absolutely necessary. William will be participating in the Sunday morning livestream and other worship planning and execution.
- Like my presbytery colleagues in ministry, I will be keeping visits and contacts – including hospital visits – to only those that are absolutely essential. But I will be available by phone, text and email. And whenever possible, I’ll be in on the virtual small groups. I also hope you’ll tune in on Sunday mornings for worship.
- We will continue to provide a bagged, to-go, meal on Saturday mornings. The plan now is for The Cookery to prepare the meals off-site and a very minimal team of DPC volunteers will distribute the bags completely outside the building.
As I write this message today, last Sunday seems so far away. I think we all felt that something was shifting, that we would not be gathering in the same way for a while. Even last Sunday’s session meeting, with all of us a few feet apart in Fellowship Hall, was…different. But I can’t tell how proud I am – how proud you should be – of how your ruling elders have acquitted themselves in this difficult time. They have all risen to the challenge with those qualities we affirm at ordinations, “energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.”
And as we seek to find our way through we covet your prayers and your support. None of us has led a church through in a pandemic. But I am certain that God will give us the gifts we need to get us through. Because God’s promise through Jeremiah is our promise too: “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” (Jer. 29:11).
Grace and peace,