Pastoral Letter for a Distributed Church
Pastoral Letter for a Distributed Church March 18, 2020
Dear friends, I hope this finds you well. With the rising concern over the coronavirus pandemic, we thought it would be important to reach out to you with another communication from your church, both with information and encouragement. My intent is to write a pastoral letter on a weekly basis (we’ll see how that goes). This will be in addition to the short thought about the upcoming sermon that goes out with the weekly email. It’s been a busy few days for the church leaders and we’ve made some decisions that you need to know about.
1. We have decided to immediately move to Phase 4 of our PHPC Plan for the Coronavirus Pandemic which said, "Worship services go exclusively online. Cancel all in-person activities (Youth Group, Community Groups, Bible Studies, etc.). Necessary meetings (e.g. Session) would be done online."
Any group that would like to keep meeting online should be able to. The Church has opened a church video conferencing account with Zoom (video conferencing software) and are testing it out this week. This would be used for Session, Diaconate, Youth Group, and any other small groups that are able to meet this way. There are a variety of other software options out there (e.g. GoToMeeting) and we would encourage you to meet together online as much as you can. Zoom has free accounts for individuals and we would encourage you to set one up. Most smartphones and laptops are already equipped to do this, you just have to download the app. If you need help, we have a Zoom cheat sheet available for you. Also, both Andrea Pogany and David Silvernail III are willing and able to help you get set up.
2. As far as Sunday Worship goes, we will be operating in a very similar manner to how we did last Sunday. However, we will meet in individual homes rather than in Community Groups. For the near future we will be pre-recording the sermons and posting the links to them, along with a detailed bulletin, and the music (both lyrics and streaming) on our website. It will all be packaged together under the sermon listing for that Sunday. Last week we had 123 views of the sermon on YouTube (which doesn’t account for all the folks that met with their community group), so I think we’re off to a good start.
3. We are asking all of our ministry leaders to think through how to provide resources online on a regular basis. For example, children's church will be attempting to pull together coloring sheets, etc. that fit with the sermon and make them available on Realm. We may be able to help people out with church-based resources. For example, today I posted on our Facebook Page a link to Ligonier Ministries (R.C. Sproul) which is now offering free streaming of all their vast library of teaching and video resources. Let’s help each other out during this time.
4. We are in the process of updating our own recording equipment to successfully video sermons, etc. We’re getting the essential equipment that would allow one person (me or anyone else) to record and post better videos, but that can be done simply, without having to depend on anyone's personal equipment.
We will also be looking into podcasting/streaming software and equipment that will let us post video and/or live stream to multiple platforms (YouTube, Facebook, our own website, etc.) at the same time. This will not only help us with video sermons but move us towards having the capability to live-stream future worship services. There are some costs attached, but remember we’re saving money on a weekly basis by not having to rent the school.
5. We have upgraded our CCLI music license (allows use of worship songs) to cover streaming copyrighted songs (which most of ours are). Our old license only allows for live congregational signing in one location. This will make sure we’re legally covered for all the music we post online for worship.
6. Since we won’t be able to meet together face-to-face, we actually want to communicate more often. We're preparing a contact plan that will help the Elders and deacons to stay in touch with each member of the congregation, especially our seniors and those with health concerns. However, we want to encourage you to do the same thing. Without the ability to touch and hug one another, people long to see your face. Emails and texts are helpful, but not very personal. Phone calls are better, but there’s a significant emotional boost when you can actually see the other person. We’re blessed to live in a time when that’s possible.
So we’re encouraging you to make the best use of technology. Facetime (Apple/iPhone/iPad), Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Google Hangouts all work very well for one-on-one and family meetings. These are great ways to keep in touch with each other.
Last night Tom Gardner, Ron Clifton and I conducted a membership interview with Timo & Kaitlin Sazo via Google Hangouts. It was our first test of meeting online and it went very well. We’re so excited to welcome Timo & Kaitlin to the Potomac Hills family.
Finally, one of my prayers for this week looks forward to when we can all get back together again. I think our first week back worshiping together will be a day of great joy, finally being able to do those things we can’t do now, things which we may have taken for granted before. Singing together, praying together, hearing God’s Word together, and Celebrating the Lord’s Supper together will all take on new meaning for us as a church. Let’s commit now to making that a special Sunday. I can’t wait. Talk to you soon.
Dr. David V. Silvernail, Jr., Senior Pastor
Potomac Hills Presbyterian Church