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Phased Reopening - May 28 Update

May 28, 2020

Dear First Presbyterian Church,

We are in the third month of living during the COVID19 pandemic, and we are facing what may be a more challenging phase than what we encountered when we made the decision to close the church building in March. As some restrictions begin to ease, what does this mean for us? How do we phase back in church gatherings and activities while safeguarding ourselves, our community, and, especially, the most vulnerable among us?

We have adhered to isolation and safe practices and the success so far in “flattening the curve” has given us reason to hope. Yet, sadly, the reality is that more than 100,000 Americans, including more than 1,500 Texans, have lost their lives to the disease, and the number of hospitalizations and new cases continues to be a source of great concern. We still have a long way to go before the virus is under control.

We affirm that “Jesus is on the loose in the world, and the Church has left the building,” yet we also acknowledge that our church facilities hold deep meaning for us, beyond comfort and nostalgia. It is a sacred place, a place of worship, nurture, and service. Yet, without the ability to gather these past few months, we have discovered many ways we can live into our mission as faithful disciples, even while most of us shelter in place in our homes. We have worshipped together in new ways, even when we cannot be physically together in the chapel or sanctuary. We have nurtured one another as we live into the truth of the ministry of every member through virtual Sunday School classes, book clubs, and faith-sharing groups, and thoughtful notes and phone calls. We have served our community in staying home and adhering to health guidelines, and sharing resources through food drives and continued financial support to our mission partners. While the church building has been closed, the work of the Church has not been cancelled. Today, more than ever, we are called to model kindness, patience and service to the world around us. Now is a great time to practice our faith in very real ways.

As we plan for the next months and beyond as a church community, we face difficult choices. If we move too quickly to reopen our church building and resume regular gatherings, we may leave behind the more vulnerable members of our community. Returning to normal practices too quickly may cause some of our members to choose between practicing healthy precautions and participating in congregational life. How can we move forward together?

Responding to the most current available scientific, medical and social data, we have outlined proposed phases of re-opening the church building to staff, small groups, and the larger congregation. The phased approach we are proposing is the result of First Presbyterian Church’s pastors, staff, Session members, and COVID19 Task Force members seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer, discernment, and group wisdom. As we thought through the multiple phases of re-opening in this unprecedented time, we recognized that:

  • Each person is a beloved child of God. Therefore, we will prioritize the health and safety of the members of our community over our own desires to re-open quickly or a hasty return to normal operations. The health of all of the members of our community is of more importance to us than in-person attendance at any church activity.
  • Many in our community may be especially at-risk of contracting COVID19 due to age, compromised immune systems or pre-existing conditions, and therefore, we will strive to operate out of an abundance of caution.
  • Our hopes and expectations are being constantly reset and re-opening plans are evolving frequently, requiring diligent patience as we move forward to navigate the situations at hand.
  • The way forward will not be a matter of following a precise timetable, but of faithfully discerning the signs of the times, heeding the guidance of public health officials, Grace Presbytery, and the PC(USA), and responding accordingly. Progress in re-opening may not be linear. Depending on the spread of COVID19, we may have to back up between phases, stay within a phase longer than anticipated, or make changes to these phases.

Our phased plan will be regularly updated and made available on our Church website and a link to the most current version will be made available in our weekly ePress.

View COVID-19 Phased Plan [Updated 5/28/2020]

We are currently in the most restrictive portion of our five-part plan, Phase Zero. We believe that we may soon be transitioning to Phase One of the plan. Even so, the publication of the phased plan does not mean that our careful consideration is over. The guidelines presented to the congregation are based on what is known at present and these guidelines are subject to change at any time by the Session.

In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to discern what our next steps may be. As we proceed with our phased approach to re-opening the church building, we will continue to seek out the direction of our denomination, government, and the CDC. We realize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for all congregations, because every congregation has its own unique set of gifts and challenges. That being said, we will remain in conversation with our nearby PC(USA) congregations and move toward re-opening at a similar pace.

Finally, we will remind you of something that you already know. The Church is not closed (although the building may be). We are continuing to engage in ministry and mission - even as we pivot and adapt to the new challenges before us. We invite you to join us as we continue to grow in our faith, despite this pandemic.


The FPCR Pastors,
Rev. David Schaefers, Rev. Rosy Robson
FPCR Session,
Margaret Rogers (Clerk of Session), John Anderson, Jillian Britton, Katie Haun Black, Don Freeman, Frank Camp, Shirley Latham, Rick Rickman, Kathy Rice, KC Chang,
FPCR COVID19 Task Force,
Julie Houpt, Jeanne Stone, Kate Forisha, Dr. Reese Mathieu III, Dr. Reese Mathieu IV, Dr. Robert Dyo
Last Published: May 29, 2020 2:39 PM


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