Wednesday, MAY 26th
CA Announcement and Re-Opening our Churches
Siblings and Colleagues:
Our State announced last week that on June 15, the color-tiered system of evaluating the health risks from COVID would be dropped altogether. That means we will no longer be in the orange or yellow tier for risk. The upshot for our churches is that there will likely be no mandates in place regulating worship or fellowship, apart from the strong recommendation that unvaccinated people wear masks.
As you make this journey from sheltering in place to the new normal, please remember that your session is responsible for making good decisions on how to reopen. We have been under legal restrictions for nearly 15 months, but now any limits will be put in place by the session of your church.
Please consider all the pastoral implications here:
- Many will be so eager to return that they will assume that there are no more risks, but that is not the case.
- Some will continue to be nervous about the risks of Covid and may not yet be fully ready to return in-person.
- Some may not yet accept Health Department’s guidance that fully vaccinated people do not need masks in many situations.
Please continue to honor the choices of members in ensuring their safety.
For all of us, this has been an emotional and mental health crisis of epic proportions. It has created stress and fear and has sparked strong feelings for protecting ourselves and our loved ones. The effects of the shelter in place orders will take some time to filter through our consciousness and leave us with some peace.
For those of you who are planning or already utilizing health measures such as wiping surfaces with disinfectant or even considering filtered air systems, you will have many more options available to you that were not available even recently. Please read the new health orders when they come out and familiarize yourself with those recommendations, as well as any requirements. (CA COVID-19 Website for information.)
No matter where you are on the “inner work” of coming to terms with the newly-regained ability to hug people, to talk to people in person, and to go outside and shop or dine in safety, let us give thanks. Thank you to our God and creator for blessing us mightily during a time of peril, and for journeying with us through the storm safely. And then let us take a moment to remember those who did not survive, those who did not have access to health care and vaccines that most of us have in this country. And also, remember those who lost jobs and homes and good health. Finally, in gratitude, let us also thank with all our hearts the many people who risked their health to keep us safe: from first responders to health care workers of all kinds, teachers, counselors and factory workers, and even the clerks at our grocery stores.
Hallelujah, the great storm is ending soon; lift up your wings and fly.
– Your Presbytery Leadership Team
Tuesday, APRIL 13th
Instead of Re-opening, perhaps we should see this moment as one of Re-starting
Beloved Sisters and Brothers:
Instead of Re-opening, perhaps we should see this moment as one of Re-starting.
Not just returning to our church life, but reconnecting with our community, those already in our congregation
and those in our neighborhood who have also been living in forced isolation.
Not just resuming our worship but renewing our purpose.
Not just reentering our buildings but reexamining all that we might do with what God has placed in our hands.
Over the years there have been many efforts made in looking at renewing the vitality in our churches. The one that we often called “restarting” involved the rather drastic step of physically moving out of the building for a time, so that the congregation could come back to begin to see with new clarity, and with new intentionality, whatever God had laid it upon their hearts to do. And the time apart from their buildings was meant to be a way to break the familiarity of weekly worship and community life at that one place, so that everyone could get a renewed perspective on why we they were there at all. Only a few congregations choose that radical step.
Several recent and past politicians and business leaders including, reportedly, Winston Churchill, are credited with saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.
As the world, our families, our schools, our businesses, our communities and even our churches are slowly starting to recover from the devastation of COVID, perhaps we should embrace that same spirit of this crisis.
I wonder if we have all, quite unwillingly, taken the first step of a “restart”. If so, then we do not want to waste this transformational opportunity simply because we did not see it for what it really was. We may have already taken the hardest step in leaving for a while.
Tuesday, FEBRUARY 23rd
Letter Addressing Violence Towards our Asian Community
Dear Beloved in Christ,
Attacks against Asians are on the rise in the United States. Just this year in the Bay Area:
- A 64-year-old woman was assaulted and robbed after she went to the ATM to get money to celebrate Lunar New Year
- A 91-year-old man was shoved and hospitalized in Oakland’s Chinatown
- A 52-year-old woman was shot in the head with a flare gun in Chinatown
- In San Francisco, an 84-year-old man was smashed to the ground by a young man and died two days later in the hospital.
Stop Hate AAPI center and website (https://stopaapihate.org/) which was created by three agencies, one of which is the Asian American Studies Department of the San Francisco State University, states on their website that the center tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in California and where possible throughout the United States. From March to December 2020, there were over 2800 self-reported incidents. Almost half were from California and of those, over 700 were from the Bay Area.
Here are some of their stories:
I was waiting to enter a pharmacy to get my prescription when a group of construction workers (not social distancing) made fun of me by mocking me, fake coughing, spitting at me and making slant eyes gestures until I asked them to stop. No one else called these people out. (Oakland, CA)
I was standing in an aisle at a hardware store when suddenly I was struck from behind. Video surveillance verified the incident in which a white male used his bent elbow to strike my upper back. Subsequent verbal attacks occurred with “Shut up, you Monkey!, “Screw you Chinaman,” “Go back to China” and “Stop bringing that Chinese virus over here.” (San Francisco, CA)
On my daily walk in my hometown Sausalito, I was wearing a face mask when a white woman yelled at me, “I hate Chinese people! Why do they come to this country?!” when she passed me. I was stunned by her words which caused me to fear and be more alert of my surroundings.
We were outraged when Hispanic children were separated from their families at the border. We were horrified by the events that lead to the Black Lives Matter movement. And now we are terrified and angry of all the attacks against the Asian community.
We continue to fall short of God intentions for all of us. Our hearts are broken and we feel much grief at what our local communities and this country has become. We stand with all our Asian brothers and sisters during this tumultuous time.
May God continue to hold us in God’s care and guide us as individual, as the church and as the presbytery to be agents of peace and justice in our communities.
With Love and Care,
Your Presbytery Leadership Team
Monday, FEBRUARY 15th
Post-COVID Churching: The Tech Issue
Dear Siblings in Ministry!
We are connecting with you to start looking into what Post-COVID churching looks like. As we are closing in on a full year of the pandemic, it looks like we will soon be entering a phase of indoor worship/work—WOO-HOO! Through this time, we have had to adapt to a new way of churching, while providing support to those under our care—all done with grace and intellect! We’ve been able to utilize technology to share in worship online, take care of session meetings while adhering to polity, and finally building and maintaining relationships through our shared ministry in Christ.
Now as we are starting to move towards re-opening, there’s a new question to consider—do we incorporate the technology we’ve utilized this past year into a hybrid form of church? Many of us have found value in the technology that provides for online /remote work—it’s given us ways to adapt and be nimble during change, the ability to reach out to homebound congregants, and created an avenue to provide ministry to folks who would otherwise not participate in any form of church.
We want to work with you to think about how to keep moving forward with what you’ve learned and how to incorporate it with “churching post-COVID”. Some questions we want you to consider:
- Are you looking to continue a hybrid of in-house and online worship?
- What kind of impact has online technology provided for your church (Some examples might be: more participation on committees, participation in worship service, donation giving)?
- Is you church currently setup to have a hybrid church service with livestreaming—equipment for both audio and visual, hardware and software?
- Does your church have the broadband/internet capacity in place, or will you need to upgrade to ensure smooth streaming?
- Do you have the technical admin support to offer a hybrid of online/in-house worship?
- Do have the funding source to implement the necessary hardware and software for hybrid worship?
These are some of the factors when considering Post-COVID churching, along with associated costs to do a hybrid. The costs are dependent on church needs and wants—addition and/ or upgrade of equipment /software; the costs seem to run between $4k-10k for setup. Monthly costs depend on the church—the size of building, internet cost, software licensing, technical staff, etc. These monthly costs can run between $200-$1000.
We have reached out to a few of our churches who have shared how a hybrid approach to worship post COVID can work. Please read the ATTACHED information.
If you would like to have a conversation about how your church might enter this hybrid phase, please connect with me. We plan to gather more information, possibly connect churches with each other to share experience with livestreaming, and potentially assist in connecting you with the best tech firm to help with your needs.
We want to continue to support your ministry—and we hope this helps!
Friday, FEBRUARY 12th
Letter about COVID precautions and Indoor worship
Dear Siblings and Friends:
On Feb 5th, the Supreme Court issued a decision on California’s ban on indoor worship services, stating that it cannot be upheld. What does this mean for church service in California? This means that indoor service is allowed at 25% capacity, with no singing or chanting (and no eating). Though this ruling was given by the Supreme Court, in California the County Health Departments can still issue more restrictions on indoor worship.
We encourage you to continue to follow:
- the mandates of your County Health Departments
- the guidelines and procedures of CAL OSHA directives around Safety and Cleanliness
- check with your Church Insurance Liability around the Pandemic
Yes, we are slowly seeing the light beyond the tunnel, with the vaccine rollout and the decrease in percentages of COVID cases in the Bay Area, but please continue to be cautious. There are still many who are vulnerable in our midst: our elderly, our sisters & brothers of color to which this pandemic has affected more severely, those with weakened immune systems, those due to income or status do not have access to good or any health care (our immigrant/or undocumented siblings), and finally our frontline workers who need our care as they work hard for all of us. Please continue to be cautious and safe, as we will get through this together.
May Christ’s love and care be the same we share with one another.
Your Presbytery Leadership Team
Alameda County Public Health Department
Contra Costa Health Services
San Francisco Department of Public Health
San Mateo Department of Public Health
The CAL OSHA Guidelines This provides COVID-19 best-practices, with sanitation guidelines for businesses that serve the public (which include churches), and those protocols need to be either performed by the churches or else the churches need to ensure that the guidelines are being followed.
Sample of Safety Policy (Shared with PSF by First Presbyterian Church Burlingame) — Good example for good practices of all kinds, including sanitation.
Tuesday, JANUARY 12th
Letter Addressing the Capitol Insurrection & Invitation for Transformative Work
Dear Siblings and Friends of the Presbytery of San Francisco.
We write to you, having seen the abhorrent actions of Racism unfold at the seat of our government. This is a legacy of White Supremacy led by a number of leaders of our country. This is power through force that continues to yield unabated, allowing for the killing and pillaging of the rights and lives of all others. How is it possible to look at how the DC police reacted to White insurrectionists and say that these protests are like the Black Lives Matter protests done in peace? How can it be that doors were willingly opened to the Capitol building, in order to chase a Black officer of the law with intentions to do harm? Why is it that when white people form a mob and carry zip ties, Molotov cocktails and a lynching rope—its defined as a right or merely just props to make a point? Finally, how is it that it took SIX calls to get the National Guard to come only to provide quiet escort for these folks to “please leave the building”. Though these actions are proclaimed to be based on the principles Freedom— in actuality, it is an assault on the principles of democracy and of LOVE!
We sit here in quiet shock, with pain in our hearts and so much anger–this is centuries of racism that continues to yield its ugly soul and head. We will not take it anymore! We expect those who are complicit to be held accountable! We at the Presbytery of San Francisco made the commitment to address White Supremacy and Dismantling Structural Racism and we invite you to continue the journey with us in 2021. May God continue to bless us as we embark on this transformational process to become the people that God calls us to be.
With Love and Care,
~Your Presbytery Leadership Team
Wednesday, DECEMBER 23th
Letter for Christmas & the New Year to our Presbytery
Dear Siblings of the Presbytery of San Francisco,
Let’s put it out there–it’s been a weird, unpredictable 2020 with many ups, several downs and very strange sideways! The world unfolded in ways that left us with tight fists, tear-stained cheeks, spun minds and heavy hearts. But through this all, we have been drawn closer to be in God and with each other (virtually and/or the longing for relationship).
It is in this place of God that Christ is born–fully human, fully divine! It is the birth of Jesus in our midst that brings the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Joy to the world! Let earth receive her King!
With joyous song in our hearts, we want to close 2020 with the blessing of Jesus’ birth, and to walk into the New Year with intentions to carry His love forth.
Let’s build the love and trust of our Presbytery, from the least of us to all of us! With this intention we will begin 2021 fully committed to the whole of Matthew 25– the interrelated focuses of: Dismantling structural racism, Building congregational vitality & Eradicating systemic poverty.
We are inviting you to continue to engage in this work with us–so, mark your calendars:
- Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training–for the next 18-months, Crossroads will help us deeply self-reflect and discern our way forward in dismantling structural racism within our own presbytery and beyond. Our first engagement will begin on Weds, January 20th from 3-5pm, and will run every other Weds for 6 sessions. More information to come.
- A Book Study “What Lies Between US, fostering first Steps Toward Racial Healing,” by Dr Lucretia Carter Berry–led by Rev Kamal Hassan. We hope that the deep internal work and honest public conversations could inspire what is needed at this time in our process as a Matthew 25 Presbytery. The Book Study will begin on Tuesday, Feb 9th from 4-5: 30 pm, and will run every other Tuesday for 10 sessions. More information to come.
We are truly grateful to journey with you and the Presbytery of San Francisco.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Peaceful & Healthy 2021!!!