PSF Guidelines

May 26, 2020

To our Presbytery of San Francisco Congregations:

New guidelines and roadmaps for opening our houses of worship abound and changes each day. On Monday, May 25th, the California Department of Health announced its own guidance for reopening places of worship. It is filled with mandates and guidelines for the reopening of houses of worship when it becomes appropriate to do so. (See Resources below).

For now, we continue to encourage you to hold virtual worship, meetings and gatherings. Please continue to check with your own local health departments for their guidance. For instance, just today, the San Francisco Emergency Management put out a statement that states, “Yesterday, the California Department of Public Health announced a new statewide guidance to allow reopening of places of worship and in-store retail shopping, with safety modifications required to limit the spread of COVID-19. San Francisco’s current Stay-Home Health Order remains in effect. It does not allow houses of worship to host religious gatherings or in-store retail at this time. The City continues to develop the most responsible plan moving forward while guided by data and health indicators.”

Below is a statement shared by our PCUSA Office of the Stated Clerk on Saturday to CBS news:

“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is committed to the health and safety of all people as we face this worldwide pandemic. Over the last few months, we have seen COVID-19 cripple the economy, cause suffering and death in our families, and force churches to find new ways to be the church.

The church is, and has always been, more than a building. Congregations are using new and creative ways to share the gospel and minister to those in need. We are not for rushing people back into the pews when this virus is still claiming victims. When people can go to church without fear of infection, we will be ready.”

Our PCUSA book of order states that sessions “have the responsibility for governing the congregation and guiding its witness to the sovereign activity of God in the world, so that the congregation is and becomes a community of faith, hope, love and witness”(G-3-0201) and that it is the session that has the responsibility for “providing a place where the congregation may regularly gather for worship, education, and spiritual nurture. . . “(G-3.0201a)

We know that this is an awesome and daunting responsibility of your session especially during these uncertain and unprecedented time. We will continue to give you as much information as they become available. We will continue to seek the welfare of our congregations, its leaders and members but we also seek the welfare of our larger community in the Bay Area. Peter Marty, senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa, and publisher of the Christian Century magazine stated in an NPR article:

“I would argue that the Christian community ought to be about thinking wisely and thoughtfully about holding worship services. . . Not, what are we constitutionally allowed to do, but what is best? What is wisest? Christian witness is all about generous behavior towards the other, and especially the vulnerable other.”

Let us continue to keep each other and our communities safe during this time. New information have become available over the long weekend holiday that may be helpful for you as you continue to discuss how to open your churches safely when that day comes some time in the future. We have included the links below. We will also add them to our website.

Thank you all and we continue to keep all of you in our daily prayers,

Your transitional presbytery staff – InHo, Jennifer, Leonard, Rochelle

Guidance for Places of Worship – California Department of Public Health – 5/26/2020

Guidance for Places of Worship – California Department of Public Health – 5/26/2020

CDC – Interim Guidance for Administrators and Leaders of Community- and Faith-Based Organizations to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Church Music and Covid 19 – A message from the Presbyterian Association of Music

High COVID-19 Attack Rate Among Attendees at Events at a Church — Arkansas, March 2020
(report showing how quickly a virus can spread among church attenders)

Peter Marty, senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa, and publisher of the Christian Century magazine statement in an NPR article

Our Priorities

Regional Partnerships

Read More

Supporting Congregations

Read More

Nurture Ministers

Read More

New Worshipping Communities

Read More