A Letter From Bluff’s Session

Old Bluff At the Easter Sunrise Service in 2017, a Thin and Holy Place to Worship God.

Dear Bluff Congregation,

The session met last night and put together a plan for the upcoming weeks and months as we plan to regather again in person.  Be aware that this plan is subject to change. We don’t know what the coming weeks have in store for us, and we strive to love our neighbors by keeping them safe as best we can.  

Beginning May 31, Pentecost Sunday, we will gather at the Old Bluff for at least two weeks and then the session will regroup and decide what’s next.  We will meet at 9:00 am outside for worship, with the service led on the front porch of the church. This will be more similar to the Easter Sunrise service than our regular services, and will be a wonderful opportunity to meet face to face while practicing safe social distancing.  Here are a few things to be aware of:

  • You are welcome to sit in your car with the windows down. As you arrive at the church, an usher will guide you to the best place to park if that’s your desire.
  • Please bring your own lawn chair or picnic blanket, or you are welcome to stand, and make sure each family unit is at least 6 feet away from each other.
  • We encourage you to wear a mask and hope to be able to provide some if needed
  • We will also record and post the service at 11:00 am on Facebook and Youtube and our website.  This time in phase two is called “safer at home,” so if you are at risk or interact frequently with at risk people please plan to stay home and worship that way.
  • Someone in addition to our ushers will take attendance with our “Breeze” app, so as you arrive make sure you are seen and checked in.  
  • We will not have bulletins and the service will be shorter than usual, but we will send out the order of worship ahead of time.  If we have any responsive prayers they will be repetitive and easy to say.  
  • Wear RED on May 31! This has nothing to do with the safety protocol, just a tradition to wear read on Pentecost and a great symbol of our church gathering together again for the birthday of the church!  Families, I have enclosed a flame for your kids to color and bring with them, or if you don’t make it that day, take a picture of them with it for us to have!  If anybody else would like to color one, you can pick one up at the church office or find it here

We will wait until two weeks at the Old Bluff to make our next plan.  We may remain there for several weeks, or be ready to move into the Bluff sanctuary at that time.  We have several things that need to be prepared before we can make that move and keep people safe.  Walker Rea put together a plan for keeping our church safe, and the session approved it last night.  While we can’t give you a date that we’ll be back in the sanctuary, we want to share with you what it will look like once we are there.

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Bluff Presbyterian Church’s Plan to Re-Gather

One thing I know from hearing from different members of the Session and congregation is this: Half will think these recommendations are being overly cautious and restrictive and half will think we aren’t being cautious enough.  

Two things the experts tell us about catching the Coronavirus is that the virus can be transferred by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, or by breathing in molecules of the virus that are expelled in the air.

The second is the most common method which is why social distancing is so important and why masks can prevent the transmission or the receiving of the virus.   We can address the first by hand sanitizer and keeping surfaces clean and sanitized.

We face risks in life everyday and shouldn’t stop living because of risks, but we generally we don’t court danger.  Hopefully these ideas and plans will help minimize our risks and not be overly restrictive.

When we regather in the Bluff Sanctuary:

Since the recommendations are still “safer at home,”  we encourage anybody who is at risk to remain at home and worship there.  We will continue to livestream services on Facebook and Youtube for those members who have concerns about meeting in person.

We will put hand sanitizer at the front and rear entrance to the sanctuary and encourage all members to use coming and going from the sanctuary.  We will recommend masks and gloves and provide some for members who have none.

We will use every other row to improve social distancing and ask that members sit with family groups or not closer than 6 feet to the next member. If a crowd too large to accommodate this arrives then we may utilize seating upstairs and upfront.  

We will have the service streaming on the tv in the fellowship hall for any overflow, especially for families with kids or folks at risk who want to come to church but don’t want to be around crowds.  If you are going to the fellowship hall, please let an usher know first.

We will continue to Pass the Peace to our neighbors seated nearby, but we will do so standing in place and verbally without contact.

We will leave the swinging doors open during worship service.  Also one of the front doors from 10:45-11:00.    

Someone in addition to our ushers will take attendance with our “Breeze” app, so as you arrive make sure you are seen and checked in.  

We recommend that ushers pass out bulletins wearing gloves and masks. By doing this and not just setting out to take, we can insure that people aren’t leaving germs behind as they take bulletins.  This doesn’t need to be ushers specifically but could be someone that is comfortable wearing a mask and gloves. 

We recommend to leave the offering plates in the vestibule and have members drop their offering in when they arrive or leave.

We will have special music but the choir will not meet or lead music during phase 2.

We will not sing congregational hymns but the pianist may play the first verse, have a special singer, or play hymn over audio.

We will not have Sunday School (though we may continue Zoom Sunday School), Nursery, or Childrens Church during phase 2.

Children will stay in place for the Childrens Message, and maybe stand so the Pastor can recognize them.

The cleaning crew will sanitize the sanctuary, bathrooms, and Pastors Study each week.

Phase 3 (this is subject to change based on the recommendations at that time)

Resume most Church activities such as Sunday School, Childrens Church, Nursery, and Choir.  Use social distancing and recommend masks if possible.

Continue to Pass the Peace without contact.

Hand Sanitizer at the front and rear of the Sanctuary, at the entrance to the Fellowship Hall, in the Childrens Church room, and in the Nursery.

Encourage masks. 

Have the cleaning crew sanitize all surfaces weekly.

Things we need to do now!

We need to collect hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and Clorox wipes/lysol.  If you come across any of these while you are out and about, please consider getting some to donate to the church.  We will place orders between now and the time we gather in the sanctuary as well.  If you have the ability to make masks, please consider doing that so we have some to hand out to people as well.  

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Friends, Bluff Presbyterian Church has truly shown that we are a church even as we are apart.  As we move into this “new normal” may we do so with grace and patience.  May we be reminded the great message from Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

As we gather again on Pentecost Sunday, may we be reminded of the first Pentecost, where people came in understanding different languages and were surprised when they understood the same language.  We all approach this time in different ways, but as we gather together, I hope we will understand that we all speak one language, the language of faith, hope and love.  And may we be quick to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us as we make any decision, but slow to respond to others in anger or fear.  

You are all loved, and we are grateful for you,

Blessings, 

Rev. Meg Lindsay Dudley and the Session of Bluff Presbyterian Church,

Glen Godwin, Steve Holmes, Lisa Lloyd, Bonnie McIntyre, Mike Murphy, Karen Perkins, Walker Rea, Mary Walker, RT Walker

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