First United's Response to COVID-19 (updated 03/17/20)

03/17/20 Update

Like the rest of the world, we have been adjusting on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis as the government restrictions, CDC recommendations, and PCUSA suggestions come rolling in. We want to be faithful in our response so that the church is modeling good practices and good care.  We have established a Coronavirus Task Force that will be thinking through all the issues of our response. Based on their recommendations, the Session will likely need to make some decisions. In the interest of public safety, the staff met today, participated in another presbytery-wide conference call, and made some temporary decisions to enable a quick response.

  1. Church Building Closed: The church building will be closed at least until the end of March. Staff will be using the offices to help facilitate the ongoing ministry of the church, but we are not hosting any meetings, gatherings, or outside groups during this time. Individuals who need to come to the church to drop-off donations or perform essential church work like signing checks for our bills are welcome. While some of you like to come visit the staff during the week and that often makes our work more fun, we are asking that you refrain from just hanging out in the office to chat for now. Despite the building closure, we will still maintain our heightened cleaning practices of doorknobs door handles, and common surfaces.
  2. Videoconferencing Available for Meetings: Church committees or groups that need or want to still meet can use our church’s Zoom video conference account.  If you would like to setup a videoconference call, just contact Kaitie, Stephanie, Pastor Alex, or Pastor Rob for help.
  3. Helping Children’s Home: The one exception to our closed building will be its use by St. John Bosco Children’s Home. Their children are housed together already and desperately need some active time. Many of the children have behavioral challenges that are significantly helped by this use of our gym.
  4. Needs Among Us Dropoffs: If you have items for Needs Among Us, please come by during regular hours 8:30am-4:30pm and drop them off in Cornell Commons around the big center table.
  5. Need Anything?  If you need any help during this difficult time of social distancing and various containment efforts, please contact the church office or one of the pastors directly. We want to continue to take good care of one another through all of this. Remember that your church family is here for you, provided by the God who loves you, saves you, and never abandons you.
  6. Worship in March is ONLINE: Worship will be held online only, not in person, for at least the month of March. You can also join for the audio by any phone. We had a great first run on March 15 of using the Zoom technology to connect 199 participants from over 5 states plus Germany! You can join by computer/tablet/smartphone to get the video and audio or by phone for just the audio. Let the church office know if you try it on Sunday and have problems. We would be happy to help you get yours setup. Details on how to get connected will be updated on our website at https://www.firstunitedpres.org/worship/online-worship. This is a great way to invite friends (local, national, or international) who may be missing worship opportunities. The direct connect link you can use on Sunday starting at 10:15am is https://zoom.us/j/299269153. To join by phone, you can call (312) 626-6799 and then enter Meeting ID 299 269 153.
  7. Visitation Ministry: Deacon and pastoral visits will be done via phone or video calls for now. Many hospitals and care facilities have started to restrict visitors already.
  8. Staff Support: FUPC will continue to pay our hourly workers even when their services are not needed. This situation is causing enough financial distress and we want to take care of our staff. Of course, other ongoing financial commitments and expenses will also be covered for our church building and operations.
  9. Giving and Offerings: Your offerings to God and financial support of our ministry efforts can still be made by mailing in checks or using our online giving option at https://www.firstunitedpres.org/give. Even without the building open, our ministries and mission are still actively moving forward. We are just using some creative ways to be the church at this time.
  10. Good News: I wanted to end this list with the sharing of Good News. We have been able to help several families in crisis already during this pandemic situation. In addition, we have some church members who were feeling overwhelmed and we were able to be the voices of comfort and prayerful reassurance to them. We have been in constant contact with local leaders, participating in discussions on how we might be a blessing to the community’s needs. This virus does not change our mission. This virus simply means we have to be creative and flexible as we continue to serve our God and live into our mission. We will be in touch with more worship, faith growing, community serving, and fellowship opportunities during this difficult time.

As always, please feel free to contact Pastor Rob at rdyer@firstunitedpres.org or 618-315-2788 if you have questions or concerns. 

 



03/13/20 Update

On Thursday evening, Presbyterian pastors from all over the St. Louis area participated in a video conference call to discuss how we might respond to the community efforts to slow down the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. The church staff and Session held discussions this week as well noting that we are going to have many people feeling isolated and many people hurting financially due to the situation. We are putting together a task force to think through the internal and external response that this situation requires. In the meanwhile, we are making some decisions regarding upcoming activities of the church this weekend.

  1. Group Activities: We are not telling any groups that they cannot meet at the church, but we are suggesting that gatherings for this weekend and next weekend should consider postponing. The Preschool Spaghetti Dinner for March 20 has been postponed. The Helmsmen have already decided to cancel their March 21 gathering.
  2. Worship Summit: The Worship Summit for Saturday morning is postponed.
  3. Additional Cleaning of Church: Our cleaning service was contacted, and they are being especially diligent in cleaning all door handles and common surfaces around the church. They are already doing that with their other corporate clients. We have also added restroom signage to remind people to wash their hands frequently.
  4. Deacon Hospital Visits: Starting this week, hospital visitation will temporarily be done by phone.
  5. Sunday Worship: In-person worship is canceled, we have an alternate way for you to still worship with us online or by phone! See the next point below.
  6. Sunday Worship Alternative: We will be offering a way for people to connect with our 10:30 worship service from home by computer, tablet, smartphone, or even regular phone. The worship service will be streamed live (and recorded for later playback) using a technology called Zoom. Participants will be able to listen and view our worship service as if they were in the pew. You can participate with video and/or audio using your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can also participate with just audio using any phone line. This is our first time attempting this so there may be some hiccups, but we want to make it possible for our church family to worship together. For more information and directions, click here. If you have problems this week, contact the church office during the week and we will help you get connected for next week.

We are continuing to speak with local officials, medical professionals, presbytery, and other sources to seek guidance. In addition, we will be looking for ways to help those in our community who may need some assistance during this situation. We will continue to be the great church of caring and service that we are. We just need to make some adjustments as we navigate this everchanging situation. As always, please feel free to contact Pastor Rob at rdyer@firstunitedpres.org or 618-315-2788 if you have questions or concerns.  The details about our Sunday Worship Alternative online are available here.