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Updates from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Plans for Summer 2020

The following message from the Fourth Church Session was emailed to the congregation on May 23, 2020

At their May 22 meeting Session received recommendations from a group of staff and congregational leaders who had come together to consider how Fourth Church and Chicago Lights might most faithfully move through reopening strategies.

This group of leaders, representing diverse points of view and programmatic responsibilities, took as their initial area of focus the summer months. Deciding what our life together will look like in June through August allows us to launch our plans for summer activities and, having committed to what they will look like, engage in them with full creativity and energy.

In all our planning—to date and as we move forward—we continue to be guided by the recommendations of the CDC and other health agencies as well as our local officials, specifically the outlines for phased reopening in Illinois and in Chicago. From all this we know that masks and social distancing and sanitizing will be a way of life for a while, and it will be some time before more than 10 people will be able to gather in person.

Our planning has also been grounded in a series of criteria against which to assess our programs: Can they only be done on site or can we effectively offer the opportunity online? If we offer a program online, whom are we leaving out? If we were to offer it on site, could we do so safely—i.e., ensure safe social-distancing behavior, take into account safe travel to participate, effectively sanitize spaces between uses, etc.?

Additional guiding principles are our commitment to being consistent across the organization—so that decisions made in one program area parallel those made in others—and to our discipleship call to love our neighbor.

In the Reformed tradition it is the Session that is charged with making decisions about our worship life and our life in community. As the Presbyterian Book of Order explains, the duties of Session are to

    • provide that the Word of God may be truly preached and heard
    • provide that the Sacraments may be rightly administered and received
    • nurture the covenant community of disciples of Christ

Thus, acting on that responsibility and affirming that our decisions are expressions of how we love God and neighbor in our choices and actions and how we protect the most vulnerable among us—

Session has approved the following for summer 2020 (June–August).

Worship: There will be no in-person worship this summer. We will continue to livestream the services at 11:00 a.m. on Sundays, and as soon as the stay-at-home order is lifted, we will livestream them from the Sanctuary instead of from home, with safety protocols in place.

Friday Noonday Concerts: Similar to worship, there will be no in-person concerts this summer, but we will continue to livestream them, moving them to the Sanctuary when the stay-at-home order is lifted.

Weddings and funerals: When the stay-at-home order is lifted, we will be able to host on-site weddings and funerals for 10 or fewer people, with all the necessary safety protocols in place around face masks and social distancing.

Programming: There will be no on-site programming at Fourth Church this summer. This includes Summer Day, Dance Academy, Center for Life and Learning, Sunday School, VBS, and Urban Youth Mission, among others. These programs will instead be offered online.

Outside groups: The Fourth Church campus will be closed throughout the summer, and thus outside groups that typically use our facilities during those months will not be meeting at the church. This includes AA, Lookingglass Theatre, Chicago Humanities Festival, Music Institute of Chicago, and others.

Meals Ministry and the Social Service Center: We will continue to meet the emergency needs of our neighbors through the work of Meals Ministry and the Social Service Center: they will provide meals as well as clothing, hygiene, and food items through the outdoor presence that they have been offering since March.

Staffing: Staff is in the process of assessing who can continue to work remotely for the time being and whose work requires being on site. They are also looking at which staff functions might need to be reconfigured or reimagined to support the online presence this summer. Work has begun on preparing to create partitions between workstations to facilitate safe social distancing, and conversations will continue about how to best support those working remotely while creating a safe on-site work environment.

With plans now in place for the summer, attention will turn to developing scenarios for the fall, with a goal of having plans in place by mid-July—knowing that through all of this things can and undoubtedly will change, as health officials learn more and we adapt to evolving circumstances.

But as we have come to know in the last two months, we are a vibrant congregation well able to adapt and adjust to the unknowns of our time while remaining unchanged in our commitment to be a faithful community, caring for one another and the world, gathering for worship, lifting up one another in prayer and fellowship, and living out our call to love and serve as “a light in the city.”

After all, just because the building is closed does not meant the church is closed! Church is still happening. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do to as part of that!