April 23, 2020
Dear Pastors, Clerks of Session, and Members of Savannah Presbytery,
With this week’s announcement by Governor Brian Kemp that churches may resume worship services this Sunday, we have come together to discern what guidance we might provide to the congregations of Savannah Presbytery.
On a Wednesday call with more than a dozen pastors from every district in our presbytery (representing both small and large churches), there was unanimous agreement that their congregations were not ready to take responsibility for the health risks that would come with opening our sanctuaries and meeting as a community. Many of our church members and pastors are either over 60 years of age or have health conditions that leave them compromised, and thus more susceptible to the severe consequences of infection. The federal guidelines informed by the CDC recommend that communities have a 14 day decline in COVID-19 cases. Georgia’s rate is still on the increase. One of our churches has already had to experience the ramifications of notifying congregation members that someone who had been in worship with them before the stay-at-home order had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
We applaud the efforts that our presbytery pastors and church leaders are making to continue to worship and “do church” remotely. We highly recommend that this continue and that church facilities remained closed. During this time of waiting, sessions should continue to explore how the CDC’s suggestions for mitigating health risks (i.e. numerical management, social distancing, increased attention to sanitation, wearing masks in public) would alter their “pre-pandemic” practices for gatherings on the church campus. A good resource for developing new and healthier practices is a blog article by Ken Braddy, the director of Sunday School for Lifeway Christian Resources, titled “24 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return.” (www.kenbraddy.com)
Savannah Presbytery is a covenant community. We value a reformed heritage that looks after the needs and well-being of the “least of these” within the context of the covenant community. While we are not yet able to recommend a date in which we can once again worship as the Body of Christ gathered in one place, we look forward to rejoicing when all who are able can celebrate under one roof in our houses of worship. We will listen to the advice of the CDC and maintain contact with all of our churches as we look forward to safely meeting together in the near future.
May God bless you and your congregations during this unfamiliar and anxious time.
TE Alan Baroody, Transitional General Presbyter
TE Eric Beene, Acting Stated Clerk
RE Doty Dunn, Presbytery Moderator-Elect
TE Jeff Garrison, Council Chair
TE Andy Meeker, Committee on Ministry Chair
TE Deanie Strength, Presbytery Moderator