Responding to COVID-19
Dear Congregations of the San Gabriel Valley Presbytery, January 2021
Due to a recent Supreme Court case the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has removed the prohibition of indoor worship. However, the current surge of COVID-19 infections makes indoor worship unsafe for our communities.
Therefore, the Executive Commission of the San Gabriel Presbytery strongly advises its congregations to follow the current guidance of the LACDPH regarding worshipping communities. This advice is currently summarized in Section 8t of the December 30 Health Order. We will continue to update this guidance in consultation with the county health department. At this time, we advise our congregations plan to celebrate Easter online or outside.
LA County Department of Public Health Safer at Home Surge Response (Dec. 30, 2020, p. 14)
t) Places of Worship.
Places of Worship should engage in outdoor or remote faith-based services and other related activities for all attendees, especially those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 including older adults and those with co-morbidities, given the increased risk of community transmission of COVID-19 resulting from the unprecedented surge of new daily cases, hospitalizations, and premature deaths, as well at the severely reduced Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed capacity.
When carrying out virtual activities indoors, it is recommended that no more than 10 individuals participate in production and broadcast process; anyone participating in production and broadcast must follow infection control and physical distancing requirements. The number of persons on site (indoors or outdoors) at any time shall be reduced as needed to permit compliance with physical distancing and infection control requirements, as specified in the Social (Physical) Distancing Protocol (Appendix A), including but not limited to Places of Worship staff and attendees at any faith-based services maintaining a minimum of six feet between attendees from different households and that all attendees must wear a face covering or mask over both the nose and mouth at all times while in attendance and when walking near or past non-household members, among others. If drive-in outdoor services are offered, cars are directed to park at least 6 feet apart. The California Department of Public Health advises that “activities such as singing, and chanting negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing” due to an increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets. Consider practicing these activities through alternative methods (such as internet streaming) that ensure individual congregation members perform these activities separately in their own homes or alone in a separate room at the Place of Worship. Please review the State Industry Guidance for Places of Worship and Providers of Religious Services and Cultural Ceremonies here. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends organizations consider temporarily suspending singing, chanting, or shouting, especially when indoors. If attendees choose to sing, chant, or shout, encourage them to continue wearing their masks while doing so and increase the distance between people to greater than 6 feet. The protocols set forth in Appendix A and in this paragraph 8(t) do not obligate and should not be read to, in any way, encourage Places of Worship to resume any in-person activity.
The Executive Commission will continue to follow the updates to LACDPH’s guidance for places of worship and will update our congregations with new information as it becomes available.
For more information from the California Department of Public Health’s guidance visit: https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-places-of-worship.pdf
The Pasadena Department of Public Health has not changed its requirements since November 5, 2020: https://www.cityofpasadena.net/public-health/wp- content/uploads/sites/32/Places-of-Worship-Public-Health-Reopening-Protocol.pdf
If you have questions about this guidance, please contact the Presbytery office at (626) 614-5964.
Grace and peace,
Presbytery Executive Commission
Rev. Roberto Ramirez, Chair of the Executive Commission Rev. Karen Sapio, Moderator of Presbytery
Dr. Deborah Owens, Vice-Moderator of Presbytery
Rev. Mary Ellen Azada
Rev. Becca Bateman, Co-Chair EEE Committee
Rev. Cyndie Crowell, Chair of Commission on Ministry Rev. Diane Frasher, Stated Clerk
Rev. Brian Gaeta-Symonds, Chair of JPM Rev. Jonathan Hughes
Rev. Ally Lee, Presbyter for Administration and Associate Stated Clerk Pat Martinez-Miller
Rev. Wendy Tajima, Executive Presbyter
Janice Takeda, Chair of Committee on Representation and Nominations Rev. Dr. Dave Tomlinson
Carl Von Bibra, Chair of Personnel Committee
Rev. Dr. Steve Wiebe, Chair of Administration and Finance Committee
Dear Presbytery family, December 21, 2020
You may have heard that there have been changes in Los Angeles County’s health orders for churches.
Though the County is painfully aware of the tragic impacts of COVID-19—including, among other things, all County hospitals together have only 0.5% available capacity in their ICU departments—the County is reluctantly complying with recent Supreme Court decisions regarding the separation of church and state.
Though they seriously recommend that churches continue to worship on-line or outdoors, they announced that if a church adheres to restrictions, worship can be held indoors. The restrictions have been posted, and the allowance does not take effect until the church commits to complying with the new restrictions.
As a Presbyterian church, we honor human life and consider all places to be sacred. We celebrate the Holy Spirit acting in all the ways we worship—online, outdoors, and on the phone as well as indoors. We also acknowledge the realities of science and our commitment to the safety of our neighbors.
Therefore, we exercise our freedom with responsibility, and understand that even if the secular law says we can do something does not mean we must.
In our polity, it would be for the Session to decide how the church should conduct worship. The Session also must discern the safety, unity, and legal risks taken as a church, employer, and in some cases as a property owner. Legal guidelines will be posted at http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/—please look for the protocol for “Places of Worship” and also information for employers.
Therefore, the Presbytery Executive Commission urges our churches to continue worshiping virtually or outdoors until the current extreme danger of this surge has passed. We hope to have more definitive guidelines at our January Presbytery meeting, but in the meantime we cannot support worship indoors, for the sake of our members and friends.
If the Session does consider indoor worship, we advise that you first consult your insurance company, and ensure you adhere to guidelines not only for places of worship but also as employers. There are specific requirements of any employer, for the safety of your employees. Finally, please consult the Presbytery staff if you are considering indoor worship.
As we give thanks that God would honor human life by becoming human in Jesus, let us do likewise and utilize the tools that God has provided to worship in safety. If your church chooses otherwise, please remember that the Presbytery website, www.sangabpres.org, has a directory of our churches who are holding meaningful and faithful worship online, and you can praise God with them.
Giving thanks to God for this holy season, and for you.
Rev. Wendy Tajima
The California Regional Stay Home Order (PDF) went into effect at midnight last night. Over the last six days, the County of Los Angeles is averaging 8,295 newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases. Between November 13- December 6, 2020, hospitalizations of confirmed COVID-19 patients have increased by 140% to 2,855. In addition, the adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed capacity for the Region is now below 15%, at just 10.6%, which triggered the initiation of the State’s Regional Stay At Home Order.
The order will remain in effect for at least 3 weeks. After that period, it will be lifted when a region’s projected ICU capacity meets or exceeds 15%. This will be assessed on a weekly basis after the initial 3- week period.
Everyone in Los Angeles County should remain at their homes and with members of their household as much as possible. Even if you don’t feel sick, being around people outside your household is extremely risky. Avoid doing any activities that are not essential. Always wear a face covering whenever outside your home, keep your distance from others not in your household, wash your hands frequently, and avoid crowds. Individuals with underlying health conditions and those that are older should remain in their home and not be around others unless seeking routine or essential health care. Please contact your health care provider to schedule essential care, as these services remain open and can be utilized safely. If you are having difficulty breathing, go to an emergency room or call 911.
Even though worship services can continue be held outdoors, due to the increased risk of transmission even outside, and the cold weather, we continue to recommend that churches worship so that members can participate from their homes.
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Resources from PC(USA) National Church
ZOOM Council Meetings for Leaders – Synod of Mid America
ZOOM Council Meetings for Commissioners – Synod of Mid America
Tips for the Casual Zoom User – Synod of Mid America
Presbytery of San Gabriel Resources
Guidelines for Reopening (Developing)
Weekly Zoom Chat for Church Leaders and Clergy of the Presbytery of San Gabriel
- Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m.
- Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/906806900
- Meeting ID: 906 806 900
- One tap mobile: +16699009128,,906806900#
- Landline: +1 669 900 9128
COVID-19 and Worship: Resources for Churches Adapting to Social Isolation Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
Comfort Food: A Feast of Love – for use in this time of sheltering in place as people are not able to gather in community for Holy Communion – Marcia McFee, Worship Design Studio
Illustrated Ministry is offering free weekly resources during the pandemic.
24-Hour Prayer Vigil
Participants sign up for 30-minute prayer watches. The person completing their shift tags the next person with a text or e-mail: “God bless you as you keep watch in prayer now!” Distribute a booklet with the schedule, suggested prayers, liturgy, activities like coloring mandalas or writing notes of blessing, music links.
Stewardship and Online Giving
If you would like for your community to use the Presbytery’s online giving platform direct them to https://sangabpres.org/donate/. And tell them this: If you want to give to one of the churches in our Presbytery, fill out the form below selecting the fund “an Individual Church” and in the comments section indicate the name of the church. We will transfer the funds to that church from you.
Ten Tech Tips for Meeting Online from Next Church
Other Meeting Services (just a few):
Leading Beyond the Blizzard: Why Every Organization Is Now a Startup by Andy Crouch, Kurt Keilhacker, and Dave Blanchard
Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger
Board of Pensions: EAP
Healthcare does not stop with physical health. These are trying times emotionally and psychologically. Isolation in some cases and overwhelming closeness in others can strain us to a breaking point. The Board offers support through our Employee Assistance Program, which can be reached by calling 866-640-2772 or logging in to the Cigna website. (One-time registration is required; use pcusa for Employee’s Employer ID.) This service is available to anyone in a member’s household.
How You Can Help
San Marino Community Church is hosting a blood drive on June 16 & 17 (Download flyer)
Ministry opportunities for Christians of various ages:
- Food and errands for seniors and others at elevated risk
- Drop-off or drive-through pickup food distribution (PUSD is in need of volunteers contact Ally Lee for information.)
- Ask their schools how to assist stranded college students
- Comfort and understanding for persons experiencing grief over the loss of their dreams (e.g. senior sports season)
- Thank-you cards and drawings to hospital chaplains to share with hospital and nursing home staff.
- Gift cards for groceries for asylum seekers (Contact Kristi Van Nostran)
- Cards to retirees in nursing homes (Contact Diane Frasher or Lauren Evans)
Small Business Administration
Ballard Spahr (outside law firm for the BOP and the A Corporation on benefits issues)
The US Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It has spread from the first cases identified in China to many other countries including the United States. The number of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County continues to rise, including many cases due to community transmission of COVID-19. With the rise in cases has come a rise in serious illness among county residents and of deaths due to COVID-19.
The following guidance for faith-based organizations may help to prevent exposure to COVID-19 and thus help reduce its spread. It is of utmost importance that we avert a peak in serious illness that would strain hospital capacity. Your assistance in that effort is critical.