May 20, 2020
Dear Westminster Family
When 2020 began, no one imaged that our lives and ministry would change so drastically by March 13th. On that day, the church building was closed, and all in-person gatherings were suspended indefinitely. The Covid-19 pandemic had come to our community. Your leadership team (session and staff) worked quickly to find ways to be the church while not using the building. We are thankful for the abundance of technologies which enable us to connect by video and phone conference calls, video recorded worship, and standard phone calls. However, while we have learned a great deal, it is clear this is a work in progress.
The decision to change the way we do our ministry was made based on a few trusted sources. First, we listened to the early reports from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and local medical professionals. So too, we asked how this decision would be informed by our mission, vision, and values. We believe that the call to love God and neighbor means this was the most prudent course of action. Our decision to close was made before local school districts, other religious organizations, the City of Saint Louis, and Saint Louis County had announced their plans. At the time of our decision it was clear that these organizations would make the same decision. However, we did not wait for them to take the lead. Since it was unclear then how long this would last, the decision was open-ended, to be revisited at each subsequent session meeting.
On May 18th, the Mayor and the County Executive signed orders that begin the process of opening back up the City and the County. This includes religious organizations, malls, bars, restaurants and other organizations. However, local school districts have not opened, many have cancelled summer school, and others are considering distance learning for the fall. The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy has offered guidance on the process of opening. However, extreme caution is advised and planning for reopening is left to the church sessions. The document, "Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return" can be found on the Presbytery website.
At the Session meeting on May 10th, 2020, the members spent an hour discerning what should be done. The final decision was unanimous. We will not reopen at this time. This decision will be revisited at the June meeting. The plan is to listen to those who are experts in infectious disease and public health and to be guided by our mission, vision, and values. Even though the church is now legally allowed to gather, the Session decided not to resume activities in the building at this point.
The greatest commandment for followers of Jesus is to love God with our whole being and our neighbor as ourselves. It is the belief of the session that loving ourselves and our neighbor means not putting any of us at risk when it is clearly not necessary. The session will revisit this question, informed by these sources and our mission, vision, and values at our meeting in June. If circumstances change, then change will happen. Until then, we will continue to be the church even if we are not in the church building.
If you have questions, concerns, or special needs, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Clerk, Lawson Calhoun, or the Moderator, Rev. Mark R. Miller.
Lawson Calhoun Rev. Mark R. Miller
Clerk of Session Moderator
Westminster Presbyterian Church is a multiracial congregation called by the radically inclusive love of God in Jesus Christ to ministries rooted in grace-filled hospitality, social justice, and transformation.