Town Hall Meeting

Posted by on Sep 17, 2020 in Congregational Care, Mission, Session, Staff | Comments Off on Town Hall Meeting

On September 13, 2020 we held a Town Hall Meeting. You can watch the video below or read the report under the video. For more information please reach out to Pastor Shannon

Ashland Presbyterian Church COVID-19 Operations Update
September 2020

The Session has been working hard these last few months to stay on top of the latest news and conditions related to the COVID pandemic. We all agree that it is critically important to keep the congregation apprised of where we are and where we expect to be in the future.

We would like nothing more to be able to offer a definitive timeframe for when the life of the congregation can return to something with more semblance of “normalcy”. While our impatience with the pandemic restrictions grow, the realities of our current situation remain unchanged. COVID-19 remains present in our community and new cases are identified within our community every day.

We continue to be the body of Christ, caring for one another and worshiping together, although in different ways. Maintaining physical distance and following public health guidance are actions designed to care for one another and our community. Through this physical distancing we are demonstrating our Christian faith by loving God and our neighbor, and protecting persons who are most vulnerable and susceptible to the virus.

Nevertheless, the life of the congregation goes on, although it looks different than it ever has. We wanted to make you aware of the various expectations for the remainder of this calendar year.

Worshiping in pandemic times
While we do not expect to worship in-person as a congregation in the immediate future, we will continue with our remote worship through video. We feel that because of the restrictions of in-person worship such as no singing or communial speaking, no passing of microphones or offering plates, and no passing of the peace or fellowship we can offer a better worship experience through video. We also have the restriction of our physical space being small, with poor cross ventelation, making safe social distancing difficult for any significant number of people. Our online worship videos are reaching over 100 views a week and we have received acolades from members who have long moved away who feel deeply connected to Ashland through these services. We know not everyone can access them and we continue to work on ways to reach those without computer access, such as publishing a sermon each month in the newsletter. Even when we return to in-person worship some day, we will continue to provide online worship.

As we said, we do not know when gathering for worship will be possible and these plans can change in either direction as the situation changes. The Session will begin to consider steps of resuming in person worship after Baltimore County enters Phase 5 of the “Maryland COVID-19 Recovery Plan.” The State of Maryland uses the following benchmarks for entering “Phase 5”:

  • New COVID cases and deaths continue to decrease for an additional period of time.
  • The number of active cases reaches a point where infection from other members of the community is less common.
  • Positivity rates fall much lower than earlier phases with widespread testing.
  • New cases continue to fall with rapid case investigation, contact tracing, and containment strategies .

Realistically, we do not expect our region to enter Phase 5 until 2021. As things change and develop, we will continue to monitor the conditions, consult with the presbytery and health experts. We also promise to continute to update the congregation as the situation evolves and changes.

Staying apart, but together

  • Care of the Congregation continues to be supported by the work of the deacons and our Pastor. Please let us know, by contacting a Deacon or Pastor Shannon, if you or someone you know is experiencing anger or grief; are in self-quarantine; or feeling isolated, lonely, anxious, or sick, as we want to reach out and care for you in these challenging days. Support and prayer can be offered over the phone, through video-conferencing, or Pastor Shannon can make a socially distant outdoor visit.
  • Ashland will continue to offer virtual get-togethers. These gatherings include Tuesday Evening Check-in and Prayer alone with Thursday Morning Bible Study. We will also be adding additional opportunities, such as Conversations on Faith, Mission opportunities, Sunday School, a congregational retreat, book club and game nights. (look for more information soon or contact the office to let us know your interest.)

Begin Outdoor Gatherings

  • The session has recognized the growing need that for those who feel safe enough to do so, now that the weather is cooler we believe gathering outdoors for one of our new activities or for fellowship would be appropriate.
  • People are welcome to hold these at their homes or outdoors at church. We ask if doing so that there is a restroom that is easily accessable with disinfecting wipes be provided and wiped down between uses. Parishioners should wear masks and stay social distanced (a minimum of 6 feet apart) and we recommend each individual bring their own chairs. If chairs are provided we ask you have disinfecting wipes available for the person. We will also need the host of the event to keep a list of everyone at the event for purposes of contact tracing, should the need arise.
  • We are asking all parishioners to take their tempiture at home before arrival and go throughthe CDC safety precausions and exposure risk forgore attendance.
  • We all know each other and trust each other, of course, but we also know with this virus we must take every precausion. No parishioner should feel pressured into any situation where they feel their health or safety will be at risk.
    -These outdoor gatherings will be elective and all regular offering will continue virtually.

If you would like help in connecting with us virtually, we would be happy to work you through the simple process of Zoom, the online platform we are using. Those who have gathered have appreciated any connection we can give them. If you’d like our help in organizing another type of gathering, please contact the church office or Pastor Shannon.

Mission Update

In response to the pandemic that began in March, Ashland’s mission committee made a commitment to assess the needs of its existing partnerships before taking on any new mission activity. Since we were unable to send volunteers to Sarah’s Hope, we reallocated funds to make sure that they were able to still provide food for those that they served. The congregation raised $7,000 for our friends at Kasupe to install “Tippy Taps” a hands-free system for handwashing to increase sanitation in the community, with the matching funds from our anonymous donor we have raised a total of $14,000. We will be collecting again for this special offering and send a final donation in January to help them with food security. Since our friends at UCAN (United Churches Assistance Network) had to pause operations, they reallocated funds to the ACTC, the Assistance Center of Towson Churches. Our ministry group within the presbytery has coordinated an effort to bring weekly bags of food to people in the Woodbourne-McCabe neighborhood. This is an ongoing effort. You can assist by helping to make phone calls to community residents or by helping to deliver food on Fridays (ask Cecil for more details). There will also be a continuing need for masks and hand sanitizer for churches in the city where those items are hard to find. Those can be brought to the church or contact Derrick to have them picked up. Moving forward, the mission committee will continue to review ways that we respond to food insecurity needs in the area. If you have other suggestions of how the mission committee could be using our time and resources in this critical time, please contact Derrick at dweston80@gmail.com.

Finance Update

As of August 31, 2020 Ashland, had income of $150,344.38 and expenses of $162,082.92 resulting in a year to date loss of $-11,738.54.

Since the Coronavirus started and we had to suspend in person gathering we have relied on your continued pledge support thru online giving and mail in pledges. This has been very successful and is primarily why we do not have a bigger loss. Because the Preschool has been closed, we have not been receiving our monthly support, While they have had a limited summer reopening and will start a modified school program on September 14, 2020 they are paying the BGE bill and the Janitorial bill. I would like to encourage everyone to continue with their support as we go thru the rest of this challenging year.

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