We know many are concerned about the coronavirus pandemic which has been in the news. Here are multiple letters from Central’s pastor regarding concerns and efforts to address the potential illness and how Central is providing for spiritual guidance during this time of social distancing.

Update about Central’s Programs

March 18, 2020

Dear Congregation,

Blessings to all of you in the midst of these crazy times. Although I’m away this week, you are constantly in my prayers as we’re all navigating these new and scary realities. I want to update you on how we’re adapting at the church, and what to expect in the coming weeks.

On Saturday I announced that we have closed our building for all services, classes, programs, and events of any kind. We don’t know how long this might last. On Tuesday, Governor Reynolds ordered that there be no gatherings of more than ten people through March 31. But we know it could well last longer than that. So we won’t be gathering together in person anytime soon.

But as I shared in worship on Sunday morning: we are the church, wherever we are. Whether that’s gathered at 3829 Grand Avenue, or in your living room, or on your Peloton bike, or any other place. We are the church. And this is a really important time to be the church.

We had on Sunday our very first experiment worshiping via Facebook Live, and it was a great success—especially given that we had less than 24 hours to prepare for it. Kim Coulter deserves a tremendous amount of credit for making this happen. Our service was livestreamed from the Chapel, with over 100 people tuning in to participate with us live. Some of those were in other states, or even other countries. As of now, the service has been viewed online by almost 800 people. That’s amazing reach, considering that we average around 180 in worship on a typical Sunday morning. If you did not have a chance to see the worship service, it is available on Central’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_d_yfzipPM

We will continue to livestream worship on Facebook Live in the coming weeks, every Sunday morning at 10:15 AM. If you have Facebook, be sure to like Central’s page. Go to www.facebook.com/centralpresdm/ and click the “like” button. Then tune in on Facebook at 10:15 AM on Sunday. If you don’t have Facebook, or are unable to connect, a video of the worship service will be uploaded to YouTube at a later time each week.

Please do not come to the church on Sunday for worship. Only those who are leading the service or assisting with the livestream may be in the Chapel, so that we are in compliance with the Governor’s directive.

This week, our staff is spending lots of time exploring new ways to connect and to deliver content using Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, conference calls, and other media. For example, I’m planning to start a new Bible study next week on Facebook Live. We’ll be exploring the book of Exodus. The study will be called “Living Faithfully in the In-Between.” That’s an example of the kinds of programs we’ll be offering for all ages—adults, youth, and children. We’ll let you know all the details by Tuesday of next week. It will be a different way of connecting, to be sure, but we will make the most of it. And who knows—we may even find we’re able to connect with a lot of new people using new technologies?

I also want to invite you to share any needs or prayer concerns with me. I’m mindful that all of you are dealing with so much anxiety these days—whether it’s about your own health or that of a family member, or your job, or financial concerns, or adapting to homeschooling your kids. This is all pretty overwhelming stuff. If you have a prayer concern, let me know. If you want to talk, let me know. If you have things you need, let me know. I’ve heard this week from so many in the church wanting to offer help. So be aware that you are part of a church family that cares about you. And I’m happy to help connect your need with someone offering assistance.

With this coronavirus pandemic, things are changing so rapidly, it’s hard to know what to expect from one day to the next. That’s why there’s a lot of wisdom in that part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “give us this day our daily bread.” I’m just focusing on trying to make it through one day at a time here. Planning for the future, of course. But trusting that God is there supplying what I need for each and every day as it comes—the bread, the strength, the patience, the peace.  And yes, hopefully also the toilet paper. May it be so for you.

Grace & Peace—
Wallace

Important Update about Worship at Central on Sunday, March 15

March 14, 2020

Dear Congregation,

I have been monitoring things very closely this weekend, regarding the coronavirus pandemic and the recommendations now being made to safeguard the public health in the face of this unprecedented situation.

Up until this morning, I had been planning to proceed with worship on Sunday, March 15, having taken all the precautions that I outlined in the communication that went out to the congregation on Wednesday.

However, yesterday Mayor Frank Cownie issued a statement urging organizations, businesses, and churches in Des Moines to consider canceling gatherings out of concern for public health. We’ve seen in rapid succession announcements of closures by the schools, the symphony, the Civic Center, and many other institutions where large numbers of people gather.

Some local congregations are still planning on having worship in person on Sunday. However, in the past two days, an increasing number of congregations in Des Moines—both large and small—have made the decision not to hold in-person services effective tomorrow.

I’ll be honest. I really hate the idea of not being able to gather in person for worship. But to me, the concerns about public health are very pressing. Doing whatever is possible to reduce the threat of community spread seems to be the prudent course of action.

Therefore, after consulting with our Session, we have decided to heed the advice of Mayor Cownie and suspend our in-person worship services for the next three Sundays, March 15, 22, and 29. This is subject to change as conditions evolve. During this time, the church will be closed for all other classes, meetings, programs, events, and any other gatherings. We realize this will cause a significant number of disruptions and inconveniences. However, this decision is being made to safeguard your own health, as well as the health of all our neighbors.

Just because we are not worshiping in person, however, does not mean that we will not be worshiping. We are making preparations to livestream a worship service on Sundays at the usual 10:15 a.m. time via Facebook Live.

Many of you already “like” Central Presbyterian Church’s page on Facebook. If you don’t, now is a good time to do it. Just go to: https://www.facebook.com/centralpresdm/ and click the “like” button. Then, at 10:15 a.m., open up Facebook on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, and you should see a notification that “Central Presbyterian Church is going live.” Click to join in, and you should be able to see and hear the worship service. It will be a shortened service, incorporating music, prayer, scripture, and a sermon. In this way, we will still be able to worship together, even if we’re not physically in the same place.

We will be working out other means for communicating and making programs available online in the coming week.

Let us all join together in prayer and thoughtful action to take care of one another. And in the words of the great hymn by Harry Emerson Fosdick: “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days.”

Grace & Peace—
The Rev. Wallace W. Bubar

Pastoral letter from the Rev. Wallace W. Bubar

March 11, 2020

Dear congregation,

I know many of you are concerned about the coronavirus pandemic which has been so much in the news.  The escalating numbers of those affected, the potential to disrupt everyday life, and the uncertainty about the future—all of it is worrisome.

As of this morning, there are 13 confirmed cases of illness due to coronavirus in Iowa, none of which are in Des Moines.  But things have been changing very quickly over the past few days, and we know those numbers may soon change.

In any event, we are being proactive at the church.  I’m writing to inform you about how we’re responding here at Central, to let you know about some of the changes that we have already made, as well as other changes to anticipate in the coming days.

This past Sunday, we started doing some simple things in the worship service to reduce the risk of transmission and keep people safe:

  1. I’ve asked the hosts to open the exterior doors in the Narthex as worshipers arrive. That’s one less surface for you to have to touch that many other people have also touched.
  2. We have made hand sanitizer available for your use at several stations in the Narthex, in the East Parlor, and in the 39th Street Lobby.
  3. We are doing the exchange of peace without shaking hands. We bumped elbows this past Sunday, and will look for other creative ways to do it differently each Sunday without spreading germs.
  4. After the service, I’ll be in the Narthex greeting worshipers on their way out, but without shaking hands.

 

We will plan to continue these practices for the foreseeable future until the concerns about coronavirus have diminished.  In addition, we are taking the following new steps this week:

  1. Our custodian will be regularly cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and handles.
  2. We are posting signs at water fountains that they are not to be used.
  3. Our interim children’s ministry director is having all children wash their hands at least twice during the course of their Wednesday evening programming. Games or activities that involve direct physical contact between children will be discontinued.
  4. On Sundays, the fellowship register pads will no longer be in use.
  5. The offering will be conducted without passing offering plates around. Further instructions will be provided on Sunday morning.
  6. We are discussing further changes that may need to be made to our worship service, particularly around partaking of communion.

 

We are all in this together.  And you can help out by doing several things:

  1. If you are sick—particularly with a fever—or show other symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath, please stay home and do not come to church. Do let us know so that we can pray for you and support you.
  2. Cover your cough or sneeze, using a tissue or your elbow.
  3. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly and often.

 

As we look ahead to the future, we are beginning to consider plans for the continuation of our church’s ministries, in the event that we should have to close our doors for a period of time.  We are exploring technology to enable us to broadcast worship services or conduct Bible study or hold meetings online without people needing to be physically present.  Stay tuned for more details on that.

Be assured that we will do everything possible to take good care of each other.  And we will do so, informed by the guidelines from the CDC, the Iowa Department of Public Health, and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

These are anxious times we’re living in.  But for two thousand years, the church has made it through persecutions, and wars, and plagues, and disasters of all kinds without giving into fear.  We will get through this, too, knowing that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Grace & Peace—
The Rev. Wallace W. Bubar