COVID-19 Response

Summary

We want to update you on what’s happening at St. Paul’s in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID‑19) crisis. We are following developments with concern and are carefully considering the implications for our church, but, at the same time, we place our trust in the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). The Lord is sovereign—his rule extends over everything, and he works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11). We can be confident in his plan and purposes.

St. Paul’s returned to corporate worship beginning on May 3, after the expiration of Governor Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order on April 30. In response to the increasing number of new coronavirus infections in our area, the Session decided that, beginning on Sunday, June 21, the wearing of masks will be mandatory at in-person worship for everyone in attendance. There will be no in-person Sunday School or nursery provided until further notice. We ask that everyone review the April 29 and June 19 emails from Pastor Justin (full text below), in which he outlined the requirements for anyone participating in corporate worship, and the mitigation measures we have in place. No one should feel pressured to return to public worship until they believe it is reasonably safe to do so. If you or anyone in your family has reasonable hesitations, we support your decision to stay at home and to participate in our worship service online.

You can reach the office by phone (407‑647‑7774) during our normal hours of operation (9:00 am–4:00 pm, Monday–Friday) or by email (staff@stpaulpca.org).

Our Sunday Worship

Sunday, May 3, marked a return to corporate worship after six weeks of online worship. We continue to follow guidelines designed to protect the safety of our congregants, including observing social distancing and wearing face masks.

For those who are unable to join us at church, we invite you to join us online for our livestreamed video or audio service. Together, we will sing hymns, offer prayers of adoration and confession, and hear the Word proclaimed! God’s Word offers freedom from fear, joy in the midst of sickness and sorrow, and life that conquers death!

Worship Livestream and Liturgy

To access our worship service livestream or listen to past sermons, follow these links:

Our liturgy (bulletin) is sent on Fridays to help us prepare for the next Sunday's worship. If you would like to follow along in the bulletin with our livestream and do not yet receive emails from us, contact the church office: info@stpaulpca.org

Stay Connected

St. Paul’s sends out a weekly newsletter on Wednesdays. Contact the church office if you do not already receive these and other special updates:

Phone: (407) 647-7774
Email: info@stpaulpca.org

We also encourage you to explore other means of staying biblically and closely connected with one another during this time. Community is one of St. Paul’s areas of ministry focus. Yet COVID-19 has required that we set aside, for the time being, the joy of meeting face-to-face. Some have used video conferencing tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype to continue to meet in groups. These are great options. It is also important that we check on those in our body who are most vulnerable, who are already experiencing hardship, or who live alone. Finally, we all have neighbors, and this crisis provides us with an opportunity to extend the love of Christ in the concern we show them.

How to Stay Safe

Different parts of the country are seeing different levels of COVID-19 activity; however, in a majority of states--including our own--new cases are currently surging. COVID-19 is currently spreading in our community, and for this reason, it is important that you put distance between yourself and other people (social distancing)—especially if you are at higher risk of getting very sick.

We should remain informed about the coronavirus crisis, but there are many sources of information available, and not all of them are reliable. Here are some trusted sources that you can consult to stay up-to-date on current information about the virus, the response, and instructions to the general public:

How to Request Help

Your church family is here for you, whether you have spiritual, physical, financial, or other needs:

  • If you need spiritual support or prayer, send an email or make a phone call to your shepherding elder. Click here for a list of our elders and to locate your assigned shepherding elder.
  • If you need material or financial support, send an email to our deacons. To learn more about how our deacons can help, and to find a list of our deacons and contact information for them, click here.
  • Send an email to our staff or phone 407-647-7774. The staff meets for prayer weekly. Let us add your request to our prayer list. We are available during normal office hours, Monday through Friday.

How to Provide Help

As followers of Christ, we are called to use our gifts and talents in the service of the kingdom—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (I Peter 4:10-11). Perhaps you have time or resources to offer to those most in need within our body or community. Here are some ways that you can help:

  • Continue to financially support church and deacons’ fund. You can give online here. Choose the amount to give and the fund to which you want your gift directed. To request an online account, go to stpaulpca.org, click the Member Log-In button, and click Request Account.
  • Call fellow members—particularly those who live alone or do not have a local family support system.
  • Contact neighbors to provide encouragement and to see if they have material needs. Invite your neighbors to participate in our online worship service.
  • Deliver food or medication to members who are sheltered in place, deliver food to our neighbor families at Countryside, etc.
  • Volunteer to help in the community—Meals on Wheels, blood donation, virtual volunteering, etc.


Recent Updates


June 19, 2020

Brothers and Sisters:

In response to the increasing number of new coronavirus infections in our area, the Session has decided that, beginning this Sunday, June 21, the wearing of masks will be mandatory at in-person worship for everyone in attendance. Exceptions include children and those who for health reasons choose not to wear a mask, and musicians and pastors on the podium. For those who choose not to wear a mask due to the noted exceptions, a separate seating section will be provided in the Fellowship Hall.

If possible, we request that everyone bring your own mask or face covering; however, the church will have masks available should you require one.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of your pastors or elders if you have questions or concerns.

Pastor Justin

On behalf of the Session


April 29, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Sunday (April 26) marked the sixth week since St. Paul’s transitioned our worship service online. It has been difficult for all of us to remain apart for so long and I know everyone is eager to come back together as soon as is safely possible. How can we manage to uphold these two priorities of (1) “not neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:25; cf. Psalm 95) and (2) loving our neighbor by protecting everyone’s health (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 7:12)?

After much prayer and discussion, the Session of St. Paul’s has formulated a plan for reopening corporate worship. But we need your help to pull it off. Our first Sunday back will serve as a trial run during which we will implement measures to protect the safety of our congregants and monitor any issues that arise. This will allow us to properly address concerns before greater numbers return over time.

OUR PLAN

Corporate worship at St. Paul’s will resume at 10:30 am on May 3, after the expiration of Governor Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order on April 30.

Mitigation Measures

  • Every other pew in the Sanctuary will be roped off to ensure appropriate social distancing.
  • The back wall of the Sanctuary will be opened to allow for additional seating and more than adequate social distancing in our large (6,600 square foot) Fellowship Hall.
  • People who live together in the same household may sit together; otherwise, everyone should try to maintain a six-foot distance.
  • Pew Bibles and hymnals will be removed from the Sanctuary and the entire liturgy will be printed for individual use.
  • There will be no passing of the offering plate. Offerings will be collected at the back of the Sanctuary and online.
  • There will be no nursery provided until further notice.
  • There will be no in-person Sunday School until further notice.
  • The Lord’s Supper will not be offered until a special plan can be formulated to celebrate communion safely.
  • Please consider the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines regarding people who need to take extra precautions during the COVID-19 crisis to assist in deciding if you should stay home and worship online.

Requirements

  • If you or anyone in your family is sick or have COVID-like symptoms (currently or in the last 14 days), you must stay home, and you are encouraged to worship online. Our online streaming service will continue indefinitely.
  • If, in the last 14 days, you or any of your family have had contact with anyone who has had a confirmed case of COVID-19 or is under investigation for the disease, or if you have traveled outside of the state of Florida to any area that is or was at the time considered to be “hot spot,” you must stay home.
  • Everyone (except those leading worship) is required to wear a mask in the Sanctuary. (Everyone in the Fellowship Hall is encouraged, but not required, to wear a mask). You will need to bring your own mask or face covering, as the church will not be able to provide a mask for each person attending.
  • Practice personal hygiene (e.g., washing hands, covering cough etc.).
  • Everyone must follow the instructions of our usher team.
  • Parents must oversee their children and ensure that they follow instructions.

THE JUDGMENT OF CHARITY

No one should feel pressured to return to public worship until they believe it is reasonably safe to do so. Especially during this period of transition back to corporate worship, if you or anyone in your family has reasonable hesitations, we support your decision to stay at home and to participate in our worship service online. We fully understand and appreciate that different people will have different perspectives as well as different circumstances. This is a difficult time for everyone in which it is especially important to extend one another much grace and to exercise the judgment of charity.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

VIDEO MESSAGE

A follow-up video message will be sent later this week in which Pastor Dan and I will anticipate questions and discuss, in greater detail, the Session’s plan for reopening worship at St. Paul’s.

QUESTIONS?

If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or to any of St. Paul’s pastors or elders.

In Christ,

Pastor Justin

On behalf of the Session


March 18, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters,

After much prayer and discussion, the Session of St. Paul’s has decided to suspend all large gatherings and transition our Sunday morning worship service online for the next two weeks (March 22 and 29). Because the situation with the Coronavirus remains very fluid, the Session will reevaluate how to proceed at the end of the month, before Palm Sunday (April 5) and Easter services (April 12). Until further notice, however, there will be no large gatherings held at or sponsored by St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. This applies to all St. Paul’s regular events, ministries and group meetings that exceed 10 people over the next two weeks. Much of St. Paul’s staff will also be working remotely during this period, but you will be able to reach the office by phone (407-647-7774) during our normal hours of operation (9am-4pm, Mon-Fri) or by email (staff@stpaulpca.org).

This is no small thing. To cease to gather in-person for corporate worship on the Lord’s Day is an action that should not be taken lightly (Hebrews 10:25); it should only occur as a matter of “necessity and mercy” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 60) under extraordinary circumstances for the shortest time necessary. It will be a great loss for us not to meet face-to-face, but it is the right thing to do as we seek to protect the most vulnerable.

There’s a story recorded in Mark 3:1-6 about how Jesus was condemned for healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. When Jesus saw that people disapproved of this, he asked a question that we should stop to consider under our present circumstances: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). This was a rhetorical question, which means that the answer should be obvious. According to the best medical advice available from federal health authorities like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Christian healthcare professionals within our local church, meeting together in large groups presents a very real danger to public health and especially to high-risk groups (i.e., elderly people and those with underlying health conditions). St. Paul’s remains fully committed to honoring the Sabbath—the very first thing that is ever called “holy” (Genesis 2:3) in the Bible—but the best way to do that during this health crisis is to avoid harm and “save life” (Mark 3:4) by suspending large gatherings. This is a matter of “necessity and mercy.”

An argument could be made that because “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3), the doors of the church should remain open at least as long as those of the grocery store. Thankfully, however, technology is available that makes it possible to hold online services without posing a threat to anyone’s health. Accordingly, this is the course that we will pursue until we can meet again safely in-person.

Another email will be sent out later this week with instructions for how to participate in worship online. Unfortunately, some of those who tried to stream our service last week experienced difficulties and so we are working on a better option. Please pray that the Lord will enable us to get this up and running quickly and without technical difficulties. We have so much good news to share! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

In him,

Pastor Justin

On behalf of the Session


Mar 14, 2020 Update

Dear brothers and sisters,

In light of the ongoing Coronavirus health crisis, there will be no (1) nursery, (2) coffee service, or (3) passing of the offering plate tomorrow morning. The ushers will collect the offering at the back of the sanctuary. Thank you for understanding.

In Christ,

Pastor Justin


March 13, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Session of St. Paul’s continues to monitor the developing situation with the Coronavirus. Taking into account the recommendations of our local authorities in Orange county, we have several updates to share with you regarding Sunday services for March 15, 2020.

  • Although we do plan to hold Sunday school (9:00 am) and morning worship (10:30 am), our Evensong service (including the Lord’s Supper) has been canceled.
  • If you or anyone in your family is sick, if you are in a high-risk group (e.g., elderly, compromised immune system etc.), or if you decide not to attend for some other reason, we encourage you to stay home and to participate in worship online.
  • An electronic copy of our liturgy will be sent out via email today. There are two ways that you can stream our service on Sunday: 1) by accessing the St. Paul’s website (www.stpaulpca.org) and, from the homepage, click on the “Listen to Our Live Service Now!” link pictured below:

Please note, the “Listen to Our Live Service Now!” link will only appear on the website beginning at about 10:00 am on Sunday morning. Depending on when you join the stream, you may hear silence, people talking, or congregational worship. 2) The second way for you to access the live stream of the service is to go directly to this website (http://97.68.57.62:88/) which, again, will begin working at 10:00am on Sunday morning.

Even as we take these responsible precautions to protect public health, let’s not forget that God is sovereign. He controls this situation and we can take great comfort in knowing he reigns.

In Christ,

Pastor Justin

On behalf of the Session


March 12, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters,

As we watch the spread of the Coronavirus, many are wondering how the church should respond to this health crisis, especially as it moves closer to home. The truth is that none of us know exactly how far the virus will spread or the degree to which it will impact us here in Orlando. Crises like the Coronavirus are humbling because they force us to recognize how much we don’t know. But situations like this also clarify the most important thing that we do know—the good news that our God reigns for us in his crucified and risen Son who “took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17). And this good news ought to free us from fear and panic, even as we take proper precautions.

To this end, what are some practical ways, in addition to praying for our civil leaders and healthcare professionals, that we can love our neighbors throughout the course of this crisis? We fully intend to meet for public worship this Sunday morning. But here are some practical precautions that we ask you to take in order to help keep everyone safe as we gather:

  • If you or anyone in your family is sick, please stay home until you are no longer contagious.
  • Avoid unnecessary physical contact with other people and find creative ways to greet one another without shaking hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or touching public surfaces and before eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your cough and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Make use of the hand sanitizer that St. Paul’s is providing throughout our church facility.

Please stay tuned as St. Paul’s develops other practical ways in which we can mitigate the spread of this virus and serve our church family and broader community. Some people question whether we should continue to meet and gather in person for worship services. In communities that have not yet been directly impacted by the outbreak, most authorities consider canceling church services to be premature; however, in other U.S. communities with documented cases of COVID-19, church closures are warranted. Should our local, state, or a federal agency warn against public gatherings or advise congregations not to meet, the Session will respond and communicate with the congregation regarding any cancelled events or services.

As we respond to this health crisis, let’s not only wash our hands; let’s prepare to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14). Let’s not only avoid the spread of disease; let’s make it our aim to share the good infection—a contagious confidence in our God who reigns for us in Christ, our good Physician.

In Christ,

Pastor Justin

Stay Connected

St. Paul’s sends out a weekly newsletter on Wednesdays. Our liturgy is sent on Fridays to help us prepare for Sunday worship. Sign up to receive these and other special updates.