March 18, 2021
Dear friends of Lewinsville,
Once again, at their March 16 meeting, the Session, in an extensive and vigorous discussion, considered the status of COVID-19 in our area as well as its impact on our church life, especially on our worship indoors in the sanctuary. There are hopeful signs on the horizon, for sure, just as there are reasons to remain cautious to protect the health of our congregation and staff. A wide variety of factors were identified, including (though not limited to) the increasing numbers of congregants being vaccinated, virus levels in the area, the gradual re-opening of schools, variant strains of the virus, vaccination status of LPC staff (and volunteers such as duty elders, deacons, and ushers), and more.
The Session voted to plan for a return to indoor, in-person worship, for a limited number of people with a variety of safety protocols, on Sunday, May 2, 2021. Our expectation is that by this time, the church staff who would need to be present for Sunday worship will be fully vaccinated, as would a sufficient number of worship volunteers. This decision assumes that vaccination rates continue to rise, and that virus infection rates in our area continue to decline.
The health and safety of each other remains a top priority for us, and we will continue to be informed by the advice of a team of medical professionals from our congregation. As we step back into in-person worship, we will initially allow up to 30 worshippers in the pews, spaced throughout the sanctuary. Pre-registration will be necessary for each Sunday’s worship; priority on subsequent Sundays will be given to those who have not yet been to indoor worship. In the coming days, we will provide more information about the registration process. Masks will be required, and there will be no congregational singing during the service. Worship leaders will also be masked, except when they are speaking (as we are currently doing with the livestreamed services). In deciding whether to attend an indoor, in-person service or not, worshippers will be encouraged to consider their own vaccination status, as well as any known exposure in recent days to persons with COVID-19.
We expect these protocols will evolve and change as conditions change. We will continue to provide live-streaming of the Sunday services for multiple reasons, not least of which is that we know that there will be persons who do not yet feel comfortable worshiping in the sanctuary. We also expect that, in the short term, many church programs and meetings will continue to take place over Zoom and other virtual platforms (also due to significant parts of the church building being unavailable due to the renovation).
We believe this is a hopeful step forward for us as a congregation, as we make our way through these challenging times. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Pastor Scott, Pastor Jen, or any member of the Session.
December 20, 2020
At its December meeting, the Session reviewed the outlook for indoor gatherings at Lewinsville, with respect to current and expected COVID-19 trends. Session shared its hope and enthusiasm about the likely availability of vaccines during the first several months of the year, as well as the possibilities that brings for resuming our in-person life as a congregation. However, as the vaccine is not expected to be widely available for many more weeks, the Session is convinced that it is premature for Lewinsville to return to in-person, indoor worship.
In a unanimous vote, the Session decided to continue suspension of indoor worship and other group activities through March 31, 2021. It remains the elders’ prayerful conviction that we have both a civic and spiritual duty to protect each other and members of the congregation by not returning to indoor worship until such time as it can be done with an acceptable level of safety for our congregants. The Session is continually consulting with medical experts for the latest advice and will revisit this decision on a regular basis.
During this time, Lewinsville plans to continue to provide outdoor worship and other experiences for safe gathering opportunities for our congregation. If you have any questions about any of this, please feel free to be in touch with Pastor Scott, Pastor Jen, or any member of the Session.
September 24, 2020
Dear Lewinsville Family and Friends,
Grace to you and peace, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. By now, you may have heard that the Session decided, at our September 15 meeting, to continue the suspension of indoor worship and other indoor activities at Lewinsville through the rest of this calendar year (through December 2020) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision comes from the conviction that it is our civic and spiritual duty to protect each other and members of the congregation by not returning to indoor, in-person worship until that can be done with an acceptable level of safety for all involved. As your pastors, we believe that this is how we “love your neighbor as yourself” in our current context, given the possibility of unknowingly spreading the virus to someone, especially someone who would be vulnerable.
While we believe this to be the right decision for Lewinsville, it was not an easy one, nor is it a decision that we are glad about. To the contrary, this decision leaves us with deep feelings of sadness and renewed loss, especially because this will mean that our Advent and Christmas worship will be done virtually, rather than in person. During 2020, the church will have celebrated Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas virtually, rather than in person. We know the promises of those celebrations, that God enters into our suffering and death and redeems it, the gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence, and Immanuel, God-with-us, are with us and with the church even while we worship apart. Yet being apart for these Holy days and seasons, and for an even more prolonged time, feels strange and very sad to us. If you are feeling similarly and would like to talk about that, please feel free to reach out to us.
We are already finding that this decision allows for our planning and imagination regarding how to celebrate Advent and Christmas in meaningful ways, given these conditions. How can we mark the season of the anticipation of Christ’s coming and of his incarnation in ways that are appropriate and meaningful during this time? If you have any ideas about creative ways to worship during the coming months, we would love to hear from you.
Your Mission and Service Ministry Group, the Deacons/Stephen Ministers and the Session continue to discern how God is calling us to respond to the profound human needs in these continuing months of the pandemic. Please be in touch with us as you are aware of needs in our community or world. We are ever grateful for your faithfulness during this challenging time.
We think of this congregation with the words of the King James Version of Colossians 2:2, that your “hearts would be comforted as you knit together in love.”
Pastor Scott and Pastor Jen
September 16, 2020
At its September 15, 2020 meeting, the Session voted unanimously to continue the suspension of indoor worship and other indoor activities at Lewinsville through the rest of this calendar year (through December 2020). While we very much want to be back together, the Session believes strongly that it is our civic and spiritual duty to protect each other and members of the congregation by not returning to in-person worship until such time as it can be done with an acceptable level of safety for our congregants. As such, in the absence of significant developments related to the virus, we would not reconvene for indoor worship any earlier than the end of this calendar year. The Session is continually consulting with medical experts for the latest advice, and we will revisit what might be possible on a regular basis and look forward to reconvening for indoor, in-person worship as soon as we safely can. This will be included in the announcements in this coming Sunday’s worship service, and more information will be forthcoming, as we have it.
Rev. Dr. Scott Ramsey, Pastor
July 24, 2020
Dear Lewinsville Family and Friends,
Grace to you and peace, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we continue to move through the summer, we wanted to be in touch to provide you with an update about how Lewinsville is responding to the COVID-19 crisis in terms of our common life together. The Session and staff remain committed to pursuing our common ministry of loving and serving God by responding to human need – and always listening for new ways to deepen that commitment.
We grieve the ways that our common life together has been disrupted by COVID-19, even as we work in partnership with you to discover forms of mission that are required and called for by our current situation. Further, we all yearn for a time when we can re-gather in person, and we continue to seek and consider ways we might make that happen. However, our desire to gather in community is matched by our conviction that doing that must be done in ways that are responsible, safe, and appropriate given current medical conditions.
Below are some updates on our congregational life in these times:
- Sunset Services – On July 15, approximately 40 persons signed up and participated in an outdoor “sunset service” in the small parking lot off of Great Falls Street. Physical distancing was observed, all participants wore masks, and participants stood or sat in lawn chairs, while engaging in worship, complete with sermon, music, and an interactive activity. Assuming that medical and weather conditions will permit it, we are planning the next Sunset Service for Wednesday, August 12, at 7:00 p.m. This service will focus
on the Scripture text for August 16, Genesis 45:1-15, and on the theme of forgiveness as the biblical character of Joseph enacts forgiveness for his brothers.
- Virtual Start of the Program Year – Given the need for teachers and other leaders to make plans now for Sunday school classes and activities, the Session voted to begin the next program year on-line. During September and October, all Sunday morning education classes – for children, youth, and adults – as well as other programming will take place on-line, via Zoom or other online platforms. A decision will be made at the September Session meeting regarding how we will conduct programming beyond that timeframe. We believe that this decision can clarify planning for teachers, as well as provide flexibility to adapt as we move into the year, should conditions permit.
- Sunday Worship – At the June Session Meeting, the Session suspended in-person worship in the sanctuary through September 20, 2020, with further discussion continuing at the September Session meeting. While we continue deeply to miss being in each other’s presence for Sunday morning worship, we also believe that this is the most responsible decision for our congregation and our community at this time. We want to say a special word of appreciation to Roland and Bettie McElroy, for their wonderful dedication to putting together our online worship services. At the September Session meeting, a decision will be made regarding when we might resume in-person worship in the sanctuary. As we are making that decision, in the words of one of the doctors in our congregation, “everything will depend on the numbers.” We will continue to rely on the counsel of health experts in our congregation and will be taking into consideration COVID-19 case numbers in our society, our region, our county, and our congregation, as we seek to make the most faithful decision for Lewinsville.
Our Mission and Service Ministry Group, Deacons/Stephen Ministers, and others will continue to lead us in learning about and responding to the very real, very deep human needs that are being caused by the COVID-19 crisis. There will be ongoing information about how you can help in these efforts.
These are unprecedented times for us all. Unfortunately, we do not have a handy roadmap from past experiences that can tell us exactly what we should do and when. What we do have is the knowledge of God’s presence with us, the gift of God’s guidance in moving forward, and the blessing of our Lewinsville community as we move forward together and take care of each other. Meanwhile, you are invited to reach out to me, to Pastor Jen, to any member of the Session or to the church staff with any questions or concerns.
June 16th Note: At its June 16 meeting, the Session voted to continue the suspension of our in-person worship services in the sanctuary until September 20, 2020. We did this with sadness, because we are very ready to resume our worship life. But out of concern for the well-being of our congregation, we believe this is the most appropriate course of action. Over the course of the next few months, we hope to offer a number of opportunities for outdoor worship experiences at the church, with physical distancing and other safety measures. These are still being developed, and we will be in touch with you about those in due time. If you have any questions, please feel free to be in touch with Pastor Scott or Pastor Jen.
May 27th Note: Your Session and staff continue to be in discernment about when and how we might begin to resume aspects of our congregational life, in ways that are safe, responsible, and appropriate. Currently, all in-person activities at the church have been suspended through June 14, 2020. The Session will be meeting on June 16, and will have more information at that time. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Pastor Scott, Pastor Jen, or Linda Bender, Clerk of Session.
April 3, 2020
Dear friends of Lewinsville,
During this season with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many of us are living with anxiety and fear and grief. These are normal human reactions. Many of us can feel overwhelmed by the news and by the scope of the problem. This is also normal. We do not need to feel badly for having normal human reactions. As we move through these days, there are several things that we can bear in mind that may help during this time.
Be kind. In times of high anxiety, it can be a natural reaction to close down towards others or to lash out at them. If we find ourselves doing this, we shouldn’t beat up on ourselves because, after all, we’re human beings and we’re imperfect. But we can also set an intention for ourselves to be kind to others and to ourselves. We can remember that others are also living under great stress, which may help us to respond more compassionately if they are acting in ways that are less than constructive. (We can also extend that same compassion to ourselves if we are the ones who are being less than constructive!)
Remember the poor. The effects of this pandemic will fall most heavily – as is the case with virtually all disasters and crises – on those who are most vulnerable. The homeless, the poor, the refugees, those who have very little in the way of a safety net or support network. This crisis will fall very heavily on them, and it is up to those of us who have resources to marshal those resources and to advocate for their deployment in ways that bring help and relief to those who will need it the most.
Notice the small blessings. In the midst of the great challenges we are facing, we can set an intention for ourselves to keep our hearts and minds, our eyes and ears, open to notice the small acts of kindness, the moments of tender mercy, and the glimpses of beauty that will cross our path. These blessings will happen because the universe is like that. But it is also possible to miss them entirely, especially if our minds are clouded with too much resentment or cynicism or fear.
Trust in God for guidance. God never promised us a smooth ride. The road of life is often bumpy. That is the reality of life. But God does promises to be with us every step of the way, “to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). God promises to guide us, all along the way, if we will listen for God’s leading.
If the church can help or support you in any way during this time, do not hesitate to reach out. If you know of someone in special need – whether that need is related to the coronavirus pandemic or not – do not hesitate to reach out. We will get through this. Together.
March 19, 2020
Dear friends of Lewinsville Presbyterian Church,
We wanted to share with you the most recent updates from Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, regarding ways that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will impact our congregational life in the coming days. These are unprecedented times through which we are living. The church will continue to seek to make wise choices about our life together, while living in abiding trust and hope in the grace of God.
In light of recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as guidance from the President and other federal authorities, the Session met this past Tuesday evening (via videoconference on the Zoom platform), and voted to adopt the following changes to our congregation’s life:
- Public, in-person worship will be suspended until May 17, 2020, pending further guidance from the CDC. This breaks our hearts in any number of ways because worship is at the center of the church’s life. This decision is especially difficult at this time, because Holy Week and Easter take place during this period. Moreover, this period includes Pastor Annamarie’s final Sunday with us. However, our sense is that this is the responsible, necessary thing to do.
- On-Line Worship: As we did this past Sunday, we will continue to provide regular Sunday worship on-line throughout this period, through the church’s website. This will include worship services during Holy Week, and we will be in touch with you about those details.
- Church-sponsored activities, meetings, groups, rehearsals and classes will not take place on the Lewinsville campus during that same period (until May 17, pending further guidance from the CDC). This includes Ministry Group and committee meetings, Christ Care Small Group meetings, rehearsals, youth fellowship, and any other church-sponsored activity. As mentioned above, we have already begun to have videoconference meetings on the Zoom platform. The church has the ability to host several concurrent videoconferencing meetings on Zoom. If you or your church committee/group would like to use that capacity, please let me know, and we can get you set up.
- The church building will be closed to outside groups during this same period (until May 17, pending further guidance from the CDC). This affects all outside groups, including the 12-step groups that use our facility. Signs have been posted to this effect on the church doors.
- Staff/Office Hours: The work of the church and the church staff continues during this time; however, staff are being encouraged to do whatever they can from their homes. Staff will be checking voicemail and email regularly, so please reach out to us, especially with pastoral needs and concerns. There may be a bit of a delay in our response, but we are going to remain in regular contact with you.
- Ongoing ministry: We are all going to be figuring out what ministry looks like during this (hopefully, temporary) season. The staff are in conversation about how to continue to provide pastoral care, Christian education, worship, and more during this time.
- Stewardship and Giving during this season: Though we will not be gathering for in-person worship, the ongoing ministry of the church continues to need your support. There are several ways you can support the church with your giving:
- The easiest way for you to give during this season will be with our on-line giving option. CLICK HERE to go directly to our online donations page.
- You can text your credit card contribution by sending a text message with your intended donation amount ($xx.xx) to 703-270-0451. Then respond to the form you will be sent.
- You may mail in a check to the church office, and those checks will be deposited once each week.
Though much seems to be changing, the love and grace of God remains steadfast and constant. “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult” (Psalm 46:2-3). This is one of those times when we are reminded that the church is so much more than a building; we are a living community of people, even when we are not able to be with each other personally.
During this unique time of separation, our pastors and leadership want you to know that our connection with each other and to you remains strong. While our staff are working remotely, we can be reached via email and voicemail. Please let us know if you have any pastoral care needs, or if you become aware of those of others, whether those needs are related to the coronavirus or not. And as always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at the church.
In Christ’s love and peace,
Resources for organizations that need help: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/covid19/donate-help
Fairfax County coronavirus updates (this week there have been daily updates). Go to this page and scroll down to subscribe: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/chairman/
Fairfax county information on COVID-19: https://fairfaxcountyemergency.wpcomstaging.com. It’s in blog format, so scroll down to read the daily topics.