Governor Wolf’s new information about the Green Phase has the elders feeling hopeful we will see this milestone in early June. As such, we have decided it would be prudent at this point to wait for that announcement. The Session will continue our pattern of meeting every two weeks throughout this pandemic, which means our next meeting will be on June 9, 2020. If Westmoreland County has entered the Green Phase, or it has been announced when we will enter the Green Phase, the Session has agreed to discuss and, if we are able, to set the date of our reopening for in-person worship on that night.
Worship will continue to be at-home with no in-person option through at least June 14, 2020.
Building closure continues as long as we are in the Yellow Phase. By agreement of everyone at the meeting, when Westmoreland County enters the Green Phase, the hallway alongside the sanctuary – from the main door back to Tony’s office, including the old kitchen and one set of bathrooms – will be opened and available during church office hours and in the evenings for meetings. At first, the rest of the building will continue to be limited just to staff. If this limited opening goes well and our community stays in the Green Phase, the Session will consider opening more of the building for use in the future. It is very important that all building use be scheduled through the church office to prevent over crowding the small space and provide opportunity for proper cleaning.
As we begin looking forward to, and planning for, re-opening the church, cleaning supplies will be very important. We are beginning now to stock up as much as possible. If you find hand sanitizer that meets the CDC recommendations, and you are able, please consider purchasing one to donate to the church.
With the help of the Payroll Protection Plan, Board of Pensions, and the continued generous giving of our church family, we have been able to, and will continue to, fully financially support all church staff.
Greetings West Hempfield Presbyterian Church,
Our Session has been meeting every two weeks since the pandemic restrictions began. We held another Zoom meeting on the evening of May 12, 2020. Opening and closing with prayer, we shared concerns of our community and discussed what it means for us that Governor Wolfe announced our county will enter the Yellow Phase on May 15.
[from a resource put out by Redstone Presbytery] It is important to note that the easing of mandated restrictions is not a mandate to return to prior practices (“normal”). It becomes our responsibility as leaders to make prudent and wise decisions, acknowledging that we live by faith (not fear) AND we should not tempt our God by acting foolishly. Of course, as leaders, this is more complicated than merely the decisions that you and I might make as individuals. We must discern, decide and act based upon the collective good and faithfulness of our congregations.
We are committed to putting the safety of our congregation first, and early responses to the church questionnaire show that the congregation is too. Over half of the responses we have received so far did not think the church should re-open right away, voting to wait at least a few weeks, if not until Green Phase, to make sure it is safe.
It was decided by the Session that we would wait and see how everything goes in Yellow Phase before making any changes to our safety procedures. Our next meeting will be May 26, 2020. At that meeting we will review everything again. So, for now, building closure and worship at home will continue until at least May 26, 2020.
In preparation for reopening, whether that is sooner or later, we feel we will need a considerable stockpile of cleaning supplies. We will begin stocking up on supplies of disposable face coverings, sanitizer, cleaning supplies, etc.
We last celebrated communion together as a community on March 1. We have set the date of June 7 for our first attempt at communion at home if we are not worshiping in person on that date. There will be a worship at home service for that Sunday like every other week. In addition to that, we will invite everyone to join us at 11 am on Facebook Live prepared with your own communion elements. There will be music and Scripture and we will all partake together at the same time, though in our separate spaces. For those unable to join in a Facebook Live video, we will plan to send out a script that can be read starting at 11 am, which will allow you to partake at roughly the same time as everyone else.
Early responses to our church survey showed that families are cautious about children returning to the church for activities at this time. And with the unpredictability of this new virus and pandemic response it is very difficult to do long term planning. With sadness, the Session announces that this year’s VBS program has been cancelled.
Pennsylvania’s Primary Election will take place on June 2, 2020, and the church fellowship hall will once again be a polling place. In light of the virus, extra precautions will be taken by the church. First, even if the building closure is lifted before June 2, on June 2 everything except the fellowship hall will be closed and locked. Second, at recommendation of the election board, for a full week after June 2, the fellowship hall will be locked; no one, not even staff, will be permitted to enter. The virus dies on surfaces after 5 days, so we will wait 7 just to be cautious. After the 7 day period, John will be able to clean as usual, and then the area can be returned to regular usage.
Last thing to note, Pastor Andrew will be taking a “vacation” this week, 5/14-5/20. Like the rest of us, he is not going anywhere, but will hopefully get some needed rest and time to focus on his family. He will still be available in the case of emergencies. The worship at home service for Sunday, May 17 will still be available online like all the others. Rev. Liddy Barlow of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania will be filling in at the virtual pulpit and we are looking forward to the Good News that she will bring.
Thank you everyone for your continued support. We would not be able to do anything if it were not for your prayers, volunteering, and financial support.
Rev. Andrew Wirt and the Session of WHPC
Greetings West Hempfield Presbyterian Church,
Continuing to monitor the situation around the COVID-19 pandemic, our Session held a Zoom meeting on the evening of April 14, 2020. Opening and closing with prayer, we shared concerns of our community and looked at how we will continue to be the church in this unusual emergency situation.
Our first decision was to honor the requests of the WHO, the CDC, the President, and our governor. As we await an end to PA’s shelter-at-home and business closure instructions, our building will remain closed to everyone except staff – and even staff are instructed to enter the building only when necessary. Especially with the discovery of asymptomatic carriers, unauthorized and unnecessary usage of the building puts you and everyone else who enters the building (and their families) at increased risk. I know how difficult this is for many, and for some it is even more difficult than I can imagine. Thank you all for your respect and your desire to keep one another safe.
When we are able to once again worship together in person, we know there will be some who still choose to worship at home for a while because of safety concerns and we are already discussing how we can accommodate that and maintain our online worship experience.
Our second order of business was to discuss together the financial situation of the church and evaluate our commitments. More detailed information about this will be shared with church membership in the coming days but know that the Elders are following this closely. Our second decision was to authorize the Stewardship Committee to pursue some options for relief through the PCUSA Board of Pensions and the government’s Payroll Protection program. We also authorized the use of funds from the Money Market savings account, if needed.
Our third decision was to reaffirm our commitment to support all staff who wish to remain on the church payroll for as long as possible. (Pursuing the government’s payroll protection program requires that we continue to support our staff, but the commitment to our employees comes first. It is our commitment to maintain their salaries, supporting them and their families, that drives our interest in the program; not the requirements of the program that drives our decision to support our staff.)
Thank you to everyone who has worshiped with us online or through our DVD mailings. Thank you to everyone who has continued to support the church financially in this time when I am sure many of you are making difficult decisions yourselves. Thank you to everyone who has been reaching out and checking in on one another while remaining physically distant. Thank you all for your prayers and support.
Rev. Andrew Wirt and the Session of West Hempfield Presbyterian Church
It is with sadness, but confidence, that the Session announces the decision to continue the building closure until at least April 13, 2020.
We are sad because, unless there is an unexpected change in the status of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will not be celebrating Easter together in our sanctuary this year. We are confident because we know God is with us no matter the circumstances. We are confident that the name of Christ will still be praised. We are confident that we will worship together again in the sanctuary when this is all over.
In John chapter 4 Jesus tells the woman at the well "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." (John 4:23) We will worship in Spirit and in truth wherever we may be – in Spirit because we are united by the Holy Spirit even when physically separated and in truth because we will worship even when it is difficult or uncomfortable.
The Session also decided that, as a commitment to our staff and a commitment to maintain continuity and be prepared to return to normal when this is all over, we will continue to financially support all church staff positions throughout this building closure.
Our third big decision last night was to make online offering a possibility for everyone as we worship off-site. Donations to WHPC can always be made by making arrangements with your bank or by mailing a donation to 8 West Hempfield Drive, Irwin, PA 15642, and now they can also be made by following this link and filling out the form found there. https://onrealm.org/WestHempfieldPC/-/give/general
There is a question about Easter flowers. If you have already ordered Easter flowers, you can cancel that order by contacting the church office by Monday, March 30. We are, however, still taking orders, and will receive new orders until Monday, March 30. The order will be placed with the florist on Tuesday, March 31.
We will record all, or at least part, of the Easter service in the sanctuary with your flowers. Pictures will be posted online. We may even be able to do a Facebook Live thing on Easter morning. Your flowers will hear the sermon, the music, and the prayers. Then we will make arrangements for you to safely come and collect your flowers after Sunday morning.
Every year the seeds that lay dormant in the ground blossom forth once more. Every year we celebrate that Christ, who was laid dead in the ground, arose on Easter morning. This year may be different, but our hope in the resurrection is unchanged, God's love for us is unchanged, our praise for our Lord is unchanged.
Blessings, Rev. Andrew Wirt and the Session of WHPC
Greetings West Hempfield Presbyterian Church,
In light of developing information on the COVID-19 pandemic, please continue to check this page for updates to what is going on at WHPC.
For public safety, all regular church events/classes/activities are cancelled through at least Tuesday, March 24. The church building is closed to everyone except church staff on church business.
Session will meet on Tuesday evening, March 24 to discuss what WHPC will be doing moving forward.
In-person worship for March 22 has been cancelled. Please keep an eye on this page and the church Facebook page for an at-home alternative.
Our building is closed and worship will not be held in person, but the church continues. We are the church. Not the building. We continue to follow Christ. Christ calls us to love our neighbors. And right now, we can love one another by staying home and helping to prevent the spread of this disease. Pray, read your Bible, and we will see you again when this all calms down.
Updates on other events:
The Preschool has been closed since Monday, March 16 and will remain closed as long as public schools are advised to be closed.
The following has been postponed until an unspecified future date -- Haiti Spaghetti Dinner (Originally March 28), Community Sale (originally April), PW Candy Sale (originally starting March 22)
The following has be cancelled -- Egg Hunt (originally April 4)
Easter flower orders are still being collected. Orders are due Sunday, March 22. You can call the church office and leave a message or email the church at email@example.com. Payments can be mailed to the church. $9 either tulip or hyacinth
Newsletter deadline is still March 25. Anything submitted after March 25 may still go into bulletins or the May Newsletter, but will not be put in the April newsletter.
Please stay safe. Wash your hands. And follow all local, state, and national guidelines.