We are holding indoor worship services at 8:15am, 11:00am, and 6:00pm every Lord’s Day!
See the below announcements for more information.
Sunday Service Information:
Information about what to expect upon arrival and during the services can be found on our Sunday Worship page.
The weekly schedule and bulletin can be found on our Bulletin & Announcements page.
Sunday School information can be found on our Sunday School page.
FAQ: Service Attendance and Masking:
Answers to questions regarding when to attend and when to stay home, as well as clarification on masking can be found here.
Pastor Nicoletti’s topical sermons regarding the pandemic can be found here.
Portions of Dr. Ryan Gross’s letters to his elder group regarding the coronavirus from a medical perspective can be found here.
Pastor Nicoletti’s fall letter to the congregation and FAQ is available here
Update on Current Precautions
After reviewing the situation in Pierce County, the session has decided to continue with our current precautions (rather than increasing them). As we laid out in our November letter to the congregation, the session is trying to weigh a number of factors in the decisions we make. These factors include responding wisely and lovingly to medical concerns; honoring those in civil authority over us; gathering together as a body to worship; and caring for one another’s spiritual, mental, and emotional health. At this time, we believe that continuing with the same precautions we have followed for the past few weeks (rather than increasing those precautions) is the best way to navigate those different callings the Lord has placed on us. We don’t take lightly that this determination puts us at odds with the civil authorities but we believe it is our church leadership responsibility nonetheless. Overall, we are encouraged by where things are in our county and in our state, and we have begun discussions to determine a date after which we will no longer ask the congregation to follow COVID precautions at church gatherings and events. We are increasingly confident that the end of this difficult season is in sight. We ask for your prayers over our deliberations and for your continued patient adherence to the current precautions as we make these plans, so that we can end this period in the life of our church well – caring for one another in the weeks ahead, and then rejoicing together when this current trial is over.
Hybrid Prayer Meeting begins April 14!
We are excited to resume in-person prayer meeting in the Sanctuary this coming Wednesday, April 14 at 7:00pm! We realize there are some in our number who remain unable to join us in person, and so we will continue to stream the beginning portion of the prayer meeting via Zoom for those folks. The instructions and password for joining the Zoom call will go out as usual each Wednesday.
New Seating Arrangement
This Lord’s day, Sunday, March 28, we will begin sitting in groups of two pews, with every third pew remaining empty.
This seating arrangement enables us to more comfortably reach our capacity limit, while still respecting the current recommended precautions for group limits, and continuing to provide additional risk mitigation.
For those who would prefer more distance between them and others who are singing in their direction, we encourage you to seat yourselves in the rear row of a set of pews, which will still allow for more distance between you and the people behind you (who are facing you). For others without such preferences, we encourage you to seat yourselves in the front row of a set of pews.
Please note that we are no longer asking you to limit the number of households per pew, and so multiple households may occupy each pew that is in use. The empty pew between each set of pews will allow us to provide some limits on the overall size of groups sitting together. Please do not sit in any of the marked off pews.
If you have any questions, please reach out to the church office!
Information for February 21 Worship Services and Social Activity Update
Good afternoon FPC family,
On Sunday, February 21, we will again hold services at 8:15am, 11:00am, and 6:00pm in the sanctuary, with overflow seating in DeSoto Hall. Information on what to expect upon arrival and during the service is available on our Sunday Worship information page.
At 9:45 we will have Sunday School for children ages 3-yrs through 8th grade. Information for Sunday School is now available on our Sunday School page.
Please review the prerequisite information here before attending any service or Sunday School.
Now that we have entered the most current version of Phase 2, we are happy to announce two major changes.
First, social events can again be held at the church!
- There continue to be capacity limitations, and masking/social distancing will still be required, among other requirements, but we are glad to be able to host these types of events once again.
- If you lead a ministry that hosts one of our social events, you will need to coordinate with our church secretary Kim St. John regarding the calendar, and our administrator Derek Whaley regarding the guidelines for events.
- At this time, we will still not be hosting childcare.
Second, we are eliminating the sign-up process for worship services!
- Now that we have entered Phase 2, up to two households may be seated together as a group (i.e. within six feet of each other).
- We will continue to use only every other pew to ensure that the two households grouped together remain distanced from other groups. Please do not remove or cross the markers that have been placed.
- Pease do not join a pew that already has two households in it.
- Where possible, please try to be conscious of space constraints when choosing a pew.
- For example, if you are a household of 1 or 2, try to sit in a pew with a family, instead of in a pew with a household with 1 or 2 at the other end.
- Or as a reverse example, if you have a large family, don’t try to squeeze into a pew with another large family.
- Where you are able, please continue to allow for what distance is possible between you and the other household in your pew.
- The capacity in the sanctuary remains limited, and a deacon will be closing sanctuary seating once that capacity is reached.
- Overflow seating will continue to be available in DeSoto Hall, and deacons will continue to be available at a greeters table to help guide you.
- We understand that there are those in our congregation who are at higher-risk or who remain strongly concerned about the virus. If you wish to continue to be seated at a social distance from all other households, please contact the church office by Thursday night each week, and we will be happy to arrange for a pew for you that is socially distanced from all other households.
- As we relax these precautions, we do ask that everyone remain conscientious about the precautions that remain in place at this time. This is a way that we love one another, not only protecting one another’s health, but also working to not put our brothers and sisters into a position that would make them uncomfortable in worship. Please do not try to put a third household in a pew that already has two. Please do not sit in pews that have been marked off to be left empty. Please be diligent about wearing your mask properly for the sake of those around you: covering both your nose and mouth, not pulling it away from your face while singing, and not removing it except for when you are taking communion in your pew.
Please feel free to contact the church office with any questions regarding these changes. We are happy to assist in any way we can!
Children’s Sunday School Update
Beginning this Sunday, January 17th, Children’s Sunday School classes will resume the regular full hour from 9:45am – 10:45am. We are also very excited to inform student parents that they are welcome to remain indoors during the hour, with a reminder to maintain social distancing. Since parents will be in the building, 1st-4th grade students will be permitted to leave when class is ended and parent pick-up is no longer required. Additionally, we are ending the registration requirement for new students. Masks and distancing protocols remain the same. Many thanks to all the parents who have been so gracious about the exigencies necessary to keep Sunday School up and running!
Current Sunday School information can be found on our Sunday School page.
Letter to the Congregation regarding Congregational Singing
Dear FPC Family,
As many of you will be aware, this past Sunday (11/15) Governor Inslee issued new regulations aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our state.
The rules for religious services were all the same as they have been with one major exception: the new order includes a ban on congregational singing.
The session had an extended meeting Sunday night to discuss how to respond to this new order.
As I discussed in the “FAQ” of my previous letter, making decisions on issues like this are usually not simple, but instead involve the difficult process of using wisdom to weigh a number of competing values and callings that the Lord has given us as his people.
As we face this new question, four callings especially come to mind (though this list is by no means exhaustive): our calling to love one another and love our neighbors by taking precautions against the spread of the virus in a pandemic, our calling to obey our civil authorities, our calling to worship God as he has called us to in his Word, and our calling to care for and shepherd the people under our care as a congregation.
Regarding our calling to take precautions against the spread of the virus in the midst of a pandemic, we have sought to take this value seriously from the beginning. We went to streaming-only worship before the governor asked us to, because at the time we believed that it was the best course of action. We have been attentive to medical discoveries about the virus and its spread along the way, taking the insights of doctors and medical experts into account. Since resuming in-person worship we have focused on following the “big four” precautions (masking, distancing, hand washing, and staying home while sick) at every FPC gathering, and we have been so thankful to our congregation for their compliance with these precautions. We, of course, realize that there is a range of perspectives on the medical aspects of this pandemic both within our congregation and within the medical community. But these precautions have seemed, and continue to seem, most prudent to us.
That said, it is our belief at this time that the mitigation steps we have been taking have been effective in reducing the risk of virus spread in our worship services. Our goal, of course, cannot be risk elimination (which is impossible in this life), but must instead be responsible risk reduction. We believe that our current precautions effectively mitigate the risks we face, and we are not convinced that sufficient value is gained in risk reduction by taking the much more drastic step of completely eliminating congregational singing.
Regarding our respectful submission to civil authorities, we have taken this calling seriously from the beginning of this crisis as well. To the extent that we can do it in good conscience, while maintaining our primary allegiance and fidelity to the Word of God, we have sought to submit to the legitimate regulations of the state. And when we have disagreed with the steps they have taken, we have sought (and continue to seek), in obedience to the Word of God, to refrain from unfairly attributing negative motivations to their actions.
While we continue to honor and respect our civil leaders, we also believe that this most recent order includes a questionable step of not only restricting the circumstances of worship, but the elements of worship themselves (i.e.: congregational singing). As we consider the legal and constitutional elements involved with this, we do believe that a case on strong legal grounds could be made for deciding not to comply with the ban on congregational singing.
Regarding our call to worship God in conformity with his Word, congregational singing is a key element of biblical Christian worship. Worship is a dialogue with God, and as we hear God speak to us through his Word, the Bible calls on us to respond with the singing of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16). We could fill pages with all the exhortations in the Scriptures for God’s people to sing to him when gathered for worship (e.g.: Psalm 5:11, 9:11, 30:4, 33:3, 47:6-7, 66:1-2, 67:3-5, 68:4, 95:1-2, 96:1-2, 98:1-5, 100:1-2, 105:1-2, 135:3, 147:1-7, 149:1, and we could go on …) It was Biblical commands like these that compelled the Reformers to restore congregational singing during the Protestant Reformation. When it comes to the role of congregational singing in worship, our conscience is captive to the Word of God, and “we must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
While we could imagine highly unusual circumstances in which Christian worship could be acceptably conducted without congregational singing, the circumstances to justify that would need to be extreme and the risks of singing and benefits of not singing would need to be very significant. As we note above, we do not believe that our current circumstances meet that criteria.
In regard to our call to shepherd the people of God, we must note that congregational singing plays an important role in encouraging, engaging, exhorting, and uniting the people of God when they gather for worship. To see this more clearly, we might consider what is lost with the elimination of congregational singing. We believe that the absence of congregational singing for the next four Sundays (which would include the elimination of Advent and Christmas hymns through most of the season of Advent) would be very discouraging for many of our congregants. In a time of high discouragement already, this must be taken into account. As the pastors and session we are charged with the spiritual care of the congregation, which includes a role in their spiritual, mental, and emotional health, and congregational singing is one of the ways we are called to extend that spiritual care. For when we sing together, we are speaking not only to God, but to one another (see Ephesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16).
With all these factors and more taken into account, the session has decided unanimously to continue to include congregational singing in our worship and children’s ministries at this time, while we also continue to follow all the mitigation steps we have been following as a congregation.
We are of the conviction that this is the path that wisdom, faith, and the Word of God call us to at this time.
That said, we also recognize that other churches and other Christians may come to different conclusions than we have. While we hold our conviction firmly, we do not judge those brothers and sisters in Christ who have weighed the same factors we have and have come to a different conclusion.
That includes those within our congregation as well. For those of you who are part of our church family and who may disagree with our conclusion, we want to take what steps we can to accommodate you without asking you to violate your conscience. To that end we offer two alternatives you might consider if you are uncomfortable joining us for a worship service with congregational singing. One, of course, is to worship at home using the livestream. Another (if you would still like to gather with God’s people and receive the Lord’s Supper) is that starting this Lord’s Day, at the 11:00 and 6:00 services, we will divide DeSoto Hall into two separate rooms. The south end will be regular overflow space (and will include congregational singing) and the north end will be designated for those who would like to attend without participating in the congregational singing. The Lord’s Supper will be brought to both sides. On future Sundays, the non-singing space will be listed separately on the sign-up registration page. For this coming Sunday (11/22), if you would like to move your registration to the non-singing space, or to cancel your registration altogether, please email the church office as soon as possible. If you are not registered, you can also show up on Sunday and ask the deacons to seat you in the non-singing space. (Please note that for logistical reasons this non-singing location will be available at the 11:00 and 6:00 services, but not at the 8:15 service.)
We appreciate that each congregant and family will need to make a decision about how they will respond to these options, and the session will not judge those who come to a different conclusion than we have. While the session believes that we stand on strong legal and constitutional grounds with our decision, we are also not in a position to offer legal counsel to our congregants as individuals. You should be aware that if you come and participate in congregational singing, you will not be complying with the governor’s order. The session also believes that, overall, our current mitigation steps significantly reduce the risk of COVID transmission. But the steps we are taking do not eliminate risk, and each individual’s risk factors are different. We cannot give medical guidance to each individual congregant, and you must make that decision yourself, with guidance from your doctor.
For those who agree with our decision not to comply with this element of the governor’s order, we urge you not to judge, look down on, or speak against those who come to a different conclusion. As we navigate these difficult questions as the Church of Christ, his love should be at the forefront of how we speak to and about one another. That includes our calling to hear and speak of each other’s decisions with a hermeneutic of charity, assuming the best intentions, and not a hermeneutic of suspicion, assuming the worst intentions. In a world characterized by paranoia and slander, let us, as God’s people, stand out as different.
We also urge those who will continue to worship with us to be all the more diligent with us in adhering to the precautions that we have been following up to this point in our congregational gatherings.
If you have questions, concerns, or feedback, please feel free to contact members of the session individually (though please keep in mind that Pastor Gutierrez is on vacation right now) or as a whole (by emailing them to the church office, who can pass your communication on to the entire session).
Please continue to pray for the end of this pandemic. And please continue to pray as well for our governor, our state, our congregation, and our fellow Christians across Washington as they navigate these difficult issues. This has been such a challenging year for so many. And it is not over yet. But the Lord is faithful. He is sovereign. And he is with his people always – even to the end of the age. Confident of this truth, we step forward into this new set of challenges, in humble reliance on Christ our Lord, come what may. For he is good, and his steadfast love endures forever.
Your Servant in Christ,
Pastor Nicoletti, on behalf of the session of Faith Presbyterian Church
Children’s Sunday School is back!
Children’s Sunday School has resumed! We are so excited that this wonderful ministry for our children can begin again. We hope and pray that students, staff, and parents are encouraged, uplifted, and energized by this step toward further opening up the life of the church, and that this temporary solution will be a wonderful experience for our children. We ask that you will be in prayer for the teachers who have been working hard on new lesson plans and teaching strategies, and do please pray that circumstances will allow for increased capacity soon. We look forward to welcoming back exuberant Covenant Children to classes this Sunday!
Please take a look at the Sunday School page for class times, classroom locations, and to sign up your child!
Pastoral Letter to the Congregation and FAQ
Dear FPC Family,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The past six months have been challenging for everyone, and yet even in the midst of the strange and unexpected circumstances we have faced, God’s grace has shown through in so many ways. I and many others have been so thankful for the Body of Christ in this season, and so many of us have experienced God’s grace through it. I find myself wondering again at how those who do not know the Lord walk through the challenges of this life without the support of the Lord and his people. I have rejoiced as I’ve seen how so many of you who have expressed your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ in a variety of creative and authentic ways over the last six months.
As we enter the fall and the time period in which a new year of activities and ministries would normally be launched, I wanted to answer some of the questions I have received on where we are and what we are doing. It has been some time since I have written a letter explaining some of the actions we are taking in light of the current circumstances, and while some of the issues below have been addressed before, if some people are asking these questions, then I imagine others may be wondering about them as well.
The questions are listed here, and each one is a link – you can click on them to go to the answers, posted on our website. The reason for this format is that, when the full Q&A was included in this letter, the letter came to about 10 pages, which can be a bit overwhelming. Not everyone is interested in the same information, and so this format allows you to click on the questions you are interested in and skip the ones you’re not.
The past six months have been significant for all of us in different ways. We have all learned things about the world we live in, and if we have been attentive, we have also each learned things about ourselves in how we have responded to the current situation.
For me personally, since before I was even installed as your senior pastor I have been painfully aware of the gap that exists between my experience and the responsibilities I am now called to. But that gap was even more felt as we entered a set of circumstances that, even in my wildest dreams, I had not envisioned would be part of my first two years as your senior pastor.
I still believe that our decisions to take the precautions we have taken at our church were the right decisions. That said, time will usually yield more perspective and new lessons from events. It will be interesting to see how each of us look back on this time period in the years ahead.
Such perspective is of course not available to us when we are “in it.” When this strange situation was suddenly upon us, we needed to look at the information we had and make a decision on what we would do (or not do) then and there. It would have been great to have had more information (it would still be great to have more information). But decisions had to be made. They still seem to me like the right decisions. But I am very aware that to others, they have looked wrong.
I am very thankful to those of you who have taken the time and exercised the patience to help me better understand your perspective and your thought process over the last six months. I have also had the opportunity to talk with other pastors – both locally and in other parts of the country – who have had a range of responses to this situation.
The questions we have faced on how to respond to this pandemic are complex questions, that require us to take positions on a number of issues, but that must then play out in very concrete ways. In such situations it is very necessary to recognize that sincere and thoughtful Christians will come to a range of different conclusions, that will result in a range of practical responses. This does not mean that our conclusions do not matter – they do. We are responsible before God for them. Some will be right, and some will be wrong. Some will be exercising more wisdom, and some will be acting in foolishness without knowing it. But each of us must do our thinking with a humility that acknowledges that while we are doing our best, we may still be wrong. And each of us must love our brothers and sisters who disagree, showing them respect and assuming the best of their motivations.
All of this has been a lesson for many of us (certainly for me) in walking in love and humility with those we disagree with. I hope I am learning, and I ask for your forgiveness for any ways I have fallen short of that calling in the previous months.
My earnest desire is for our church to be characterized by humility and love. We will still need to make practical decisions. We will continue to take precautions as a congregation. But our calling is to take each step in humility and love. Please pray for me, for our session, for all of our leadership, and for our congregation to this end.
With that said, below I want to answer some of the questions I have been receiving. I hope the information below will be helpful. You may not agree with it all, but I hope that more information about my thinking and the session’s decisions will be an aid to you as you navigate this difficult season in the life of our congregation. If you have follow-up questions, you are welcome to reach out to me, to the session, or to the staff.
Despite the difficulties of the past six months, God has been at work among us. Many of you have shown your faith, love, and patience in wonderful ways and that has been a blessing to me and to others. I thank you for that, and I praise the Lord for the ways he is working to bear his people’s burdens and build up his Church through your love and faithfulness.
This has been a trying period. It will likely continue to be difficult – at least for a while longer. We do not know where we are going, but we know the One we follow is faithful. We do not know what is coming next, but we know that the One who is sovereign over all loves us immensely. He has given his only Son for us – how will he not with him graciously give us all good things? For he promises us that he is working all things out for the good of his people.
Let us therefore walk forward with faith in God and love for one another.
Your servant in Christ,
You can access the FAQ and answers here!
Mid-Week Ministry Gatherings
The church building is now available to some mid-week ministry gatherings.
- The building use will be open only to activities where the primary intent and focus of the meeting is the worship of God, the study of God’s word, or the study of its implications for us, and will not be available for gatherings where the primary intent is social.
- Choir activities, children’s ministries, and childcare will continue to be suspended for now.
- These gatherings will need to follow the same precautions we have used in our worship service, as well as the guidelines received from the governor’s office.
- All events in the church building will need approval from the administrator before they can reserve space or use the building.
- If you lead a ministry that is interested in using the church building, you will need to identify a point-person responsible for learning, understanding, and implementing the COVID precautions and requirements for your gatherings. That point-person should contact our Church Administrator Derek Whaley for the necessary information to begin the process for preparing to gather in the church building. Please contact Mr. Whaley with any questions.
Letter to the Congregation – General Update on 2020 Summer Plans
To the Congregation of Faith Presbyterian Church,
We would like to update you on our plans for conducting worship services and other church meetings during the summer of 2020.
Since June 14th, we have been holding outdoor services on Sundays at 8:45, 11:00, and 1:15; online services at 11:00 and 6:00; and prayer meeting via Zoom. We have been doing so in ways we consider reasonably safe. We continue using the “Big Four” mitigation strategies—wearing masks, maintaining 6 ft social distancing, washing/sanitizing hands, and self-isolating when ill. We are taking these actions in order to balance worshiping the Lord rightly and protecting our most vulnerable members. Further, we want to maintain a good witness to our neighbors and avoid super-spreader events, such as we’ve seen with the March 2020 choir practice in Skagit County and services held this spring at a church in eastern Oregon.
In the near term, we are expanding our use of the tent and plan to hold one service indoors. As you may know, just this past week we held the mid-week Youth Group meeting outdoors in the tent. The meeting used the Big Four, as well as other requirements. If you lead an FPC ministry, would like to hold a meeting in the tent, and understand and are willing to enforce all of the requirements, please contact Mr. Whaley, our Church Administrator.
As announced yesterday, beginning July 19 we plan to hold the 6:00 service in the tent while continuing to make it available on our livestream. That same day, we plan to begin holding the 8:45 service indoors. We are starting with just one indoor service initially, which will allow us to identify many of the new complexities involved with indoor worship. We intend to expand to more indoor services in August.
Please note that this indoor service will not be an exact replica of the Sunday morning worship services we have enjoyed for many years. It will be shorter and have less congregational singing, and we will distribute the Lord’s Supper elements to people sitting in the pews. Between 125 and 150 people will be able to participate, and they will still need to sign-up online so that we can plan appropriately. Masking and social distancing will still be necessary. Next week, we will explain more about these changes and what to expect of an indoor service.
By the beginning of September, we hope all of our services and mid-week meetings will be inside. We will gradually expand from the one (8:45) indoor service in July, to two (8:45 and 6:00), and then to all three (8:45, 11:00 and 6:00). That will prepare us to hold all worship services and mid-week meetings indoors when it is too cold and wet to meet outside in the tent.
This gradual approach will also help us, the deacons, and the church staff identify and address any gaps or unforeseen problems. Over the course of the summer, we want all of us to be familiar and comfortable with our indoor services and their associated patterns. We aren’t publishing a schedule for moving indoors because we think there is a risk that unforeseen events could prevent us from meeting such a schedule.
We understand that many of us are uncomfortable with or clearly should not attend services in person. Please continue worshiping remotely via the livestream. No one should feel like they MUST attend in person.
We hope to begin allowing small groups to meet indoors soon and will announce when we are ready to do so. Meeting indoors will involve social distancing and several other administrative steps. The church office will help provide guidance on clearing those steps when we are ready to allow those activities to resume. We do not anticipate resuming Children’s Ministry until at least the fall.
Making these plans forces us to balance good but competing needs. The Lord calls us, His people, to worship Him; and we want to do so in ways that keep our neighbors safe. We love to sing praises to our God, but unfettered singing is a contributor to spreading the coronavirus. We want Sunday services that minister to those who attend and honor those whose health could be affected if they joined us in person. We desire to honor our Lord while preserving health and meeting public health guidelines. There is no playbook for this decision-making, and we understand that not everyone will enthusiastically agree with every decision we make. Please pray for us, the deacons, and the church staff, that we would wisely and practically design and implement plans to increase our indoor worship services and mid-week meetings. Pray for the unity of our church and the worldwide church during these challenging times.
Finally, these times are difficult for all of us. Some are working fewer hours or have lost jobs altogether. Others have been working but doing so in close proximity to the sick—and are concerned about infecting their loved ones. Being confined, working from home, or attending school remotely, all amplify our daily struggles. Whatever your situation, please contact the deacons or us as we want to help share your burdens.
-The Session of Faith Presbyterian Church
You can download a copy of the letter here.
Update on Sunday Gatherings – Changes Beginning July 19!
We will again hold 3 outdoor services next week, July 12. Sign-up will again be via Eventbrite, and instructions and the sign-up link will be available on the church website as well as in the congregation email that will go out after the conclusion of the evening service tonight.
On the following Sunday, July 19, we will be making some changes!
- First, we will begin meeting indoors! This will be for the 8:45am service only. This will be a slightly shortened service, with less singing. Social distancing, masks, advance sign-up, and assigned seating will continue to be necessary. The Lord’s supper will be served. More specifics will be shared as part of an extended announcement next week.
- Second, we will be discontinuing the 1:15pm service, and instead be moving to an outdoor evening service! As is our custom, the evening service will continue to be different from the morning services, but the Lord’s supper will again be served.
- We are asking households to register for only one of the three in-person services – the 8:45am indoor service, the 11:00am outdoor service, or the 6:00pm outdoor service. Sign-up will be available after the evening service next Sunday.
- We hope this will allow all who wish to worship in person to do so. As before, we do not want anyone to feel obligated to attend an in-person service at this time, and would encourage our vulnerable congregants to worship with us via the live-stream.
Finally, we will be sending out a congregational email tomorrow from the session, outlining general plans for the remainder of the summer and into fall. This email will be more a general update, with more concrete information becoming available for specific services and activities as changes occur.
Clarification Regarding Attending Services and Masking
Hello FPC Family,
We have received a number of questions from the congregation around attendance at services and masking, and so we wanted to provide some answers and clarification.
Regarding when to attend and when not to attend:
- We are requesting that you do not attend services if you have a temperature over 100.4*, if you have symptoms related to, or a diagnosis of, COVID-19, or if you have been exposed in the past 14 days to an individual who has symptoms related to, or a diagnosis of, COVID-19.
- Symptoms may include a cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. This list does not include all possible symptoms, and the CDC maintains an updated list here.
- If you were directly exposed to someone with COVID-like symptoms you should not come to church, but if you were not directly exposed, you may come. For example, if your spouse was exposed to third party with COVID-like symptoms at work, they should not come to church until 14 days have passed since exposure. However, if you were not exposed to that third party yourself, you may still come.
- If you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms but have tested negative, we would still ask you to remain at home until all of the following are true: you have had at least 3 days without fever, your symptoms are improving, and there have been at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms.
- Please let the church office know in advance if you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask so that we can be aware of the issue and plan seating arrangements accordingly.
Thank you all for your patience and grace as we navigate these unusual times! As always, please contact the church office if you have any questions!
Some Clarifications on Masks and Attendance at Sunday Gatherings
It has been a joy to see so many of you at our outdoor services the past two Lord’s Days, and I hope that it has been a blessing to those of you who have attended in person and those who have been attending online.
I want to thank you all for your hard work and diligence in following the new precautions as we gather for worship. We know these have been frustrating for some and new for everyone. I am so grateful for everyone’s patience, willingness to follow these precautions at our gatherings, and work in adjusting to the requirements.
We have been asked some questions and seen some areas that need clarification, and I want to address those in this email.
As you know, masks are required at all times at the gathered services.
First, we’d like to clarify and emphasize the importance that the mask requirement includes keeping our masks fully on during all congregational singing.
Second, we’d like to remind everyone that your mask needs to be worn in a way that covers both your mouth and your nose.
Third, some have come to worship wearing masks that come with an exhalation valve, which makes it easier to breath out. These masks offer protection to the one wearing them (filtering when you inhale), but they do not adequately protect those around you from you (they provide no barrier for when you exhale). One of our biggest goals with masking is to protect others from ourselves, and so these masks do not meet the masking requirements for our gatherings. If these are the masks you have been wearing, please bring something different on Sunday (such as a cloth mask, surgical mask, or an n95 mask without an exhalation valve).\
Fourth, while face shields help protect the wearer in many ways, they do not provide adequate protection for other people from what is exhaled by the wearer, and so they are not a replacement for wearing a facemask on Sunday.
When Not to Attend
Finally, we want to give some clarification regarding who should not attend worship.
As we have said in our previous emails, you should not attend services if you have a temperature over 100.4*, or if you have symptoms related to, or a diagnosis of, COVID-19.
We would like to add that you also should not attend services if you know you have been exposed in the last 14 days to someone with symptoms related to, or a diagnosis of, COVID-19.
Thank you all for your patience and diligence with these matters as we all seek to navigate these issues!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the church office.
Your servant in Christ,
Summary of Outdoor Worship Schedule
Outdoor worship services will be held on Sundays at 8:45 am, 11:00 am, and 1:15 pm. For those who may be used to attending an 8:15 am service, please note that the earliest service begins at 8:45. Services are for pre-registered congregants only.
The 11:00 am service will continue to be live-streamed for those who feel safer worshiping at home. While the Lord’s Supper will be celebrated at the outdoor service, the doctrine of both our church and our denomination prevent us from officiating it for those at home. Please see a further explanation provided on our Bulletin & Announcements page.
At the outdoor services, health safety guidelines will be closely followed. For more information, please see the post below regarding the outdoor worship services. In addition, you will find Dr. Ryan Gross’s announcement in the evening worship service on June 7 very helpful. It can be accessed via the live-stream archive here as part of a video of the entire evening service.
The 6:00 pm service will continue to be live-stream only. No outdoor worship service will be held.
Announcement: Outdoor Worship to begin June 14, 2020
Pastor Nicoletti announced on Sunday Morning that we will begin hosting outdoor services on June 14, 2020.
More information will be shared during an extended announcement in the evening service on June 7.
Letter to the Congregation: COVID-19 Update #2 – May 30, 2020
To the Congregation of Faith Presbyterian Church,
Many thanks to those of you who have written with your comments to the pandemic planning committee. We are reading them all and encourage you to continue sending helpful comments, advice, and questions to the dedicated e-mail address. (Note: We sent this out to the congregation by email. If you did not receive it, please contact the church office.)
We met again for 2-1/2 hours on Thursday evening, May 28th, and we are in the process of updating the Session this weekend. We will continue to advise you immediately about specific plans as they become available.
The committee has asked me to respond to your input as well as update you in general. Without quoting your comments and questions directly, the following paragraphs address the common themes in the e-mails we have received so far.
As you know, the situation is changing rapidly, and in Tacoma and Pierce County, the news regarding viral cases and hospitalizations continues to improve. There is a reason for thanksgiving to our merciful God!
As we move forward in response to this disease, it is going to be vitally important that we act in unison, in love for one another, as the Body of Christ. We can diminish the likelihood that one infected person will spread illness to one or two others. But more importantly, we must take the steps necessary to prevent one person from spreading this illness to 30 or 50 others at one time. Whatever our response looks like in the specific details, it will almost certainly involve masking, distancing, hand hygiene, and an individual willingness to stay home and away from others when we are ill. Alone, each step is insufficient but, taken together, they are a powerful deterrent to viral spread.
The officers are working hard preparing to deal with this viral disease and the attendant risks to our congregation. There is much to be done, and we will need many willing hands to help.
The frequent comparisons of COVID 19 to influenza have obscured the fact that this viral disease is unique, dangerous, and remains very incompletely understood. You need to know that the medical professionals caring for and studying COVID patients are generally quite alarmed. The comment, “We’ve never seen anything like this before,” is becoming common.
You should be aware, for instance, that (quite unlike influenza) roughly 5% of folks in their 50s who develop COVID-19 wind up in the hospital. That rate goes up further with increasing age. I did a quick run through the church directory and counted over 125 people whom I know are over 50 years of age. In the directory, I counted over 30 people who are either over the age of 80 or have serious high-risk health problems, or both.
As the virus has become better understood, it is more apparent that the primary mode of transmission is respiratory, and that people who are still a day or so from developing the symptoms are often highly infectious. And at this point, we have no way to identify those asymptomatic carriers who will put others near them at risk.
It is also more clear that a very efficient way to spread the virus widely is to pack large numbers of people into an enclosed space, have at least one symptomatic or asymptomatic carrier, and then sing or speak together for an hour or more. The reality is that congregational worship is a much higher risk event than shopping at Costco.
Like you, the officers of FPC are extremely desirous of resuming our worship and all aspects of our lives together as soon as possible. We are not operating in fear. We have not placed our confidence in science, but rather in the God whose orderly creation makes scientific study possible. We are not burning incense to emperors, but we are acknowledging our obligations to the civil authority God has established over us and to sacrificially love our community neighbors as the Scripture instructs us to do. And we have not forgotten our obligations to worship together nor are we unmindful of the losses we are all suffering in this time.
For those wishing help to find the right balance and wisdom as they face some of these same questions in their households, we encourage you to contact an elder directly to talk through the spiritual implications. We don’t have “one size fits all” solutions for you, but we would love to be of service to you in that way.
As we live through this pandemic we will need, together, to observe universal precautions for the coming months, for as long as SARS-COV2 is a threat. We will gather again, soon (the Lord willing), as soon as we can all learn, together, how to protect one another and especially the most vulnerable among us. Again, more details will be coming, but we want to encourage you to be mindful about masks (my mask protects you from me, and yours protects me from you), distancing (6 feet isn’t magic, but it is reasonable), hand hygiene (wash, wash, wash…this virus dissolves in soap and water), and staying home when ill (no one will ever criticize you ever again for staying home with a mere cold).
We cannot eradicate this virus, and so we will have to learn to live with it. In reliance upon God’s grace, we will learn together, and fast.
Blessings to all,
Ryan Gross M.D.
Elder Dr. Ryan Gross’s remarks during morning announcements – May 24, 2020
Elder and member of the planning committee Dr. Ryan Gross gave a few brief remarks regarding the congregational letter and current plans during morning announcements on May 24, 2020.
Letter to the Congregation: COVID-19 Update #1 – May 19, 2020
May 19, 2020
To the Congregation of Faith Presbyterian Church,
This is the first of what the Session anticipates will be a regular series of updates to you regarding our operations during the current COVID-19 pandemic. As you have heard, the Session and Diaconate have formed a committee of the pastors, the church administrator Mr. Whaley, two elders (Drs. Darby and Gross) and two deacons (Mr. Lawty and Mr. Skrivan) to supply recommendations and plans to the officers as we move through this public health emergency. That committee met on May 12, reported to the Session on May 14, and will continually reassess the evolving situation and our response to it.
We want you to be aware that our primary concerns remain fidelity to God’s Word, a firm commitment to our communal worship and sacraments and prayer, and the demonstration of love to God, to our neighbors, and to one another. The Session must seek balance between our Lord’s command to worship together with His command to care for the most vulnerable among us. We wish to restore in-person worship and the Lord’s Supper as soon as it is medically advisable and wise to do so.
At this moment, we think it is prudent to continue our current approach, with online worship on the Lord’s Day and online prayer meetings each Wednesday evening. We expect this will be our approach for several more weeks at the least. Church services, gathering as they do large numbers of people in enclosed spaces speaking and singing together, serve as efficient vectors of respiratory virus transmission. We judge that the risk of community spread of this deadly infection remains quite high at this time.
Much remains unknown about the nature of the pandemic virus (SARS-COV-2) and the disease it causes. There are yet many active cases of COVID-19 in Pierce County, and particularly in Tacoma. Worse still, the known cases probably represent only 10% or less of the actual infections in the community. 17% of the known cases in Pierce County are in health care workers. Pray on for those most vulnerable among us.
We are establishing a dedicated email address for questions and insights from members and adherents of the congregation. (Note: We sent this out to the congregation by email. If you did not receive it, please contact the church office.) We will gather those together intermittently and attempt to periodically address relevant questions and helpful advice with these updates over time. Also, we will establish a dedicated page on our church website for the publication of these updates.
We recognize that any decisions we reach will invariably come as welcome news and relief to some, and significant frustration to others among us. In the face of this calamity, and the reality of human uncertainty and ignorance, we call the congregation to prayerful humility both in public and in private. We will all, together as the Body of Christ, seek His wisdom for us.
Pray on for God’s continued great mercy to us in this time of trouble.
For the Session,
Ryan Gross M.D.
Letter to the Congregation: What to Expect in the Weeks Ahead – March 19, 2020
Dear FPC Family,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It has been an eventful week since my last letter to you on March 13th. It has been a time of adjustment and change for everyone, with shifting practices regarding work, new homeschooling tasks and responsibilities for students and parents, disconnection from our church and communities for all, and anxiety and uncertainty for many. This is a challenging experience for everyone.
And yet, as we remind ourselves again and again, Christ is Lord. He loves us and is sovereign.
At the church, our leadership has been working on how we can best continue to minister to you all under these challenging and unusual circumstances, continuing to do the work of the Church as best we can, while loving our neighbors through best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
I’d like to update you all on what to expect from the church in the weeks ahead:…
Letter to the Congregation: Cancelling of In-Person Worship – March 13, 2020
Dear Faith Family,
After a lot of thought the session has decided to cancel our gathering for worship this coming Lord’s Day, March 15th. We have also decided to cancel all mid-week church events from March 16th through
As an alternative to gathering together for worship, we will offer a streaming service available at 11:00 on our website.
Under the video there will be a link to a PDF with the order of service. We’d encourage you to join us at 11:00 through the streaming video, with the PDF open before you either in another window, or on another device. The PDF will include scans of the hymns that we will be singing from the hymnal.
This is, of course, not ideal. It’s not the same as being together, in any number of ways. This was a difficult decision for the session to make for that very reason. We rightly value the gathering with God’s people, on the Lord’s Day, to worship. We can worship God individually and with our families of course – and that is very good. But it is not the same as being together with the gathered congregation. Nonetheless, we are still united as God’s people by his Spirit, and the technology of the livestream allows us to worship at the same time, even while in separate places. We are thankful for that…