Update from Back-to-Church Task Force

A Message from the Back-to-Church Task Force

Artwork: Detail of Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s “Digital Mosaic,” illustrated by Mark Bender. All rights reserved by Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

Dear Shadyside Presbyterian Church Family:

As the Back-to-Church Task Force begins to make recommendations regarding the re-opening of the church building and offices, we wanted to share with you some considerations and factors that we are using to guide us as we make these challenging decisions. We have been prayerfully meeting on a weekly basis since the Session commissioned this task force on June 17.

Our first mission has been to focus on how to bring back those staff members who would like to work safely in the church for greater amounts of time. As such, we are developing guidelines for their return. Additionally, we have established a Pandemic Officer to help in coordinating these new protocols.

As we consider opening for worship, we have been holding fast to a few principles:

  • The pastors and the task force grieve the loss of our traditional worship and fellowship experience. Each of us feels the loss differently, but we know that the sense of our loss is palpable communally within the congregation, even at a physical distance.
  • The most vulnerable among us are our highest priority. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions are the most vulnerable to infection and death from the virus. We would err on the side of caution in all our decision-making, especially in thinking of those for whom the risk is highest.
  • Our congregation is regional, and we must use regional data in determining when it is safe to move forward. We are reviewing data from Allegheny County and benchmarking multiple indicators that will help us to determine when the risk decreases, enabling us to gather together. Our goal is to identify a date to re-open for worship once the data indicates a decline in COVID-19 cases for at least two weeks.
  • When we return to our sanctuary, worship will not look like it did prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. We anticipate that there will be changes in seating, entering and exiting the building, how music and responsive readings are handled, and how Communion is or is not celebrated. In addition, there may be limits on the number of people who can attend in person. With this in mind, and understanding that some may not feel comfortable returning immediately when we are able to open our doors, services will be made available online for those who are unable to worship on-site.

We ask for your prayers and your patience as we continue to work through the many details of re-opening amidst the changing data, both locally and globally, in this pandemic. We also express our sincere appreciation to the staff who have come alongside us in this work.


The Back-to-Church Task Force of the Session of Shadyside Presbyterian Church
Elder Donald P. Coffelt Jr.; Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles; Elder Brigetta P. Del Re; Elder Robert J. Ferguson; Elder Carla M. Gedman; Elder James M. Gockley; Elder Robert B. Luthultz, chair; Reverend Lynn M. Portz; and Elder J. Alexander Viehman