Update from COVID-19 Task Force

On-Site Worship to Resume Nov. 15

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

Dear members of Shadyside Presbyterian Church:

The Shadyside Presbyterian Church COVID-19 Task Force has been meeting weekly since its formation in mid-June, carefully monitoring the number of new cases and positivity rates, as well as state and county guidelines. During the September meeting of Session, our elders approved a summary of policies and protocols regarding staff returning to the offices, small group gatherings, and returning to on-site worship. Those protocols can be found on the church’s website at www.shadysidepres.org/covid-19/guidelines.

The staff has been back in the offices since September 14, and, adhering to state guidelines, small groups of twenty-five or fewer have been permitted in the building, as well. On Friday, October 9, new guidelines from the state went into effect for indoor gatherings, which would allow individuals and families to worship in our sanctuary.

With the safety and well-being of our members and guests as a top priority, the pastors, the Session, the Board of Trustees, and the task force have decided that we can return to on-site worship on Sunday, November 15, albeit with many new and necessary safety protocols. We ask for your patience and cooperation with these protocols to ensure a successful return to worship within our sanctuary.

The task force also has decided that the virtual service that is offered online every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. will continue, even after on-site worshipping resumes, for those who are not comfortable returning yet. Additionally, please know that the Trustees are well along in equipping the sanctuary for livestreaming video, so that those who are worshipping at home will be enjoying the same worship experience as those who are gathered in the sanctuary. And as state guidelines continue to be relaxed, the task force will allow greater numbers of people to attend our services on-site.

To better prepare you for what to expect as you return to on-site worship, here are several key guidelines that have been put in place to minimize risk to those who wish to worship in person:

  • While we all are eager to be together again, we acknowledge that each individual must carefully consider many factors in deciding whether to attend any in-person event. We strongly encourage everyone to demonstrate love and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ by making choices that will protect their health and well-being, as well as your own. With that in mind, we advise you to continue to attend worship virtually in the following instances:
    • You meet any criteria that place you at higher risk for severe illness as published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
    • You do not feel well, or you have flu-like symptoms;
    • You have had close contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic;
    • You regularly come into contact with large crowds or greater numbers of people.
  • If you decide to attend Sunday worship in person, you must pre-register, either via the church’s website at www.shadysidepres.org/register or by calling the church office: 412.682.4300, ext. 100. Registration will open at noon on the Monday prior to the Sunday service and will close when the seating capacity is met, or by noon on the Friday prior to the Sunday service. Please register your family unit as a single seating group. Only those with reservations will be able to attend worship that Sunday; however, if you are unable to register due to capacity limitations, you will be allowed to register for the following Sunday in advance of that week’s open registration.
  • Please take your temperature at home before leaving. The ushers will have a contactless thermometer if you forget to take your temperature. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher should worship virtually.
  • You are asked to allow for extra time upon arrival, remain six feet apart from other groups, and wear a mask if you are two years old or older. Please make sure your entire family unit enters together as a single group.
  • The ushers will receive one group at a time either in the Narthex, or through the coat room door on Westminster Place, and will direct you to the next available pew. Families will be permitted to sit together, up to a maximum of four adults/teenagers (plus children under twelve). Children should remain with their parents at all times. Also, members who are not related, but who have had multiple personal interactions and exposure with each other during the pandemic, may request to be seated together.
  • Please be aware that masks should be worn at all times, and that there will be no singing or responses from the congregation in order to minimize risk.
  • All pew cushions, Bibles, and hymnals have been removed to aid in the cleaning and sanitizing of the sanctuary.
  • While we cannot safely bring back our tremendous choir, our service of worship will feature some musical elements, including organ and instrumental music and vocal soloists.
  • You can drop off your pledge offering in a large basket as you depart the sanctuary, or continue with mail-in contributions. Online giving also remains an option; please visit www.shadysidepres.org/give for details.
  • At the end of the service, please wait for an usher to dismiss you, and continue your social distancing once outside the sanctuary.
  • The water fountains will be disabled, and only the restrooms near the Craig Room will be available, with occupancy restricted to one person at a time.
  • There will be no nursery service, no in-person Christian education, and no time of fellowship after the service. Children’s chapel and adult education classes will continue to take place online only.
  • Please know that the church is committed to following the COVID-19 protocols for cleaning and sanitizing the sanctuary, both before and after each service.

The task force realizes that many of these changes are not what we would prefer; however, the health and safety of members and staff is of the highest priority. Though we have never stopped worshipping, the task force is thrilled to present this plan that will bring us together in our beloved sanctuary. We are indeed one family, united in Christ, whether we worship together in person or virtually.

Thank you for your patience, understanding, and support during this transition, and please feel free to contact the church office should you have any questions.

In hopeful anticipation of our gathering,
The COVID-19 Task Force of the Session of Shadyside Presbyterian Church
Elder Donald P. Coffelt Jr.; Reverend Dr. John A. Dalles; Elder Brigetta P. Del Re; Trustee Alexander G. Dick;
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

Note: Due to the lead time involved in the production of The Church Mouse newsletter, the worship schedule included in the November issue does not reflect this more current information. Should you receive your letter via the United States Postal Service prior to your copy of the Mouse, please be aware that the newsletter was prepared much earlier and is delivered by a slower mail rate. The printed worship schedule still accurately presents opportunities for virtual worship but does not contain information about limited in-person worship detailed in the mailing and above.

Important: The task force is closely monitoring the current increase in cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Presently, Allegheny County is within the parameters which allow us to worship safely via the protocols established by the SPC COVID-19 Task Force. Though it is our fervent prayer that the way will remain clear for us to proceed as planned, the task force is prepared to reverse this decision if conditions require us to change course. In the event of an emergency cancellation of worship, registrants will be notified and the church website will be updated. Please continue to check the church website for ongoing updates.