update from pastor O'donnell


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march 19. 2020

Good morning, everyone.


What a week it has been! I was so encouraged yesterday to speak with a number of the men and women in our congregation. Not only were they doing well (physically, emotionally, spiritually), but they had all been able to access the online service materials and view the sermon. I’m excited to share with you some of the things that your ministry staff has been working on to serve you and equip you to keep following Jesus.


First of all, we have created a new webpage on the church website called Home Worship. You will find it under Sundays (but it won’t appear until Saturday when it goes live). On this page you will find four things: the liturgy for the Sunday service, resources for children, resources for youth, and a link to all the communication that has been sent to the congregation as a result of COVID-19. The home worship liturgy will include responsive readings and prayers (similar to last week), but the songs will be recorded and sung by Stephen (our music director) and other musicians with the lyrics posted for you to join them in worshiping our great God. At the end of the liturgy there will be discussion questions (that can be used right after the sermon, or later on the Lord’s Day) with the goal of moving us beyond hearing God’s Word to applying God’s Word. 


Further, children are encouraged to send pictures of their sermon notes to me to show what they are learning. And as before, we encourage you to share on our private Westminster Church Facebook group some pictures or videos of your home worship to help us feel connected. 


The resources for children will include the sermon notes for the week (prepared by me) and a lesson plan (prepared by Marcia Turpin) for parents to use in teaching the sermon material to their children. Over the next few weeks, you may find additional resources to equip parents in teaching their children what it means to love and follow Jesus.


The resources for youth will include a weekly note from Erik Schwartz, along with a video lesson of him teaching the youth from God’s Word. This week’s lesson ends with an exciting announcement! Be sure to listen all the way to the end.


The second thing that we are doing to shepherd the church as a Session is making regular phone calls to the entire church. Expect to receive a phone call from one of the elders over the next few weeks to check in with you and pray for any specific requests you may have. Of course, you can reach me at any time by text or phone call at 224-508-0032! I encourage you to take advantage of group video chats (through FaceTime or Zoom) with a small group from the church to enjoy fellowship and accountability within our local church body. If you would like assistance in using these resources, let me know.


Finally, we are exploring some creative options for Sunday School and Mercy Ministries. Mary Lou Campus has been in communication with Elgin Wayside Center, one of our local ministry partners, and will be collecting some needed items before Sunday to bring to them, along with providing some hot meals that can be dropped off. She notes, “Our local ministry partner, Elgin Wayside Center, has urgent need of the following supplies to continue serving the homeless in our area: Bleach, Cleaning/Disinfectant Products, Styrofoam Cups, Paper Plates, Paper Soup/Cereal Bowls.”

Please drop off items at Sam and Mary Lou Campus' house at 120 S Jane Dr, Elgin, IL, no later than this coming Sunday, March 22. If they are not home, it's okay to put packages on their front porch and text Mary Lou at 847-373-4265. If you are interested in assisting in preparation of one of the hot meals, let Mary Lou know as well.

I am thankful for the opportunity to serve you in these unique circumstances. May the peace of Christ guard your hearts and mine.

Your servant,

Pastor Douglas O’Donnell

P.S. If you receive notifications from Planning Center regarding your scheduled volunteer role, please disregard it.


march 17, 2020

Good afternoon, brothers and sisters.

The Session met last night to discuss (among other things) what our expectations should be with regard to Sunday worship. We recognize that it is likely that we will not be able to gather corporately for worship for the next 8 weeks (based on the most recent CDC recommendations). It is still our hope that we would be able to meet together for Easter Sunday, but that decision will be revisited closer to April 12, based on the advice of the government and health professionals.

We will be laying out a plan for you of how we will shepherd you during this strange season. This will include our plan for home worship on the Lord's Day, options for small group meetings by teleconference (one of the women's small groups used Zoom this morning to meet virtually), and resources to keep us growing in our faith. We will likely send that out on Thursday.

In the meantime, we have created a document where we can be sharing with each other what we are thankful for right now, what we are anxious about, what we are grieving and what God is teaching us. You can access it by clicking here. As you add to the document, your information will be shared with the other people in the church who access the document. This allows us all to know how to encourage each other and pray for each other. It also celebrates the good work that God is doing in us as we process all that is happening in our world.

If you need to talk to me about any needs or concerns, my number is 224-508-0032.

With continued thanks that God is on His throne,

Pastor Douglas O'Donnell


march 15, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Much like the earliest gatherings of Christ followers in small groups in homes, we have an opportunity to worship our Lord Jesus Christ in our homes this weekend. While it is an encouragement and joy to come together each week and spur each other on towards love and good deeds, and to lift high the name of Jesus through congregational songs and prayers, it is a special privilege to worship as a family in our homes.

I encourage you to use the attached bulletin and attached Resources as a guide for your worship. The Resources document provide music and lyrics (via YouTube) for some of the songs that are part of the worship service, along with prayers and responsive readings. For those without an accompanying video (O Lord Have Mercy and Christ Be In My Waking) you are welcome to sing a familiar song/hymn, and we have included some suggestions for you (and sheet music is attached for those).

As the prayer of confession this week was intended to be sung, we have included a written confession that you can use (and either conclude the time of private confession by singing O Lord Have Mercy, followed by reading together the Promise of Forgiveness or simply by saying Amen and together reading the Promise of Forgiveness). For the Tithes and Offerings, you can mail your offering to the church, or learn how to give online hereWe have also included a Responsive Prayer and a Benediction that can be read together. 

It is my prayer that these resources will equip you to lead worship in your home on this unique occasion. May it be a sweet time in your home, whether you are alone as you worship, or whether you are gathered with others in your family. I encourage you to take a picture of your home worship gathering that you can share with our church community in our private Westminster Church Facebook group which can be found here. This will help us to feel connected despite our distance as we worship. If you're not yet part of the group, send a request to be added and the Administrator will add you. If you are not on Facebook but would like to share, you can email me a picture of your gathering and I can post it on your behalf. 

You will also find attached the Children's Bulletin to help your children follow along with the sermon. And we have attached Mrs. Turpin's lesson plan for the passage that can be used with those who have younger children at your discretion. 

I'm thankful to God for the advances of technology that allow us to remain connected even as we increase our social distance. Please reply with any prayer requests for your home that I can be praying for this week.

With thanks that our world belongs to God,

Pastor Douglas O'Donnell



march 14, 2020

Dear Westminster Family,

 

After careful deliberation, the Session has decided that it is prudent to worship in our homes this Sunday, March 15th, instead of gathering in our building for worship, Sunday school, or any other activities. Also all church activities this week (Bible Study, Youth Group, MidWeek, etc) have been cancelled.

 

A worship folder will be sent to you by email tomorrow evening with links to my online sermon and to other resources for private worship (prayers, songs, responsive readings). We believe this difficult but necessary step will safeguard the health and well-being of our church family (particularly older people and those with existing health issues). We are sorry for the disappointment that this decision brings (esp. with the “Each One Invite One” Sunday—trust me, I am very disappointed). However, we believe that it is a tangible way to express our love for you and the Fox Valley community during the coronavirus crisis.

 

While we fully realize that “online church” is not the same as gathering together for corporate worship, we see it as a great opportunity for family worship, a very Presbyterian tradition. Let us be mindful to those in our community who might be alone this Sunday. Reach out to them. Pray with them, and/or sing to them (!) over the phone or via Skype.

 

On behalf of the Session, 

Pastor O'Donnell

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

 

Below is some information about the outbreak and our response. 

 

Let’s continue to pray for our healthcare workers who are on the frontline. Let’s pray for wisdom for our governmental officials who are thinking through these complicated issues. And let’s pray for protection from the virus, health for all people, and a heart of faithful trust and gospel service in the community.

 

Church history reminds us that the followers of Christ shine the brightest when the days are darkest. Our trust in the Lord can be a real witness to our neighbors, so let’s be ready to shine our light in Elgin (think “How can I help my neighbor?”). Given the prevailing fear and uncertainty over COVID-19, let us be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you … with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

 

ACTIONS

 

While we know that we cannot completely alleviate all the risks involved with this outbreak, WPC is doing the following:

 

Communication: We will inform you of any risks associated with this outbreak. We will inform all families if there is a case in our church or school community as well as what measures are being taken.

 

Prevention: We have hand sanitizer in various areas of the church building. We are asking our custodial staff to wipe down door handles, stair rails, light switches and elevator buttons.

 

Prayer: We are praying that the Lord would spare our church and school family from the consequences of this disease and enable us to respond in a godly way.

We ask you, as members of the church community, to do the following:

 

Communicate: If any members of your household are infected with COVID-19, please notify us immediately. If someone is sick at home with any illness, tell us. Call Pastor O at (224) 508-0032. Please also call with any pastoral emergency. 

 

Act: Follow the recommendations provided by the DuPage County Health Department (see below). Also, please encourage children to wash their hands thoroughly (teaching them how as needed), and keep from touching their mouths and noses as much as possible.

 

Be alert: Watch for flu-like symptoms in your household and make yourself aware of areas that need to be kept clean and disinfected. Stay informed about the status of the outbreak, as it is constantly changing.

 

HISTORY: Basic information about the virus from the CDC website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html)

 

WHAT IS COVID-19? The FAQs: Coronavirus Explained by an Infectious Disease Expert and Pastor: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-we-know-coronavirus/

 

SYMPTOMS? Per the CDC, the symptoms of the COVID-19 disease are as follows (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html):

 

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

 

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

• Fever

• Cough

• Shortness of breath

 

Call your doctor if you develop symptoms, have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.

 

PREVENTION: The DuPage County Health Department has issued the following statement that includes guidelines for prevention (https://www.dupagehealth.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=89)

 

CDC officials have stated more cases may be identified in the US, and it is also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur. Because vaccines and drug treatments are not yet available (it will take months), the best measures to take right now are known as non-pharmaceutical interventions. These are public health actions that are proven to slow the spread of emerging respiratory diseases like COVID-19. NPIs are everyday preventive measures that individuals and families should follow, including:

 

Voluntary Home Isolation: Stay home when you are sick with fever and respiratory disease (runny nose, sneezing, chest congestion, coughing or shortness of breath) symptoms. At the present time, these symptoms are more likely due to influenza or other respiratory viruses than to COVID-19-related virus. 

 

Respiratory Etiquette: Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash can. 

 

Hand Hygiene: Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

 

Environmental Health Action: Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- ncov/index.html

 

• Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH): http://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/coronavirus/faq

 

• DuPage County Health Department (DCBH): https://www.dupagehealth.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=89

 

• World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

 

• The Surgeon General’s advice to churches: https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/march/your-church-and-coronavirus-advice-for-churches-from-surgeo.html