When we responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by suspending in-person worship in our sanctuary and offering virtual livestream worship in March, we, like congregations and faith communities across the country and around the world, were convinced it was the only responsible option for our church. None of us anticipated that months later, in the middle of summer, livestream virtual worship would still be the most viable worship experience available. As you know, Session has been in prayerful discernment and lively discussion about when and how to responsibly broaden the worship experiences, including offering some in-person opportunities. A few weeks ago, we announced that limited in-person worship reservations would be made available with concurrent livestream worship on Sunday mornings beginning this Sunday, July 26, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.
Just last week we sent additional information, but a lot can change in a short time these days. In a special called meeting of Session, a motion was made to postpone the resumption of in-person worship until further notice. The motion overwhelmingly carried. There were several factors that impacted this decision, including recent increases in cases and hospitalizations within our community and the state. Even more specifically, however, our Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Kellen A. Smith, began experiencing symptoms after Sunday worship and has since tested positive for COVID-19 and is recovering at home in quarantine. We are grateful that his symptoms, while uncomfortable to him, are relatively mild. Anyone who may have been exposed to Pastor Kellen is being encouraged to watch for symptoms and consider being tested. This news prevents us from responsibly and effectively creating a safe, inviting, and meaningful in-person worship experience at this time.
We realize that this delay may disappoint many of you. We must, however, in an abundance of caution, take the necessary action to protect you and our community. Please know that Session, our church staff, and other lay leadership, are feeling deep sorrow as a result of this action. We want nothing more than to gather safely and joyfully together as a faith community. At this time, we are not setting a specific date to resume plans to return to the sanctuary. Session will continue to be in dialogue and will responsibly consider options as appropriate.
Please pray for Pastor Kellen, our staff and worship team, Session, and all the members of our congregation as we walk through this unprecedented time.
Session of First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton
Elder Amy Bab
Elder Dave Chiesa
Elder Agnes Kenton
Elder Emily Herndon
Elder Andy Leonard
Elder Justin Mead
Elder Mike Rohl
Elder Annette Shoemaker
Elder Robbie Spehr
Elder Dan Spiegel
Elder Stave VanOss
Elder Luke Widmer
Rev. Dr. Kellen A. Smith, Moderator
Rev. Dr. Stephen Kellough, Parish Associate
Elder Matt Stremel, Clerk
Bob and Sue H.