June 2020 Session Notes
Session received and welcomed into Membership our 2020 Confirmands:
Abby Ewing, Bridget Ewing, Colleen Ewing, Kevin Clark, Lily Crean, Ben Knesl, Brooke Leahy, Gideon Nichols, Jana Rinaldi, Luke Stebbins, and Griffin Thomas
As you read in last month’s Tower Tidings, our Safety & Security Ministry team continues to be hard at work establishing guidelines for the safest return to our buildings and the use of our outdoor spaces.
Session Actions approved on June 18, 2020:
~ Entering into an agreement with Kraft Events (Jennifer Kraft) to serve as our exclusive event planner. However, PCM Buildings & Grounds Committee must approve all requests for the use of our facilities.
To Be Determined after June 30, 2020:
~Allowing our PCM small groups to use the Parish House, following safety guidelines from our Safety & Security Committee.
~Allowing Baptisms to be held, outdoors in the Church on the Green courtyard, following the safety guidelines from our Safety & Security Committee.
~Allowing Memorial Services to be held, out of doors, in our Memorial Garden, following the safety guidelines from our Safety & Security Committee.
~Vacation Bible School (VBS) is set to take place, out of doors (August 17-21) following protocols set by State Summer camp guidelines, limiting participation to 50 children. Mrs. Mead has additionally worked out protocols for small groups of 8 or 9 children, the sanitizing and individual use of materials to minimize cross contact, safe games- being mindful of social distancing. The hours will also be shortened to 9:00 to 11:30 am.
~A video will be created and sent to families letting them know what to expect when their children attend VBS. Motion approved.
Worship services will continue to be filmed and shown on YouTube on Sunday mornings. Members will be receiving a survey that will seek information about their comfort level and timing with re-entry.
Daily emails will be modified to more of how we sent them pre-Covid; weekly email being sent out on Mondays with a devotion, Thursday would broadcast the weekend news along with another devotion, and Sunday’s email would be the link to the worship service.
There are no plans for indoor worship in the sanctuary at this time.
March April May 2020
Session Chronology During this Time of Pandemic
CHANGES IN CHURCH REGISTER:
Transfers out: Robert and Betty Cariello to a Baptist church in VA.
Births: To Elders Jose and Sarah (Sheffield) Del Los Santos, a daughter, Skylar Kathleen, on April 25, 2020.
Deaths: Jean Jones on April 16, 2020 and former member Malcolm Heffner on January 21, 2020.
Dropped from Roll: Megan Fleischer, at own request.
The next Regular Session Meeting is May 21, 2020.
The May 14th Special meeting was the most recent. It was for the purpose of hearing from the Strategic Planning Task Force- PCM members are: Elder David Darcy, (Building & Grounds), Elder Bill San Filippo, (Communications), Robert Davies, (Safety & Security), and Jim Kutsch. Their report focused on short-term considerations should restrictions start to ease and there is the possibility of holding in-person worship in our facilities. Working with Basking Ridge and Central/Summit, all aspects and implications of such a decision are being examined. These short-term plans are a preliminary look at what the process might look like; State, PC(USA) and local officials will set the guidelines by which PCM’s decisions will be made. In concert with the Strategic Planning Task Force, Rev. Smazik, as a member of the Morris Clergy Council, is working to create a unified approach with area Congregations for when they all plan to reopen. The possibility of a member survey is being considered to determine the comfort level of members in different scenarios of reopening.
PCM was awarded the PPP loan grant, in the amount of $139,000, thanks to the help of Elder Walt Fleischer and the Peapack Gladstone Bank. This money will help keep our staff employed and working, behind the scenes, for the Congregation. Session was always committed to supporting our non-clergy staff persons who are paid hourly-not working under a contract.
For those with computers and other devices that allow on line participation, our forays into the virtual world have kept them connected to the church and each other. We have some members for whom this is not an option. Rev. Green is providing pastoral care to these members through a weekly call-in prayer meeting. This small but faithful group was able to connect, receive prayers, and make requests, enabling them to remain part of our community- that matters.
Session meet again on Special meetings on April 9th to discuss the status of the Congregation and to hear from committees as they navigated through this pandemic and, on April 16th at a regularly scheduled Session meeting with all committees reporting. PCM, through the Finance Committee, and the nursery school each applied for a Payroll Protection Plan loan under the CARES Act. This is a forgivable loan, if the funds go to paying staff. On April 30th another Special Session meeting was held to determine the next extension of our facilities’ closure. It was decided to remain closed through Memorial Day Weekend, May 26th. Members were notified that Communion would be serviced on May 3rd during the on line service held in the sanctuary and those at home should have the bread and juice elements on hand to partake. Committees reported how the pandemic and closure was affecting their area: Finance and Management & Administration are closely looking at congregational giving, Youth & Young Adult was maintaining contact with our Confirmands- virtually, not ideal- but it was happening. The Strategic Planning Committee was in conversation with two other very large churches- Basking Ridge and Central in Summit in planning beyond the pandemic. Buildings & Grounds is working in concert with the Strategic Planning Task Force. The Communications Committee has provided support and technical know-how to getting the behind-the-scenes work done for staff and ultimately, the Congregation. Outreach has been trying to help area food pantries and soup kitchens with monetary donations and letting the Congregation know how to help with their donations, be it money or food. Christian Education, continues to meet, virtually, with our Midweek students and those in High School. We all can see the work of the Worship & Music Committee who have put in tireless hours to provide a meaningful on line worship service, week after week. Rev. Green has initiated a new group for our members who are Caregivers, providing group support as they reach out and connect with others in similar circumstances.
On March 26th, another Special Session meeting took place, at which time plans for Holy Week were discussed, but, with ever-worsening conditions due to the virus- it was a forgone conclusion that we would not be in our Sanctuary for Easter. It was reported that the March 22nd on line service had had 645+ views. Elders Sheldon Rajkumar, Jenny Tooley, and Bruce Frazier are the key people in making those broadcasts happen, along with the staff who perform the actual service. It was voted that our buildings remain closed through April 30, 2020. Matt Webb, Kevin Graf, Ignacio Angulo Pizarro and so many choir members have added their gift of music; helping to us to be drawn in to a virtual world.
On Saturday, March 14, 2020, Rev. Smazik called a Special Session meeting for the purpose of discussion whether to hold in-person worship services that Sunday, March 15, 2020 and subsequent worship services as well as other gatherings in the upcoming weeks, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. We met in Erdman Hall with many attending through the use of Zoom. (Who knew what “ZOOM” was then?) We had the ability to record both the audio and visual of the service, but we were not quite ready for live-streaming; we could use YouTube video.
At that time there was a case of the virus in Morristown but testing was limited. Morristown Memorial Hospital was setting up tents for testing. We knew that the Presbyterian Church in Chatham Township was shutting down. Of concern for Session: how will these decisions fare if conditions necessitated prolonged closures, say 3 months or more? It was important that they find ways to keep the Congregation connected and feel part of a community. Session voted to close our buildings through March 31, 2020 for all use to all known ministries and groups; worship services would be broadcast on line. It was also decided that, aside from key staff, Openpath access to our buildings would be de-activated; making unknown entry into our buildings impossible. It should be noted that PCM has had a Safety and Security Committee for quite some time. Its research and input has been vital in keeping our membership safe with improved security measures that have long been in place.
Rev. Smazik had three immediate concerns: the worship service for the next day had to be filmed, a daily Lenten devotion needed to be sent out, and Deacons needed to be in contact with those for whom they provided extra care. Names of members of the Congregation were divided amongst the Elders and Deacons to contact and determine how everyone was doing. An unintended consequence: the chance to update accurate contact information, which now seemed so vital. Holy Week would soon be upon us- many decisions needed to be made. And so it began.
The February 20, 2020 regular Session meeting seems like another world away now. It appeared to be business as usual; recording the milestones of the church, approval of baptisms, receiving committee reports, approving PCM becoming a Matthew 25 Congregation, elders signing up to collect the offering for the month of March, discussion on the use of the Parish House, and recording when Communion had been served as part of the Pastor’s report, in the Sanctuary and/or in the Chapel. How quickly the world changed.
CHANGES IN CHURCH REGISTER:
Member Transfer: Joy Orteza, to the Reformed Episcopal Church in Basking Ridge, NJ., January 21, 2020.
Deaths: Robert N. Harris, February 7, 2020. Bob joined PCM twenty-five years ago with first wife, Jan. He served as Elder and was a member of Triple A. He married Marilynn Hummer in November of 2019.
Ordinations & Installations: Elders, Class of 2022, January 12, 2020:
Christy Allison, Dianne Grenz, Lori Szoke, *Donna Tomlinson, February 2, 2020
Elder Installations: Walt Fleischer and Kevin Hubbard, January 12, 2020
Ordinations & Installations: Deacons, Class of 2022, January 12, 2020:
Carol Johnson, Sue Leloia, Phil Scaduto, *Kimberley Davies, February 2, 2020
Deacon Installations: Daria Lisco and Helen Quinn, January 12, 2020.
- Presbytery is offering a workshop on cemeteries to answer questions about NJ State laws pertaining to cemeteries, monument & structure maintenance, rules regarding cemetery funds & bequests, and more. Several PCM members are signed up to attend.
Approved: Consent Agenda
- Approval of Sacrament of Baptism March 22, 2020 of Nathan Alexander Sarver, son of Rev. Sarah Green and Eric Sarver.
- Approval of Wedding of non-members (Morristown residents)
- Approval of Sacrament of Baptism April 26, 2020 for Declan Moyle, son of Lauren and Patrick Moyle, and for Logan Moore, son of Kate and Bradley Moore, grandchildren of Jane Whitehead.
- Worship & Music requests the wedding of Rafael Torres and Thalita Peteria Loureiro on Friday, April 24, 2020 in the Chapel.
Community & Membership requests the removal of Joy Orteza from our rolls at her request.
In 2020, our denomination has chosen to focus on Matthew 25:31-46 as a way of re-prioritizing the work of the Church. (See the May/June issue of Presbyterians Today). There are 3 areas of discipleship: building congregational vitality, dismantling racism, and eradicating systemic poverty involved in the Matthew 25 Invitation. Session approved signing on to become a Matthew 25 Congregation. In Matthew 25:36-41 we are reminded that Jesus separated the goats from the sheep.
Staff members, Session Elders, and Deacons meet for in a joint planning meeting. Patrick Allred led a presentation that focused on our youth and young people- Growing Young. This is a continuation of Sticky Faith. Discussed were things about youth that may seem obvious and perhaps, not so obvious. All agreed that the generations benefit from shared interactions. The group focused on essential strategies which included: Warm Relationships, Keychain Leadership, and Best Neighbors. Lots of brainstorming and shared ideas.
The group also viewed our video that explains our Sexual Misconduct, Youth & Child Protection Policy, followed by further instruction from Rev. Dr. Smazik, after which, each person signed the policy, acknowledging their understanding and agreement.
Session approved the Annual Statistical Report to be submitted to the Presbytery.
The Clerk of Session and key staff members are working to update the Church Registers so the information is accurate and consistent with our online data system.
PRESBYTERY HAPPENINGS & INFORMATION:
Presbytery Meeting- Sparta Presbyterian Church, January 11, 2020. Commissioned Elder for this meeting: Wendy Doidge. Rev. Green was also in attendance. The theme of this meeting was Matthew 25: Dismantling Structural Racism; special guest speaker, the Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia. As part of our denomination’s focus in 2020 on the Matthew 25 Challenge, Rev. Kwong Abazia spoke to the body about systemic racism and implicit bias. She preferred the phrase “Brave Space” over “safe” space. Not everyone feels safe in these conversations about systemic, structural racism. But being brave is a start. We viewed a video narrated by Jessica Vasquez Torres entitled “Why us, Why now?” The inequities of life in our country were shown with immigrants and their families, the unsafe water in Flint, MI, gun violence, and implicit bias. Activities and conversation followed. The theology of representation is inspired by the God who calls us to do justice and is enacted in and embodied through the work of God’s people. Rev. Kwong Abazia suggested setting a “new” table, letting hospitality set the stage- keeping in mind that implicit bias is pervasive & malleable, representation does not mean equity, and time cannot drive the process. More information is available on the Newton Presbytery website.
The Body voted to concur with the two Overtures that were presented. (OVT-11) Regarding a Korean Peace Treaty and (OVT-013) Fossil Fuel Divestment. All of the New Jersey presbyteries voted in favor of the new Missional Structure of the northern NJ presbyteries. The Synod of the NE has a working group that is examining the technical, financial and boundary aspects of the consolidation. It is a process of redefining boundaries rather than merging. Elise Bates Russell from Camp Johnsonburg spoke to the group about new ways that the camp is being used and by whom. In the near future, Living Water for the World will use the camp for training. Rev. Kwong Abazia gave the Message: “In the Shade of Our Fig Tree.”
Session approved Communion service to be “by tray” at the Church on the Green; Also approving service by Intinction at the Parish House, South Street Hall, July 5 through September 6, 2020.