Update to FPC Members About Coronavirus or COVID-19

by FPC Leadership on August 20

October 15, 2020

Dear Friends,

We are committed to providing a safe environment at First Presbyterian Church for worship. It has been so nice to see many of you back in worship on Sundays over the past couple of months. I know for some of you the idea of returning to in-person worship is something you don’t feel safe doing at this time. I totally understand, and no one in the church leadership wants you to feel pressured to return to in-person worship before you are ready. Some of you may be thinking about returning to in-person worship but still are not certain about the experience. I want to let you know some of the precautions we are taking to safely gather in person.

As you enter the building, hand sanitizer, tissue, and masks are available. (We appreciate you bringing your own face covering, but if you forget, we are glad to provide one for you.) You will be greeted by an usher who will help you find an appropriate seat. As you enter the sanctuary, you will notice the pews have been taped in order to maintain proper physical distancing. There are seats available for different sized groups: singles, couples, and families. We ask that if you are seating yourself, please sit in an appropriately-sized spot for your family.  A simple rule is no one should be sitting on the tape. If your family needs more room, please find a larger section of seats together.

We continue to limit physical contact as much as possible. When you arrive at your pew, you will notice bulletins placed in the pew. We have removed all items from the pew racks, and all you need to fully participate in worship can be found in your bulletin. Because we are not passing offering plates at this time, you are welcome to place your offering in an offering plate located at each sanctuary door.

In conjunction with the Day School, we have installed a bipolar ionization system covering all of the buildings on the property.  In short, bipolar ionization systems attach to HVAC units and release charged atoms (ions) into the air.  These ions envelop and deactivate harmful airborne substances such as virus germs, bacteria, and mold.  Early studies have shown very encouraging results that these systems kill COVID-19 germs within 30 minutes. This helps assure us we have some of the cleanest air in the state.

We are also excited about Sunday School and Midweek programs resuming here at the church, and we are committed to providing a safe environment for these essential programs.  Please see the following message from David Felker about Sunday School Registration:

After just two weeks of Sunday School, including one holiday weekend, we have had good growth. You will notice on the Eventbrite registration that we cut off sign ups for Al Chesnut’s class in Patterson Hall because it is full. Cory Brock’s class in Lowe Hall is at 75% capacity, and David Elkin’s class in Miller Hall is at 66% capacity. That said, there is still some space, but we are anticipating more growth in the coming weeks. Because of our current numbers, limitations in space, and out of a desire to continue to love and care for one another well, we will continue online registration for Sunday School. If you look on the website’s section for registration, you notice that you can now contact me, David Felker (601-850-8650) if you missed the 5 p.m. Friday deadline and want to register you or your family. Be on the lookout for an email from the Discipleship Ministry next week with information about the 3 new adult Sunday School elective options for the month of November. As Al Chesnut, Cory Brock, and David Elkin finish up in October, there will be 3 new month-long electives for November taught by (1) Paul Hurst, (2) Richard Ridgway, and (3) Ed Hartman/Wiley Lowry.  Register online here.

We hope to welcome many of you back to First Presbyterian in the coming weeks and continue to work to ensure a safe environment for worship here at First Presbyterian.

Semper Reformanda (Always Reforming)
Ralph Kelley

August 20, 2020

We are very encouraged by the increasing attendance in our Sunday worship services over the last month. We never want to turn anyone away and so we have been evaluating how to best make room for everyone who wants to worship with us in person. Below is a new procedure for seating that will begin this Sunday, August 23, in order to continue to hold worship services responsibly as a church family. We have also included a few reminders regarding worship.

In order to maintain proper social distancing, we are implementing a new system: the portions of the pews in which no one should sit will be marked with red tape. Rows will alternate between available seating in the middle of the pew and available seating on the wings throughout the sanctuary. There will be areas designated for larger families in the extra-long pews in the middle of the sanctuary, as well as in the balcony.

Please avoid sitting on the red tape. Our ushers, who have humbly and tirelessly served us these last few months, will be outside of the sanctuary and can help assist you with any questions you have about this new procedure.

Entering and Exiting
As you are able, please help our ushers by arriving at least 10-15 minutes before the service begins. Safety is a priority and these few additional minutes will allow the ushers to seat a large number of people responsibly in a short amount of time. At the close of the service, the ushers will help dismiss everyone section by section.

Families with Young Children
We certainly encourage families in the sanctuary, but there is an overflow space with around 100 seats that are socially distanced in Miller Hall with the worship service on the screens which families with young children, as well as other congregants, are welcome to attend.

These new procedures are not intended to imply that we are recommending everyone attend in person at this time. We urge each person to take the best precautions you can for your own health and safety. This is especially true if you are in the high-risk category. For those who continue to worship online, know that your worship of the Lord from your living room is no less glorifying to God than those who gather here in the sanctuary. We are His people, one body, worshipping the Lord together.

Thank you for your attention to these matters, and thank you for being patient with us. We are confident that God is working even now to form the character of Jesus Christ in us. Please contact the church office if you have any questions at 601-353-8316 or [email protected].

July 24, 2020

Your church officers, ministers, and staff are committed to serving the community of First Presbyterian Church and fulfilling our mission to glorify God by making disciples throughout the challenging circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. We are grateful for the faithfulness of our members and for much wonderful ministry that has been done thus far during a difficult season. The ministry staff and elders want to assure you that we continue to monitor the situation carefully and will do all we can to make our worship services in particular as safe, helpful, God honoring, and as much like normal as possible.

In light of this, and after having consulted medical experts, the Worship and Management committees of First Presbyterian Church have decided to update the guidelines for worship. Effective immediately:

  • We will resume congregational singing. (Masks will continue to be worn throughout the service.)
  • Registration for worship services is no longer required.
  • Miller Hall Livestream Option: Families and children are always welcome in our worship services, however, if for any reason families would feel more comfortable, we will have Miller Hall set up to livestream the 8:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m. worship services. Appropriate social distancing will be in place with families with young children in mind.

We will continue our cleaning, distancing, and mask policies in all services.  Corporate worship continues via livestream at our regular service times: fpcj.ms/livestream and on Facebook Live.

May 29, 2020

In-Person Worship Services will resume beginning June 7, 2020.  Some Ministry activities will gradually resume beginning June 8, 2020.  For more information and to complete the required registration for worship services beginning June 7, please visit fpcj.ms/register-for-worship.

Resuming In-Person Worship Services

We are very glad to announce that we will worship in person again beginning June 7, 2020. We have missed being together and are glad to get the chance to see one another face to face. As everyone likely anticipates, things will be different for now. We have received the governor’s reopening guidelines, consulted with doctors, and spoken with other churches. With all this in mind, we have created the following plan for resuming worship services in person at First Presbyterian Church. We’ve organized this information around some frequently asked questions, but if you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at the church office at 601-353-8316 or [email protected], and
we will direct you to the appropriate staff member.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I stay home?
We want to assure anyone who might feel safer staying home and worshiping via livestream that you should feel no guilt or shame in doing so. If you have any of the following symptoms, please do not attend: fever, chills, body aches, cough/congestion, recent loss of taste or smell, or if you are generally unwell. Based on current medical advice, we strongly encourage those who are in categories of increased risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 due to underlying health issues, low immunity, or age, also to consider refraining from attending worship services right now.

What will Sundays look like in general?

  • Worship will remain at normal times: 8:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m.
  • We will resume worship services only. There will be no meetings of Sunday
    School classes on Sundays.
  • There will be no nursery available. All children are very welcome in the worship services.
  • There will be no choir. For now, music will be led by small groups or soloists.
  • Based on the latest medical advice, we discourage corporate congregational singing during the services at this time. The words of the hymns will be provided, so that you can follow along as they are sung from the platform. This isn’t ideal, and we hope to change it soon, but we are trying to follow best practices for the good of all, and we ask for your patience and understanding.
  • We will continue to stream our services online. We also broadcast the service from the week prior at 10:00 a.m. on WLBT.

What about the details?

In order to resume, we will need to follow a number of guidelines to keep everyone as safe as possible, including the following:

  • From the parking lot to the pew, we ask that everyone practice social distancing.
  • We will be limiting capacity at each service. We ask that all congregants sign up in order to attend the service.
  • To avoid bottlenecks at the entrances, we’d ask that you please arrive 15-20 minutes early.
  • The ushers will be available to help everyone find a responsibly-distanced seat. This may not be your “usual” seat. We’d ask that you follow the ushers’ directions while we work to keep everyone safe. People who live in the same home can and should sit together.
  • After the service is over, please remain in your seats, and the ushers will help dismiss everyone in sections.

How do I sign up?
During this phase of reopening, we will need everyone to register for worship services. It is a sad consequence of our situation that we will have a limited number of spots for each service in order to accommodate appropriate social distancing. Here are the details:

  • Register at fpcj.ms/register-for-worship for each week’s worship service.
  • If you would prefer to register via phone, please call the church office at 601-353-8316.

Here are a few other best practices that we will implement:

  • Everyone should wear a face mask throughout the service. We will have some available, but we recommend you bring your own.
  • The sanctuary will be sanitized following each service.
  • Bathrooms will be available for use in the Greeting Courtyard and between the Sanctuary and the Library and will also be cleaned between services.
  • We ask that no one drink from the drinking fountains.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available.
  • We will have bulletins placed on seats waiting for your arrival. Please take them with you when you leave.
  • Instead of passing offering plates, our ushers will be standing by the doors in the sanctuary to collect your tithes and offerings at the close of each service. Online giving is also available through our website and our church app.

Resuming Ministry Activities
Ministry activities will resume to varying degrees in the weeks following the resuming of Sunday services. More info will follow regarding specific ministry activities.

May 21, 2020

All church sponsored ministry events have been canceled through May 18 until further notice. Join us via Livestream Sundays and Wednesdays at https://fpcj.ms/livestream

April 26, 2020

All church sponsored ministry events have been canceled through May 18 until further notice. Join us via Livestream Sundays and Wednesdays at https://fpcj.ms/livestream

March 31, 2020

All church sponsored ministry events have been canceled through April 30 until further notice. Join us via Livestream Sundays and Wednesdays at https://fpcj.ms/livestream

March 26, 2020

All church sponsored ministry events have been canceled through April 6 until further notice. Join us via Livestream Sundays and Wednesdays at https://fpcj.ms/livestream

March 18, 2020

Please join us tonight, Wednesday, at 6:30pm for a livestream discussion about ministry during the coronavirus. Also, plan to join us each Wednesday night on livestream in the coming weeks.

March 15, 2020

Dear FPC family and friends,

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Romans 8:15)

Paul writes these words in the context of what he called “the sufferings of the present time” (Rom. 8:18).  To encourage them, he reminds his readers of the glory of the new creation that is still to be revealed, and into which we will all one day be swept (8:18-25). But bracketing the note about suffering and future hope Paul emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. In verse 15 the Spirit of adoption is the opposite of the spirit of slavery to fear. He enables us to cry “Abba! Father!” and bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (8:16). Then in verse 26 the Spirit assists us in our weaknesses when we don’t know “what to pray for as we ought, interceding for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Paul is teaching us about the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us in the face of suffering and fear. As the coronavirus spreads and our responses to it change with the latest advice from the authorities, it’s easy to fall into the cold grip of fear. Suffering is hard. Let’s remember that we are supernaturalists, not rationalists. We do not believe that Christianity consists in right thinking alone. It’s not a matter of data and information. While we do believe that theological knowledge and sound reason matter, Christians are people who live in the grip of supernatural realities. The Spirit of adoption dwells in us, fighting fear and helping us approach the throne of God as children coming to our Father.

The point is, dear church family, God does not desert his people.  We are not left to our own resources as we try to respond wisely to the current crisis. God has given us the Spirit of Christ to dwell in our hearts. He is at work to comfort and guide, sanctify and sustain us. We are not left alone. And when our words fail and we don’t know what to say or how to pray, the Spirit intercedes with wordless groans. That is, when all we’ve got are groans and sighs, the Spirit makes them eloquent in the ears of God! While it’s never easy to feel our resources running out and our limitations pressing in, as they likely will as this current crisis develops, if we are cast back upon the Spirit of Christ in renewed dependence we have every reason to believe that the Lord will yet bless his church. And He will hear his children as we cry ‘Abba! Father!’.

What’s Next for First Presbyterian Church?

We want to keep you as informed as possible about all the decisions that are made regarding our church life here at FPCJ. While the situation is rapidly changing and the information is updating constantly, we are continually listening to the Mississippi Department of Health and other public institutions as they advise on how best to limit the spread of the virus. We are seeking to love the people of Jackson by making effective decisions in a timely manner.

Our task force has met and considered all of these important objectives for our church family: (1) Reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus among members of the congregation and the public; (2) express love by protecting members at a greater health risk because of age and diverse health conditions; (3) maintain effective ministry during this time; and (4) communicate the Gospel.

As we have tried to use these objectives to shape our decisions, there are several decisions and announcements to make:

All church-sponsored activities and events are cancelled from now until March 30th. 

  • Morning and evening worship will be live-streamed for the next two Sundays, March 22nd and 29th. More details to come before next Sunday.
  • We will explore this week how to use our livestream throughout the week. We had more than 800 folks sign on for this morning’s 8:30 service, and more than 1,600 for the 11:00 service.  Our viewers were in at least 7 countries and 34 states in the United States. We have unique opportunity to minister widely with our livestream.
  • Without gathering on Sundays and passing the offering plate, we ask that our members and regular givers would consider alternative ways of sending in their offerings. Here are several ways to do that:
  • We are working closely with the Day School and Twin Lakes to make wise decisions that serve the best interests of both of those ministries. Please pray for both the Day School and Twin Lakes.
  • We have also updated our wedding policy and that will be available online this coming week.
  • We have committed ourselves to explore as many unique ministry ideas as we can during this time. More info to come.

A Final Word

Remember that throughout the centuries, God’s people have looked for ways to preach and proclaim the Gospel, to show mercy and extend themselves in love through good works in all manner of difficult times. Now is a time for new ideas on how to do just that. Because God never changes, our hope does not fail and we can step forward absolutely dependent upon He who is Absolute.

Please continue to pray with us as we ask God to bless doctors, nurses, health workers, our elected officials, and institutional leaders. Let’s pray that God would use us to help spread the Word of the Gospel during this time. Please reach out to our ministers and officers at any time and check the website for regular updates: fpcjackson.org.

In Christ,

David Strain and Cory Brock

March 14, 2020

Dear FPC family and friends,

Burdened with the concern to love our congregation well, the session of FPCJ has made the decision TO CANCEL WORSHIP SERVICES FOR THIS SUNDAY, MARCH 15th. As of now, this only pertains to this Sunday. The elders have decided to follow the advice of the Mississippi Department of Health to cancel gatherings of 250 people or more. While we know this raises many questions, we as a church body want to serve the common good of our community by limiting exposure to the virus as much as possible.

WE WILL HAVE ALL SERVICES LIVESTREAMED. PLEASE JOIN US FOR WORSHIP ON OUR WEBSITE FOR THE LIVESTREAM at 8:30 am, 11:00 am, and 6:00 pm. I, David Strain, will lead us in the morning service and Ligon Duncan will be preaching at night. I will offer more detail about our response to the corona virus during the worship services. You can click on the livestream link here: https://www.fpcjackson.org/livestream.

Please do reach out if you have questions or needs. You can call the church office or contact Cory Brock as mentioned in previous emails who is coordinating our task force to respond to the coronavirus [email protected] or 601-326-9247. We will be updating you later tomorrow as well with other announcements pertaining to our response to the coronavirus.

Our resolve to serve our city with the gospel remains strong. Let’s pray for our city and country together now. And let us search for unique ministry opportunities and ask the Lord to turn our hearts toward Him in this time.

Your Pastor,

David Strain

March 13, 2020

Dear FPC family and friends,

In my last post, I communicated information about COVID-19—the coronavirus—what it is, how it spreads, and how we can protect ourselves. I also wanted to remind you that we confess Jesus Christ as King and we know that he is in control.

In this post, I first want to offer information about what FPC is doing initially to help love the people of Jackson by preventing the spread of this virus:

  • We will have regularly scheduled worship services this Sunday. However, SUNDAY SCHOOL IS CANCELLED FOR THIS SUNDAY, MARCH 15.
  • We asked SEJ Services, our outside commercial services maintenance company, this week to perform an enhanced cleaning of our facilities. SEJ Services brought in four extra employees each day this week, and used Halt® a hospital grade cleaner and disinfectant, manufactured by Spartan Chemical, that kills the coronavirus. SEJ Services follows CDC disinfection guidelines and standards. SEJ Services has already logged 25 hours of extra work just focused on disinfecting as of Thursday and the work continues.
  • The nursery is open on Sunday and following all the same cleaning guidelines as listed above. If you feel more comfortable having your small children with you during Sunday worship then please remember that the chapel is always open during the service. Please do keep small children home if they have any symptoms of sickness.
  • Also, between and after services on Sundays our deacons will be cleaning our sanctuary, the pews, hymn books, door handles, elevator buttons, etc. SEJ Services and some deacons will also be specifically cleaning the nursery rooms between worship services.
  • We will have ample supplies of hand sanitizer located throughout the facility for everyone to use.
  • During worship on Sunday we will not pass the friendship pads or offering plates. The offering plates will be at the exit doors to the Sanctuary before and after the service for anyone to drop off their offering (We want to avoid passing items that everyone in the room has to touch).
  • On Sunday, we recommend avoiding personal contact, avoid high contact surfaces like stair rails, and greet people with big smiles instead of hugs and handshakes. There will be lots of space in the sanctuary to practice social distancing.
  • We are also communicating with other churches in our area and trying to mutually help each other think wisely about next steps.
  • Lastly, our elders have a specially called meeting on Saturday morning, March 13, to discuss this rapidly escalating situation and church plans to address it. We will discuss whether other non-Sunday gatherings should be suspended. We will communicate with you frequently about decisions made and actions taken.

Note: Any COVID-19 policies or procedures adopted by FPC are intended to be temporary and will be modified as and when needed in response to developing conditions.

Second, we want to reiterate the advice of our public health institutions:

  • The CDC has recommended that persons self-quarantine if they have traveled to a foreign country for which a Level 3 Travel Health Notice has been issued or an area of the United States that has sustained community transmission of the virus. If you have traveled to such a country, please do self-quarantine. The CDC recommends a self-quarantine time of 14 days. You can find a list of locations and details on risk exposure at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html. If you are feeling sick, as always, please do avoid public gatherings.
  • The MS department of health has especially urged people over 65 years of age, and those who have underlying health conditions and suppressed immune systems to consider avoiding large group gatherings. If you are in one of these categories and feel uncomfortable attending worship services, do know that we want to love and support you in any way we can.  You have the freedom to make a wise decision regarding whether to attend worship services. If you choose to worship from home, here is a link to our live-streamed service:  https://www.fpcjackson.org/livestream.
  • Lastly, here is a helpful link for extended advice on protecting yourself from medicare.gov: https://www.medicare.gov/medicare-coronavirus.

Let’s all join and pray together for a mild outcome, and while making careful plans, remember that we are agents and ambassadors of Christ. We can testify in our attitudes and our precautions that people matter to God, and that we are called to continue to serve and look for ministry opportunities.

Finally, for any questions please go to our website or contact the church by calling or emailing Cory Brock. We have a special link on the homepage with updated information on the coronavirus posted regularly. If you go to https://www.fpcjackson.org/ you will find a link on the homepage with this information. You can contact Cory Brock at 601-326-9247 or [email protected].

Your Pastor,

David Strain

March 12, 2020

The effects of the new coronavirus or COVID-19 are becoming a reality to us.  The leadership of the Church has been reviewing guidance and updates from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH)  as they continue to closely monitor the outbreak of respiratory illnesses caused by this novel virus.

This is the first of several communications to help you understand and respond to this virus.  This communication will describe the virus, how it is spread, what are its symptoms, and what are some basic preventive measures that can be taken.  Many of you already may be familiar with some of this information, but some of you may not.  Out of an abundance of caution, we are sharing this with you.  Subsequent communications will address how this virus is impacting the Church in its worship and ministry, and what steps the Church is taking in response.

What is the coronavirus or COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus that causes flu-like illness ranging from mild to severe, with symptoms of fever, coughing, fatigue and difficulty breathing. The CDC and MSDH are working to detect, contain and limit the spread of cases in the United States and Mississippi should they occur.

How is this virus spread?

Like the flu, COVID-19 is thought to be spread person-to-person by close contact (within 6 feet) and by coughing or sneezing. It is thought to occur mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how flu and other respiratory germs spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Other possible routes of transmission, such as touching a surface or object that has been contaminated by the virus and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, are also currently being investigated.Typically, with most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).

Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why the CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. It can mimic flu symptoms including fatigue. COVID-19 differs from the flu because it is connected with close contact with someone who has had COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

How can I best protect myself?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, the Mississippi State Department of Health recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your 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.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Spiritual Implications

As we deal with the health and medical issues related to the coronavirus, we also need to keep a proper Biblical perspective. During this time, please remember some of these basic spiritual truths:

  • We should remember that God is sovereign in all things (Luke 12:7  “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not; …”
  • We should walk by faith, and not be led by fear (Psalm 46:2 “Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way …”)
  • We should focus on our spiritual health as well as our physical health during this time.
  • We should remember that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ!  Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:31-38).
  • While we should pray for those affected by and suffering from this virus,  we should also pray that this virus might be “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)
  • We should look for ministry opportunities during this time – to our families, our fellow members, and our neighbors.

I will repeat some of these guidelines and will offer some further encouragement this Sunday.


The leadership of FPC is taking this matter seriously. In addition to this initial communication, future electronic communications will address other aspects of our response to this virus. We are looking at developing a multi-staged approach for the Church to respond to developments from the effects of this virus as the situation changes. Stay tuned for further details.

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