COVID-19 Response

Summary

We want to update you on what’s happening at St. Paul’s in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID‑19) crisis. We are following developments with concern and are carefully considering the implications for our church, but, at the same time, we place our trust in the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). The Lord is sovereign—his rule extends over everything, and he works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11). We can be confident in his plan and purposes.

St. Paul’s offers in-person, corporate worship, but no one should feel pressured to return to public worship until they believe it is reasonably safe to do so. If you or anyone in your family has reasonable hesitations, we support your decision to stay at home and to participate in our worship service online.

You can reach the office by phone (407‑647‑7774) during our normal hours of operation (9:00 am–4:00 pm, Monday–Friday) or by email (staff@stpaulsorlando.com).

Our Sunday Worship

Effective Sunday, February 7, 2021, our members and church visitors are not required by the Session to wear a mask during worship and other church gatherings, except in specifically designated mask-required areas.

For those who are unable to join us at church, we invite you to join us online for our livestreamed video service. Together, we will sing hymns, offer prayers of adoration and confession, and hear the Word proclaimed! God’s Word offers freedom from fear, joy in the midst of sickness and sorrow, and life that conquers death!

Worship Livestream and Liturgy

To access our worship service livestream or listen to past sermons, follow these links:

Our liturgy (bulletin) is sent on Fridays to help us prepare for the next Sunday's worship. If you would like to follow along in the bulletin with our livestream and do not yet receive emails from us, contact the church office: info@stpaulsorlando.com

Children's Ministries

We welcome children to our Children’s church, Sunday school, and nursery. Effective Sunday, May 28, 2021, we no longer screen anyone as they enter our classroom hallway, and the nursery and children’s Sunday school class areas, as well as in the Old Testament and New Testament hallways are now mask-optional areas. As always, please do not bring your child if they have a fever, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or other symptoms, or if they or anyone in your home have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last two weeks or have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last two weeks.

Stay Connected

St. Paul’s sends out a weekly newsletter on Wednesdays. Contact the church office if you do not already receive these and other special updates:

Phone: (407) 647-7774
Email: info@stpaulsorlando.com

We also encourage you to explore other means of staying biblically and closely connected with one another during this time. Community is one of St. Paul’s areas of ministry focus. Yet, for many, COVID-19 has required that we set aside, for the time being, the joy of meeting face-to-face. Some have used video conferencing tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype to continue to meet in groups. These are great options. It is also important that we check on those in our body who are most vulnerable, who are already experiencing hardship, or who live alone. Finally, we all have neighbors, and this crisis provides us with an opportunity to extend the love of Christ in the concern we show them.

    How to Request Help

    Your church family is here for you, whether you have spiritual, physical, financial, or other needs:

    • If you need spiritual support or prayer, send an email or make a phone call to your shepherding elder. Click here for a list of our elders and to locate your assigned shepherding elder.
    • If you need material or financial support, send an email to our deacons. To learn more about how our deacons can help, and to find a list of our deacons and contact information for them, click here.
    • Send an email to our staff or phone 407-647-7774. The staff meets for prayer weekly. Let us add your request to our prayer list. We are available during normal office hours, Monday through Friday.

    How to Provide Help

    As followers of Christ, we are called to use our gifts and talents in the service of the kingdom—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (I Peter 4:10-11). Perhaps you have time or resources to offer to those most in need within our body or community. Here are some ways that you can help:

    • Continue to financially support church and deacons’ fund. You can give online here. Choose the amount to give and the fund to which you want your gift directed. To request an online account, go to stpaulsorlando.com, click the Member Log-In button, and click Request Account.
    • Call fellow members—particularly those who live alone or do not have a local family support system.
    • Contact neighbors to provide encouragement and to see if they have material needs. Invite your neighbors to participate in our online worship service.
    • Deliver food or medication to members who are sheltered in place, deliver food to our neighbor families at Countryside, etc.
    • Volunteer to help in the community—Meals on Wheels, blood donation, virtual volunteering, etc.


    Recent Updates


    May 28, 2021

    Dear brothers and sisters,

    In light of the new CDC guidelines and the widespread availability of vaccines, we are updating our COVID policy in the following ways beginning this Sunday (May 30):

    1. Social distancing is no longer required―that is, there will be no roped-off pews in the mask-optional seating areas in the Sanctuary.
    2. A mask-only seating area will be provided in the Sanctuary, consisting of four rows (including the chairs along the back wall) on the baptismal side. Additionally, a small mask-only section will be provided at the back of the Fellowship Hall.
    3. Seating will continue to be spaced in the Fellowship Hall.
    4. We will no longer screen our teachers, helpers, and students entering the New or Old Testament hallways, and the nursery and children’s Sunday school class areas, as well as in the Old Testament and New Testament hallways are now mask-optional areas.
    5. We will resume passing the offering plates in worship.


    As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or any of the other pastors or elders if you have questions.

    In Christ,

    Pastor Justin

    On behalf of the Session



    February 5, 2021

    Dear brothers and sisters,

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! The purpose of this pastoral letter is not only to provide an update regarding St. Paul's response to COVID-19, but also to call the church to unity during a time of profound polarization.

    We live in a world filled with conflict. From open war to unspoken resentment, deep divisions affect us all. Even behind some of the most apparently healthy and loving relationships, there lurk hidden tensions that threaten to tear people apart. Like the threads of a tattered garment, the bonds of peace may wear thin, become frayed, and eventually snap. And local churches are not immune to these tensions (1 Cor. 1:10-17). Far too often, the same powerful forces and increasingly partisan politics that polarize our wider society produce lines of conflict and division within the church as well.

    To maintain Christian unity, we must set our minds on things that rise above other important but non-essential areas of disagreement. We must fix our focus on the good news that our God reigns for us in his crucified and risen Son, Jesus Christ, who is now ascended and seated in glory. Because we have been united to him by grace through faith, in him we are also united to one another. This is a union that we cannot break because it is a union that we did not make. It is Christ who unites us. "He himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). And even though this union, which all true believers share in Christ, has not been fully perfected as it will be, it has been fully purchased by the blood of Christ, in his flesh, through the cross. Christian unity is not a naïve or utopian goal that we are called to achieve; it is a blood-bought reality and gift that we are called to receive and treasure in our life together.

    Therefore, the Session urges every member of St. Paul's to treasure this gift with all patience, humility, and gentleness, “bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1). We must never forget how our Lord prayed for our unity, that we might be "perfectly one" (John 17:23), just before dying to achieve this unity in his great work for us on the cross.

    When faced with deep disagreements like the recent debate over masks, Christians must make some basic distinctions to maintain an overall sense of proportion. As the early seventeenth century German Lutheran theologian, Rupertus Meldenius famously said, "In essentials, unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."

    In Essentials, Unity

    Our unity must be founded upon truth if it is to be true unity. Accordingly, there are certain truths, like the ones we confess in the Apostles Creed, that all Christians must hold with a closed fist. These are hills that we are willing to die on.

    Moreover, we are not doctrinal minimalists at St. Paul's. In other words, we do not seek to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator. On the contrary, as a confessional congregation that is a part of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), all of our church officers are required to embrace the doctrinal standards found in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger Catechism, Shorter Catechism, and the principles of church government found in the Book of Church Order.

    In Non-Essentials, Liberty

    Nevertheless, not all matters are equally clear or equally important. There are some matters upon which men and women of good faith may reach different conclusions and prudential judgments while sincerely seeking to submit to the Scriptures as our final authority and embracing the same confessional standards.

    Accordingly, after much prayer, many meetings, and vigorous debate, the Session of St. Paul’s has reached the conclusion that the question of whether masks should or should not be required in worship by the Session is a disputable matter about which Christians may reasonably disagree. Therefore, effective this Sunday, February 7, 2021, our members and church visitors are not required by the Session to wear a mask during worship and other church gatherings, except in specifically designated mask-required areas, as outlined in the church guidelines.

    Please note that while the Session is not requiring masks except in specifically designated areas, the church's guidelines draw clear lines for the medical safety and comfort of those who are particularly vulnerable (part of high-risk populations) and others who wish to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 by sitting in a mask-required area. Please continue to stay home and take advantage of our online streaming service if you have any COVID-like systems. Moreover, social distancing is still required between people who are not from the same household. We take these and other safety measures in obedience to the sixth commandment which requires "all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others" (Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 135), and we urge the entire congregation to exercise loving concern and personal responsibility to this end.

    In All Things, Charity

    In God's providence, COVID-19 has not only presented us with an extraordinary set of challenges; it also represents an enormous opportunity for St. Paul's to testify to the truth of the gospel in the way that we love one another despite disagreements. As the Lord Jesus told the disciples just after stooping to wash their dirty feet, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:25).

    Accordingly, the Session wants to be extremely clear: Our unity is not only important for preserving the peace of St. Paul’s and an essential component of our love for one another; it is a vital part of our wider witness and mission to the world (John 13:35; 17:23).

    In Christ,

    Pastor Justin

    On behalf of the Session


    October 1, 2020

    Dear brothers and sisters,

    In order to promote public health, without being unreasonably restrictive, and to provide clarity in response to confusion that has arisen regarding our previous mask policy, the Session has decided to implement the following updated mask policy beginning this Sunday, October 4.

    1. Everyone in the church building for worship or other ministry gatherings must wear a mask while entering and exiting the building and at any other time that they are not at least six feet apart.
    2. When people have been seated in the Sanctuary by an usher, masks should continue to be worn during the service except that they may be removed during the sermon. A section will continue to be set aside in the Fellowship Hall for those who choose not to wear a mask for health reasons.
    3. Children fourth grade and up should wear masks whenever they are in the building until they are in their designated Sunday school classroom. Masks are not required for children under fourth grade.
    4. All ushers and security staff should wear masks when they are moving around in the building. Masks are optional for worship leaders and musicians during a service, and they are optional for staff while they are in the office.

      Masks will be available at the church for those who forget to bring one. Please take a moment to view this brief video where I seek further to clarify the Session’s updated mask policy. And as always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or any of the other pastors or elders if you have questions.

      In Christ,

      Pastor Justin

      On behalf of the Session

      June 19, 2020

      Brothers and Sisters:

      In response to the increasing number of new coronavirus infections in our area, the Session has decided that, beginning this Sunday, June 21, the wearing of masks will be mandatory at in-person worship for everyone in attendance. Exceptions include children and those who for health reasons choose not to wear a mask, and musicians and pastors on the podium. For those who choose not to wear a mask due to the noted exceptions, a separate seating section will be provided in the Fellowship Hall.

      If possible, we request that everyone bring your own mask or face covering; however, the church will have masks available should you require one.

      As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of your pastors or elders if you have questions or concerns.

      Pastor Justin

      On behalf of the Session


      April 29, 2020

      Dear brothers and sisters,

      Last Sunday (April 26) marked the sixth week since St. Paul’s transitioned our worship service online. It has been difficult for all of us to remain apart for so long and I know everyone is eager to come back together as soon as is safely possible. How can we manage to uphold these two priorities of (1) “not neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:25; cf. Psalm 95) and (2) loving our neighbor by protecting everyone’s health (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 7:12)?

      After much prayer and discussion, the Session of St. Paul’s has formulated a plan for reopening corporate worship. But we need your help to pull it off. Our first Sunday back will serve as a trial run during which we will implement measures to protect the safety of our congregants and monitor any issues that arise. This will allow us to properly address concerns before greater numbers return over time.

      OUR PLAN

      Corporate worship at St. Paul’s will resume at 10:30 am on May 3, after the expiration of Governor Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order on April 30.

      Mitigation Measures

      • Every other pew in the Sanctuary will be roped off to ensure appropriate social distancing.
      • The back wall of the Sanctuary will be opened to allow for additional seating and more than adequate social distancing in our large (6,600 square foot) Fellowship Hall.
      • People who live together in the same household may sit together; otherwise, everyone should try to maintain a six-foot distance.
      • Pew Bibles and hymnals will be removed from the Sanctuary and the entire liturgy will be printed for individual use.
      • There will be no passing of the offering plate. Offerings will be collected at the back of the Sanctuary and online.
      • There will be no nursery provided until further notice.
      • There will be no in-person Sunday School until further notice.
      • The Lord’s Supper will not be offered until a special plan can be formulated to celebrate communion safely.
      • Please consider the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines regarding people who need to take extra precautions during the COVID-19 crisis to assist in deciding if you should stay home and worship online.

      Requirements

      • If you or anyone in your family is sick or have COVID-like symptoms (currently or in the last 14 days), you must stay home, and you are encouraged to worship online. Our online streaming service will continue indefinitely.
      • If, in the last 14 days, you or any of your family have had contact with anyone who has had a confirmed case of COVID-19 or is under investigation for the disease, or if you have traveled outside of the state of Florida to any area that is or was at the time considered to be “hot spot,” you must stay home.
      • Everyone (except those leading worship) is required to wear a mask in the Sanctuary. (Everyone in the Fellowship Hall is encouraged, but not required, to wear a mask). You will need to bring your own mask or face covering, as the church will not be able to provide a mask for each person attending.
      • Practice personal hygiene (e.g., washing hands, covering cough etc.).
      • Everyone must follow the instructions of our usher team.
      • Parents must oversee their children and ensure that they follow instructions.

      THE JUDGMENT OF CHARITY

      No one should feel pressured to return to public worship until they believe it is reasonably safe to do so. Especially during this period of transition back to corporate worship, if you or anyone in your family has reasonable hesitations, we support your decision to stay at home and to participate in our worship service online. We fully understand and appreciate that different people will have different perspectives as well as different circumstances. This is a difficult time for everyone in which it is especially important to extend one another much grace and to exercise the judgment of charity.

      Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

      VIDEO MESSAGE

      A follow-up video message will be sent later this week in which Pastor Dan and I will anticipate questions and discuss, in greater detail, the Session’s plan for reopening worship at St. Paul’s.

      QUESTIONS?

      If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or to any of St. Paul’s pastors or elders.

      In Christ,

      Pastor Justin

      On behalf of the Session


      March 18, 2020

      Dear brothers and sisters,

      After much prayer and discussion, the Session of St. Paul’s has decided to suspend all large gatherings and transition our Sunday morning worship service online for the next two weeks (March 22 and 29). Because the situation with the Coronavirus remains very fluid, the Session will reevaluate how to proceed at the end of the month, before Palm Sunday (April 5) and Easter services (April 12). Until further notice, however, there will be no large gatherings held at or sponsored by St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. This applies to all St. Paul’s regular events, ministries and group meetings that exceed 10 people over the next two weeks. Much of St. Paul’s staff will also be working remotely during this period, but you will be able to reach the office by phone (407-647-7774) during our normal hours of operation (9am-4pm, Mon-Fri) or by email (staff@stpaulsorlando.com).

      This is no small thing. To cease to gather in-person for corporate worship on the Lord’s Day is an action that should not be taken lightly (Hebrews 10:25); it should only occur as a matter of “necessity and mercy” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 60) under extraordinary circumstances for the shortest time necessary. It will be a great loss for us not to meet face-to-face, but it is the right thing to do as we seek to protect the most vulnerable.

      There’s a story recorded in Mark 3:1-6 about how Jesus was condemned for healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. When Jesus saw that people disapproved of this, he asked a question that we should stop to consider under our present circumstances: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). This was a rhetorical question, which means that the answer should be obvious. According to the best medical advice available from federal health authorities like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Christian healthcare professionals within our local church, meeting together in large groups presents a very real danger to public health and especially to high-risk groups (i.e., elderly people and those with underlying health conditions). St. Paul’s remains fully committed to honoring the Sabbath—the very first thing that is ever called “holy” (Genesis 2:3) in the Bible—but the best way to do that during this health crisis is to avoid harm and “save life” (Mark 3:4) by suspending large gatherings. This is a matter of “necessity and mercy.”

      An argument could be made that because “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3), the doors of the church should remain open at least as long as those of the grocery store. Thankfully, however, technology is available that makes it possible to hold online services without posing a threat to anyone’s health. Accordingly, this is the course that we will pursue until we can meet again safely in-person.

      Another email will be sent out later this week with instructions for how to participate in worship online. Unfortunately, some of those who tried to stream our service last week experienced difficulties and so we are working on a better option. Please pray that the Lord will enable us to get this up and running quickly and without technical difficulties. We have so much good news to share! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

      In him,

      Pastor Justin

      On behalf of the Session


      Mar 14, 2020 Update

      Dear brothers and sisters,

      In light of the ongoing Coronavirus health crisis, there will be no (1) nursery, (2) coffee service, or (3) passing of the offering plate tomorrow morning. The ushers will collect the offering at the back of the sanctuary. Thank you for understanding.

      In Christ,

      Pastor Justin


      March 13, 2020

      Dear brothers and sisters,

      The Session of St. Paul’s continues to monitor the developing situation with the Coronavirus. Taking into account the recommendations of our local authorities in Orange county, we have several updates to share with you regarding Sunday services for March 15, 2020.

      • Although we do plan to hold Sunday school (9:00 am) and morning worship (10:30 am), our Evensong service (including the Lord’s Supper) has been canceled.
      • If you or anyone in your family is sick, if you are in a high-risk group (e.g., elderly, compromised immune system etc.), or if you decide not to attend for some other reason, we encourage you to stay home and to participate in worship online.
      • An electronic copy of our liturgy will be sent out via email today. There are two ways that you can stream our service on Sunday: 1) by accessing the St. Paul’s website (www.stpaulsorlando.com) and, from the homepage, click on the “Listen to Our Live Service Now!” link pictured below:

      Please note, the “Listen to Our Live Service Now!” link will only appear on the website beginning at about 10:00 am on Sunday morning. Depending on when you join the stream, you may hear silence, people talking, or congregational worship. 2) The second way for you to access the live stream of the service is to go directly to this website (http://97.68.57.62:88/) which, again, will begin working at 10:00am on Sunday morning.

      Even as we take these responsible precautions to protect public health, let’s not forget that God is sovereign. He controls this situation and we can take great comfort in knowing he reigns.

      In Christ,

      Pastor Justin

      On behalf of the Session


      March 12, 2020

      Dear brothers and sisters,

      As we watch the spread of the Coronavirus, many are wondering how the church should respond to this health crisis, especially as it moves closer to home. The truth is that none of us know exactly how far the virus will spread or the degree to which it will impact us here in Orlando. Crises like the Coronavirus are humbling because they force us to recognize how much we don’t know. But situations like this also clarify the most important thing that we do know—the good news that our God reigns for us in his crucified and risen Son who “took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17). And this good news ought to free us from fear and panic, even as we take proper precautions.

      To this end, what are some practical ways, in addition to praying for our civil leaders and healthcare professionals, that we can love our neighbors throughout the course of this crisis? We fully intend to meet for public worship this Sunday morning. But here are some practical precautions that we ask you to take in order to help keep everyone safe as we gather:

      • If you or anyone in your family is sick, please stay home until you are no longer contagious.
      • Avoid unnecessary physical contact with other people and find creative ways to greet one another without shaking hands.
      • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or touching public surfaces and before eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
      • Cover your cough and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
      • Make use of the hand sanitizer that St. Paul’s is providing throughout our church facility.

      Please stay tuned as St. Paul’s develops other practical ways in which we can mitigate the spread of this virus and serve our church family and broader community. Some people question whether we should continue to meet and gather in person for worship services. In communities that have not yet been directly impacted by the outbreak, most authorities consider canceling church services to be premature; however, in other U.S. communities with documented cases of COVID-19, church closures are warranted. Should our local, state, or a federal agency warn against public gatherings or advise congregations not to meet, the Session will respond and communicate with the congregation regarding any cancelled events or services.

      As we respond to this health crisis, let’s not only wash our hands; let’s prepare to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14). Let’s not only avoid the spread of disease; let’s make it our aim to share the good infection—a contagious confidence in our God who reigns for us in Christ, our good Physician.

      In Christ,

      Pastor Justin

      Stay Connected

      St. Paul’s sends out a weekly newsletter on Wednesdays. Our liturgy is sent on Fridays to help us prepare for Sunday worship. Sign up to receive these and other special updates.