April 3, 2020
The Session has cancelled not only public worship but all activities within Highland’s buildings (with one exception, see below), at least until Easter Sunday, April 12, when, depending on national guidelines at the time, we may, in God’s providence, possibly resume our 10:30 a.m. service. In addition, the Session decided that:
(1) The church office will stay open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9 a.m. to noon, with Secretary Lindsay Rogers present and continuing most of her basic duties;
(2) The Highland Quilters may continue their regular meetings in the church basement, but the Session asks them carefully to sanitize their tables and work area, both before and afterwards.
(3) The church cleaning service will be cancelled during the time that our buildings are closed;
(4) The Session shall have another called meeting (in the same pavilion) at noon on Sunday, April 5, to determine when we might resume public worship and meetings in our buildings; and
Most important: the Session urges all of us, during this time of world challenge, when we must remain apart, to practice a virtual “Passing of the Peace”—that is, remembering those who sit around us in actual pews on normal Sunday mornings, with whom we visibly could do so, we should telephone, text, and/or email those same church members and friends at least weekly, and bid them God’s peace and blessings, even from afar.
Passin' The Peas
Like most congregations throughout the world, while the COVID-19 pandemic lasts, Highland Church has closed its doors for Sunday worship and other activities.
But its Session has asked parishioners to continue a custom that they seem to cherish, the Passing of the Peace. No longer may congregants actually shake hands, hug, or touch one another, repeating with a smile the words of Jesus, "Peace be with you!" (Luke 24:36). Yet the elders urge them, remembering the ones with whom they once shared pews, to phone, text, or email each at least once a week, to bid the same.
The ancient Christian "Kiss of Peace," dates from the earliest days of the faith, centered in Mediterranean lands. Meeting weekly in homes on Saturday evenings, believers prayed, read scripture, celebrated Eucharist or Communion, and kissed one another as a sign of unity.
Yet over the centuries, at least in more socially reserved northern Europe, the British Isles, and North America, this gesture in worship waned. Even among Roman Catholics in those lands it tended to become a perfunctory greeting between priest and deacon or assistant.
With widespread liturgical renewal during the past sixty years, however, the Peace sprang to new life among most classical Christian denominations. Not all congregants appreciated it. Dwyn Mounger, Highland's transitional pastor, remembers a disgruntled friend showing up for worship in his Georgia parish decades ago. "That surprised me; he was a cradle Episcopalian."
"I'm not goin' back," the friend exclaimed, "till they stop passin' the peas!"
For now, Highland members, as they non-visually, non-physically, share the Peace, will also ask about the needs of each other and try to meet them, while observing "safe-distancing." The weekly Sunday liturgies and sermons are being posted on the congregation's website.
See Examples of Passing the Peace