Our first two Prayer & Praise services were clearly successful by any measure. The music had us lifting up our voices and swaying in our seats; the messages of Joy and Hope delivered by our pastors were uplifting; and the renewed camaraderie was exhilarating.

However, it is with sadness that Committee members and staff find themselves in the difficult position of having to “push the pause button” on the Prayer and Praise service at this time. After having discovered additional positive cases of Covid 19 within the congregation, and out of respect for those at risk within our church and the island at large, the event team and staff felt it necessary to yield to an abundance of caution.

We fully anticipate continuing our alternative worship opportunity as the virus subsides and we can provide a safe environment in which to join together again. In the interim, we will continue to work toward improving the worship experience and look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions.

Please continue to check our Website for the future opening date:

To help us promote future services, please post a reply below or send a comment via email about what you enjoyed about the service to Session members involved in the planning:

John Evans
Thom Greenlaw
Sue Jones
Lynne Kaley

Sermon Texts

AUGUST 2, 2020

A Message for Today

Matthew 14:13-21
Rev. Deanie Strength

Do you believe in miracles? I do! And I’ve got a miracle story for you today. Back in October, a couple weeks before her thirteenth birthday, our daughter Nell expressed her desire to adopt a dog, preferably a golden retriever puppy. At that time, we were away from home most of the day with school and work and rehearsals often went into the night. I couldn’t see how we could invite a puppy into the mix and tried stalling as best.

Then came COVID-19 and having a dog seemed like just what Nell – and the rest of us – could use for comfort and companionship and to get exercising again. So we stepped up our search. Online we followed local rescue groups and The Humane Society, Animal Control, and Facebook posts looking for just the perfect dog, preferably one with even just a little bit of golden retriever.

And last Saturday I spotted a dog named “Libby” on the local Humane Society site – she was a beautiful mid-sized 2-year old girl with some golden retriever and perhaps a little German shepherd in her, but then I read the fine print and shook my head “no.” There was a catch. “Libby” didn’t travel alone. She was part of a bonded pair. If you adopted Libby, you also had to take her buddy Bentley, a stocky fellow with the face of a bearded collie and the body of a basset hound. One dog sounded great but two? Did we have enough space? Enough energy? Enough time to take responsibility for two medium-sized dogs (to go with our four people and three cats?) My assessment ended with “no, we do not” so I decided not say anything to Nell about their availability.

But then this Monday, Nell discovered them on the website herself. And since I’d found it pretty unusual to see a listing for a dog like Libby, I decided we’d go take a look. And once we stood in the pen with them and got a sense of their nature, our minds opened a bit and we asked if we could have more time with them the next day. The shelter staff said, “yes,” so on Tuesday afternoon, we were able to take them off campus and run them through every test we could think of. The result? We wanted them both! Thinking back to October and my resistance to dog adoption, this truly was a miracle change of heart! And now, after five full days with us, it appears that the space in our little home has expanded and the love in our little hearts has multiplied. (Well, we still haven’t fully sold all the three cats so we continue to pray for another miracle – peace and harmony among the different species!)

The miracle in today’s passage also involves multiplication. A few items provided by a handful of people (who doubted their efficacy) were placed in Jesus’ hands, and he multiplied them to fill the hunger of a multitude. You see, in the economy of the Kingdom of God, compassion, kindness and sharing make miracles happen. When we offer something that we have – no matter how paltry or ordinary – and put it in Jesus’ hands, things happen for the good. People are provided food to eat…stray animals and stray people find safe places to lay their heads… scared people meet faithful people who show them compassion… wounded people get access to tools and technicians that can help them heal.

God works with people to make these kinds of miracles happen. The disciples put what food they have in Jesus’ hands and he multiplies it. Five loaves and two fish get the miracle process started. Once they open their minds to simply name what they DO have to share, Jesus gets to work solving a problem that seems overwhelmingly large – food for 5000 plus women and children.

I marvel at the spaciousness of Jesus who keeps his heart and his mind open with compassion to others no matter what THEY are going through – and no matter what HE is going through. His gracious insistence that the people’s hunger be met immediately is even more powerful when we realize the traumatic event he and his followers had experienced just before this crowd gathered around them. The reason Jesus was going off by himself in a boat was because of the “news” he had just gotten – his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded. Yes, the first 13 verses of this chapter in Matthew recount the murder of John by the son of King Herod known as Herod Antipas. John was the precursor to the Jesus movement. He had preached for people to prepare the way for Jesus and had baptized him and so many others at the River Jordan. This righteous man’s head had been served up on a platter at Herod’s birthday party as a gift to his step-daughter/niece who had done a dance for him that brought him a lot of pleasure. You see, John had been in prison for calling Herod and his wife Herodias out for adultery and when Herodias’ daughter got to request a party favor, she asked for this grotesque gift as a party favor. And because Herod cared more about how he looked before his dinner guests than anything else, he gave it to her.

Compare the selfish and brutish behavior of Herod Antipas to the sensitivity and consideration for human need practiced by Jesus. The crowds coming to Jesus were likely also affected by John’s death, many of them had probably even been baptized by John. Maybe they were coming heading towards Jesus hoping he would call out the injustice and senseless violence, or at the least, comfort them and heal them of their traumatized and wounded spirits. Though he himself might have wanted solitude to grieve and pray about what had happened, he was moved by their suffering to step out of his plan and go help them. And at the end of the day, he has satisfied their hungry hearts – and filled their hungry stomaches. This is what the people who sought him out that day needed from him – and this is why people are still following him today.

Perhaps you have tuned in to worship this morning to hear words and music about God that will heal your wounded heart and soul. All of us are carrying something heavy that we need to release to Jesus for healing and restoration. Take a deep breath now and know that Jesus is walking alongside you, ready for you to put that burden on him.

But I hope that you have also tuned in to worship because you are looking for inspiration and guidance from the Lord for how to provide for the needs of people around us who are either experiencing – or are on the verge of experiencing – a darkness falling on them like the night that is encroaching on the crowds in our passage. People are losing jobs, facing poverty, and looking for people to follow who can offer healing and hope. Listening to the stories of Jesus our Lord, and letting the Spirit move in our hearts and minds, builds courage within us to learn more about the suffering and trauma that people are carrying. From this passage we see that participating in another’s suffering opens the door to participation in God’s miracles of abundance. And like the disciples, we DO have things in hand that we can bring forth to meet people’s needs. Today, I am here to remind us that God has given us materials for miracles.

Like the disciples holding out their five loaves of bread and two fish when Jesus says, “You give them something to eat!”, we have resources to share. We have resources that can be used for education and to build community support. We have skills. We have curious and open minds. We have access to the Internet. We have a desire to be known as people who “reflect the face of Jesus to the world” – our church’s motto. I also have a dream of being a safe person – even an ally – for disenfranchised people, people of color, people who are weak and vulnerable. That dream keeps leading me deeper into examination of my participation in systems and structures that may be causing others to suffer. And so I continue to offer Jesus my time. I continue to listen to podcasts, read books, and participate in virtual group activities on topics that are challenging me to examine and engage my beliefs and behaviors about justice, racism and reconciliation, and respect for all people. I trust that if we each offer Jesus what little bits we have, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will make a feast where all can be seen and eat until they are satisfied.

As I did last month, I invite you to join me on this journey. On August 10, I am going to participate in a 4-week online course on Monday nights (7-9 PM) through the PCUSA on Matthew 25. This is a denominational initiative that congregations and mid-councils are adopting believing that the foundation of congregational vitality is living out Jesus’ statement to his disciples to help the hungry, oppressed, the imprisoned, and the poor. Remember that phrase, “Whenever you did it for the least of these, you did it to me”? It’s in Matthew 25. This study will compliment another Zoom study/action project I’m involved with through First Presbyterian Church in Statesboro (a “Matthew 25 Church”) which is leading participants to set goals about being conscious and hospitable in our settings in life and church. Our first meeting was based on a book by Jennifer Harvey called Raising White Kids to help families equip children to be active and able participants in our racially diverse yet tension-filled society. A second session will be in August on Austin Channing Brown’s book I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In a World Made for Whiteness. And the third session in September will be on Ibram Kendi’s book How to Be An Antiracist.

Working as I am with the churches of Savannah Presbytery, I am inspired to keep advocating for giving to the SIPC COVID relief fund and working with our Mission Committee to find other ways to be involved in the suffering of the vulnerable in our community. St. Simons Presbyterian Church has raised enough money to give over 500 $250 grants to Glynn County residents directly impacted by the pandemic. Wilmington Island Presbyterian Church, just down the road, recognized the challenges the pandemic has presented to members of the Hispanic Fellowship at Swainsboro Presbyterian Church and has donated a van to the church to help transport people in the surrounding Latino Community. Metter Presbyterian Church added to that fryer chickens from their local chicken plant. I also know of church members throughout the presbytery who are sewing masks and quilting lap quilts and knitting prayer shawls to meet people’s needs for contact and comfort.

These days of the pandemic have been like the old tale Stone Soup. In the version written by Jon Muth in 2003, the year our son James was born, three strangers, hungry and tired, pass through a war-torn village. Embittered and suspicious, the people hide their food and close their windows tight. That is, until the clever strangers suggest making a soup from stones. Intrigued by the idea, people start offering what little bits they have – one brings salt, pepper, and spices, another a bowl of carrots, someone offers five big onions, after awhile come the fresh noodles, pea pods, and cabbages. Before they know it, they have made a feast fit for a king. But the real miracle occurs when the soup is prepared and all of the villagers come out of their seclusion to sit at the table together and enjoy the meal.

This kind of miracle meal is still happening in the real world! Better than any sermon illustration I could tell you about is an actual video introducing you to a group of Presbyterian women who are members of St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Lolita, California who have been offering what they have to residents of a homeless camp in the Los Angelos area. Inspired by Matthew 25, they really bring today’s scripture to life. Let’s watch… VIDEO

Sharing with one another can heal hearts and save lives. Friends, let us be moved by our relationship with Jesus Christ to open our hands and give what we have to meet the needs around us. In God’s hands, our humble offerings can be multiplied. We can work with God to light the darkness which leads so many to despair and hopelessness. When there is an opportunity to do something, let it begin with us. To God be the glory. Amen.

A Year with Matthew for a Matthew 25 Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Theology and Worship, 2020.

Muth, John. Stone Soup, Scholastic Press, 2003.

Matthew 14:13-21

JUNE 28, 2020

A Message for Today

Matthew 10:40-42
Rev. Deanie Strength

Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church

Dear friends in Christ, it seems like a lifetime ago now, but do you remember the prayers we placed in our weekly bulletins and newsletters last year as part of our strategic planning process? Over a period of months until the end of 2019, we prayed short 2-3 sentence prayers that God would open opportunities for ministry for us and that our church leaders and families would reach our potential in the Lord. We prayed for God’s will, not our own, as we explored new initiatives and pathways. And we prayed that we would trust God as we committed to the next missionary journey for Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church.

I am glad we included prayer in our efforts because we are seeing now, more than ever, that no thought of our own could have been adequate to prepare us for the context of ministry and life we now find ourselves in. Only the power of God – working through us, speaking through us, enlivening us, and guiding us – can help us meet this moment of pandemic and related upheaval with hope and courage.

This is not the 2020 we were expecting! When we started paying attention to the approach of “2020”, it was quite natural to associate the year with the idea of “20/20 Vision” and the concept of perfect eye-sight and clarity. Like Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church engaging in a Strategic Planning process, many other businesses and schools used 2019 to re-assess and re-tool our systems and values so that when 2020 started, we’d be able to see the times clearly and launch into a new decade working for the glory of God.

But now that we are smack dab in the middle of 2020, we realize that our prayers must continue and our reliance on the Holy Scripture is even more critical because what we are seeing around us is certainly disorienting and concerning. We can thank God for our scripture guidebook giving us lenses to see how we should maneuver and keep our focus on the mission we’ve been given. With God’s help, we can not only “see” what’s in front of us better, we can discern what to do about what we’re seeing.

Today’s passage is the conclusion of Jesus’ instructions to the 12 apostles who he was preparing to send out into Galilee with the authority to cast out evil spirits and heal every kind of disease and illness. He elaborates that this means preaching that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, healing the sick, raising the dead, curing those with leprosy, and casting out demons. And he needs them to do all this without any money or change of clothes and sandals – not even a walking stick. (Going without any extras was a way to expose false prophets and mercenaries who would object to such self-sacrifice.)

It’s interesting to note that this particular mission was limited to the region of Galilee and was intended for the people of Israel since it was not until Jesus’ resurrection that the apostles were charged to go to the Gentiles and Samaritans and even the ends of the earth. When the apostle’s set out for this mission, they were to find a “worthy” follower of Jesus who had already embraced the proclamation of the Gospel – not just someone who would offer them free room and board. To be worthy was to be willing to follow Jesus in costly discipleship even if this meant crossing the authorities or even their own family members.

Jesus was very honest with his apostles about the consequences they would face in taking the necessary risks. Claiming authority to free people from sick thoughts and every strain of disease would likely cause them legal problems or get a rise out of someone in authority who prioritized “law and order” over the healing and freedom that God wants for all. Loving Jesus more than they loved their own family members could cause those family members to betray them for their disloyalty to their clan and ancestors. They could be disregarded, attacked, even hated, but they were not to worry or be afraid. God would give them the right words at the right time and they could trust that God’s love was strong enough to protect their soul which no human could touch or violate.

If apostles could be threatened by the authorities – or their own families – the importance of finding fellow disciples who had embraced the Gospel and could receive them and offer hospitality was vital. In fact, Jesus said earlier in this passage that if the apostles found one of their hosts “unworthy”, they were to leave and find another host to receive them. So committed disciples at home who could offer refuge and shelter to disciples out on the way (disciples who might have a mob after them!) were critical for Jesus’ mission to succeed).

And that is still true today. As righteous people of faith take risks “out there” in God’s name to speak out against the evil spirits of racism, violence, poverty, lawlessness, and murder and as they seek to heal people of diseases by naming unforgiveness, disrespect, and generational trauma and abuse as causes of pain to bodies and spirits, they need their own people, other people of faith, to “receive” and give them respect and kindness as they respond to God’s call on their lives. Being an apostle or a prophet or a righteous teacher is serious business, particularly when a health pandemic like this one exposes the many ways that the most vulnerable of God’s people are hurting. Deep wounds are being exposed in our world and I believe that Jesus is hoping all of his disciples will find their place as healers and way makers in this time.

Last weekend, the commissioners to the Presbyterian Church General Assembly convened and indicated their willingness to receive a healing message when they elected co-moderators Reverend Gregory Bentley, an African-American man from North Alabama Presbytery, and Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart, a Native-American who is the executive of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies which includes the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska. I appreciated hearing from one of our presbytery’s commissioners who voted for them saying they had a “sense of direction with a missional approach.” Yesterday, when the business of the meeting began in earnest, the new moderators released an image they will use for their tenure to describe their slogan, “Learning from the past, living in the present.” The image is called a “Sankofa” and is of a bird standing in the Mississippi River with its feet pointing forward and its head looking backward to the wisdom learned from the past, embodied in the egg it is placing on its back. I am encouraged by what they are saying and hope to learn from them as they bring the wisdom of their faith and real experience to our denomination at this time.

One of the most important tasks I feel I have as moderator of Savannah Presbytery is encouraging our churches and its members to be willing to make space to hear the prophets and the apostles and the most vulnerable “little ones” among us who are saying the Kingdom of God is near and we can participate by opening our hearts. We may not be the ones called to stand out in front of everybody, but we can be faithful by

providing a safe, welcoming reception to those who have heard God whispering to them to speak out against that which threatens another person’s life or spirit. Both speaking out and being willing to listen are acts that require courage because, as Jesus says, following him can divide even the closest of families. But our passage today reminds us that there is a reward for taking either risk. If we treat a prophet with respect as though they speak for God (even if the world isn’t ready to hear their words), we will get the same reward as the prophet. And if we receive righteous people because their actions are right and just, then we will be given a reward like theirs. And if we extend our hand to the most vulnerable of Jesus’ followers – those he loves especially – even if it is just to give them a cup of cold water, there will be a reward.

And so I am trying to make space in my life to let the Spirit help me know when I’m one to be speak up – or one to be supporting those who are by listening more and better to “voices of people long-silenced.” I invite you to join me. Since pastors and lay people are sending good resources my way as the presbytery moderator, I can share a growing list of books that have been recommended to me as well as an invitation to join a virtual presbytery book club on Matthew 25 starting in July. I have also learned of several online courses, daily email programs, even a daily walking program with a soundtrack designed to help participants come alongside people who have suffered prejudice and offer instead respect and gratitude for their perspective, strength, and perseverance.

Doing hard things for the love of Jesus requires the commitment of the individual and the support of the faith community – that’s why Jesus calls those twelve disciples by name but send them out in a group of 12. So while I know that my desire is to do something to venture into new territory of thought and action, I know that I am more likely to follow through and make a dent for the kingdom if others join me in this endeavor. If you have been hearing Jesus whisper in your ear to learn more and do more to also “hear the voices of the long silenced” and fight the evil of racism and hatred, please email me or call me. There is work we can do and we can do more for the kingdom of God if we do it together.

And as always, thank you for receiving me into the ministry of Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church and always lending your ear to my thoughts as I grow in discipleship and service. To God be the glory this day – and forevermore. Amen.

May 10, 2020

Mother’s Day
Rev. Deanie Strength

Opening Thoughts on Scripture
John 14:15-27

SLIDE (Bird with two babies under the wing)

By the grace of God, we have walked another week into new territory on our wilderness journey. There have been moments of refreshment for our congregation. On Monday, the Presbyterian Women Coordinating Council had its first Zoom meeting with 100% attendance. And on Thursday, we broadcast an inspiring and uplifting National Day of Prayer service for the Skidaway community. I want to thank Jeff who insisted the prayer service could be carried out safely and worked with our AV team to make it happen. When the stay-at-home order first went into place, there was talk about cancelling this service, but Jeff recognized that we needed prayer in times like this more than ever.

I also want to thank Eleanor Graham, PW Moderator and elder, who has taken the initiative to work with Jim Brown to strengthen our ability to enjoy virtual community. Jeff and elder Thom Greenlaw have been helping us gather by Zoom for a virtual coffee hour for several weeks and now you will notice that as you are watching our service today, you are able to join in a “chat room” to say hi and share some encouragement. This chat room will be open now 30 minutes prior to and following each service so jump in and say “hi” – send up some virtual hearts to say you like something you see or that you are thankful for some aspect of the service.

Staying in gratitude is such an important tool to help us keep our hearts light rather than weighed down with brooding and frustration. I had my first good cry on Friday about the many losses that are being experienced far and wide, but I found gratitude in preparing this message for all of you. I imagined you in your places in the pews, giving your smiles of encouragement. I am thankful for you and I am thankful for the good promises of God that I encountered as I went looking for words to bring you hope and comfort today.

Today’s passage helps us connect to the caring spirit of God as well as the caring spirit of our mothers (both the ones in whose wombs God knit us together – Psalm 139: 13-14 – and those who God may have given us through adoption or familial ties). The passage is drawn from the Gospel of John and recalls the moment when Jesus promises the disciples the peace of mind brought by the Holy Spirit who would come to them in his absence as the “paraclete” or the “nearby called one” who will provide comfort.

(Slide of mother with baby chicks) This slide is the vision that comes to my mind when I think of the comfort and care of the Holy Spirit and hear passages like Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” And this slide reminds me of the care and love my mother has given my sister and me for almost 50 years. She sent us this photo several years ago and, since the Holy Spirit makes appearances in the Bible like a dove, I have used this image to describe for our preschoolers the care that our parents and our God seek to provide for us. I invite you to hold this image and these thoughts in your mind as we listen to God’s word in the Gospel of John 14:15-27.

A Message for Today

I hope I am not alone in having a few “mom” stories I regret. One of mine is the day I was so overwhelmed with thoughts and responsibilities that I drove about 10 minutes away from a park where my children were playing thinking they were in the backseat of the car playing with their devices. By the time I got back to them, there was a little panic on their part and mine.

Thankfully, we were able to overcome that trauma, but it really does hurt to be left behind, especially by the one you look to for care and direction. Jesus knew his followers had leaned on him and would feel fear about his absence so here he tells them about the gifts coming their way:

1) The Holy Spirit who is going to come and stay with them throughout their life span, even throughout the vast span of history, to lead them to truth and wisdom

2) Peace of mind and heart which will come as they breathe in the Spirit – or “pneuma” in Greek – and are taught in all truth and wisdom

The Holy Spirit – or paraclete – will be their counselor, advocate, helper, and friend – aspects of God that sound very “motherly” to me.

(Slide of MOTHER OWL) For the last couple of weeks on the Isle of Hope where I live, my neighbors and I have been focused this bard owl as she displays some of these “motherly” characteristics. About a month ago, she and her two owlets (SLIDE of TWO BABY OWLS) were spotted in a hollow of a tree on the bluff which has been a nesting spot in recent years. Though we can easily see them with our own eyes, the wonderful photography of resident Bill Tongue posted on our Isle of Hope Facebook page, have enabled us to enjoy close-up shots of the maturing babies.

We’ve watched them grow brave enough to come to the edge of the hollow watching for their mother to return with food for them to eat. We’ve heard their call and her response from a tree on the other side of the street. Last week their wings had fledged enough that they were ready to start working those wings and try flying themselves. They went for it, making it far enough to land on a nearby branch of another live oak and hop around freely for a couple of days. But when one thought its perch was more secure than it was, it fell two stories to the ground and got all tangled up in some Spanish moss. There it lay at the base of the tree stunned and immobile for a few minutes. (Slide of owl with funny wing)

But the mother stayed close. She flew to a nearby branch and stood guard while Mr. Tongue disentangled the bird. And she stayed close by as the baby walked itself over to a nearby live oak tree covered with vines and began working its way back up to the tree canopy, one step at a time, to resume its flight education. (Slide of owl in brush).

We can recognize ourselves in that owlet – remember first wanting to learn to fly and take on responsibility like an adult? We started by doing the little things like making and keeping appointments and getting our car registered and then moved to doing big things like starting families, starting businesses, hiring people to help us with the business, and developing skills to help people with important things.

Our experience told us we were on solid footing but then circumstances changed and we had the breath knocked out. A war or a recession or the death of a wage earner or a divorce and we felt as vulnerable as kids again wanting our mommies and daddies to take care of

things – or something to restore our security and peace of mind. Going forward despite our fears is what made us grow up to be adults. Going forward with faith in the Holy Spirit standing by our side is what enabled us to become the to be adults others can turn to for encouragement and strength in their times of need.

When the circumstances are hard, people of faith don’t put on the T-shirts that have become quite popular in the last couple of years: (SLIDE – No Adulting Today) – “NO ADULTING TODAY!” Unlike children crying in distress!”(Slide of child crying for parent), people of faith are able to face the future knowing that God will keep in perfect peace, all who trust in Him, all whose thoughts are fixed on him. (Isaiah 26:3) Our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – will not leave us as orphans. Whenever we feel alone, God is ready to come to us, and breathe into us a breath that is filled with spiritual health and strength. The Greek word for “Spirit” – “pneuma” does, in fact, mean breath but God isn’t asking us to take in a “spirit” or “breath” of fear or sickness that would contain germs like “pneumonia” or “COVID-19” but to breathe in his “ spirit of power, of love, and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Taking in a deep breath of Christ’s power will revive us. Letting the Spirit direct us to his teachings will comfort us and give us “peace of mind.”

This week, when the chaos of this crisis causes your fear to sky- rocket, try this… (Slide of child lying in the green grass) this is the image I would like you to picture. You as this little child, lying in green pastures by still waters – it’s the one I used this year with the preschoolers to explain Psalm 23. Take a deep breath and call on the Holy Spirit to comfort you with His promises and listen… “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) …. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. (Isaiah 54:10) … Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6)

I pray that you might know this peace this day – this week – and even forevermore. To God Be the Glory. Amen.


Worship Service – Sundays | 10:00 AM

National Day of Prayer Service | MAY 7 | 7:00 PM
(A Skidaway Island Community Event)

COVID-19 Updates

Savannah Presbytery Recommendation to Continue Virtual Worship and other Church Activities

April 23, 2020

Dear Pastors, Clerks of Session, and Members of Savannah Presbytery,

With this week’s announcement by Governor Brian Kemp that churches may resume worship services this Sunday, we have come together to discern what guidance we might provide to the congregations of Savannah Presbytery.

On a Wednesday call with more than a dozen pastors from every district in our presbytery (representing both small and large churches), there was unanimous agreement that their congregations were not ready to take responsibility for the health risks that would come with opening our sanctuaries and meeting as a community. Many of our church members and pastors are either over 60 years of age or have health conditions that leave them compromised, and thus more susceptible to the severe consequences of infection. The federal guidelines informed by the CDC recommend that communities have a 14 day decline in COVID-19 cases. Georgia’s rate is still on the increase. One of our churches has already had to experience the ramifications of notifying congregation members that someone who had been in worship with them before the stay-at-home order had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

We applaud the efforts that our presbytery pastors and church leaders are making to continue to worship and “do church” remotely. We highly recommend that this continue and that church facilities remained closed. During this time of waiting, sessions should continue to explore how the CDC’s suggestions for mitigating health risks (i.e. numerical management, social distancing, increased attention to sanitation, wearing masks in public) would alter their “pre-pandemic” practices for gatherings on the church campus. A good resource for developing new and healthier practices is a blog article by Ken Braddy, the director of Sunday School for Lifeway Christian Resources, titled “24 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return.”

Savannah Presbytery is a covenant community. We value a reformed heritage that looks after the needs and well-being of the “least of these” within the context of the covenant community. While we are not yet able to recommend a date in which we can once again worship as the Body of Christ gathered in one place, we look forward to rejoicing when all who are able can celebrate under one roof in our houses of worship. We will listen to the advice of the CDC and maintain contact with all of our churches as we look forward to safely meeting together in the near future.

May God bless you and your congregations during this unfamiliar and anxious time.


TE Alan Baroody, Transitional General Presbyter

TE Eric Beene, Acting Stated Clerk

RE Doty Dunn, Presbytery Moderator-Elect

TE Jeff Garrison, Council Chair

TE Andy Meeker, Committee on Ministry Chair

TE Deanie Strength, Presbytery Moderator


GENERAL INFO: The office is closed except for essential business and pastoral needs. If you are coming to the office, please call first. We are trying our best to keep our members and friends and the general public safe as we also strive to slow the speed of the infection rates of COVID-19.

We are currently implementing conference calling options so that upcoming church meetings can be done remotely. We have cancelled all non-essential meetings at the church.

Please let Pastor Jeff know if there are those who have needs that we, as the church, can help them meet. His direct number at church is 598-9605.

SUNDAY’S SERVICE: We will continue to hold abbreviated services that will be live-streamed. We also hope to put the service online in its entirety soon afterwards so that those who missed it at 10 AM will be able to watch the service. We encourage everyone to watch the service online from home. Please keep in touch as our plans may change as new guidelines from the CDC or state and local governments are released.

Please let us know how we might continue to be a church during this time. This is new ground for everyone and there may be things we have overlooked.

In your prayers, please remember to pray for:

  • Our church and its leaders
  • Those who have been infected with COVID-19
  • Those who serve the public as medical professionals (Physicians, Nurses, First Responders, etc.)
  • Our national, state, and local leaders
  • Wisdom, patience, and understanding in an uncertain time

    God is our refuge and strength, 
    A very present help in trouble. -Psalm 46:1


(provided by CEMA)

Confirmed Cases

Q: Do we have any cases here?
A: If/when we get a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19, we will let the public know. The Georgia Department of Public Health updates its website,, every day at noon with a map of lab-confirmed cases around the state of Georgia.

Q: What happens when we start getting cases?
A: Even if you are in a county with no confirmed case, don’t assume the virus is not present. Because testing has been limited, we may not have an accurate picture of the current level of infection across our area. That’s why we must all take measures to protect ourselves and others from spreading germs.

That means:

• Washing hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water. If you don’t have soap, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Regularly clean common surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, computer keyboards, and light switches.
• Cover your cough with a tissue and throw the tissue away or cough into the crook of your elbow.
• Instead of shaking hands, consider a fist or elbow bump.
• Don’t share cups or eating utensils.


Q: Can I get tested for COVID-19 at the health department?
A: No. Local health departments cannot evaluate, test, or treat COVID-19.

Q: Who can get tested and where?
A: Right now, all tests for COVID-19 must be ordered by a physician. Federal and state agencies are working to expand access to testing, but currently testing supplies and laboratories are limited. That’s why testing must be prioritized. Not everyone should get tested. Clinicians use certain criteria to determine if testing is warranted.

Priorities for testing include:

• Hospitalized patients who have signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19
• Other symptomatic individuals such as older adults and individuals with chronic medical conditions or are immunocompromised
• Any persons who, within 14 days of showing symptoms, had close contact with a suspect or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient, or who have a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of their symptom onset.
• Healthcare professionals who care for patients with COVID-19

Q: What if I have symptoms or think I have COVID-19 but don’t fall into a priority testing category?
A: We are still in flu and allergy season and several symptoms of COVID-19 are similar. If you have symptoms including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, then you should stay home and away from others. You shouldn’t go outside your home except to get medical care but – and this is important – don’t seek medical care without calling the healthcare provider first. That will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

If you have symptoms:
• Stay in a specific room of the house and use a separate bathroom from others if you can.
• Don’t share personal items such as dishes, eating utensils, or bedding with others in your home and thoroughly wash those items with soap and water after they’ve been used.
• Use household cleaners to clean high-touch surfaces and areas – some examples include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, phones, and keyboards.
• While we don’t recommend facemasks for everyone, people who are sick should wear one when around other people. If the person who is sick can’t wear a facemask because, say, they have trouble breathing, then anyone who is in the room with the sick person should wear a facemask.
• And of course, the same basic hygiene recommendations still apply: Wash your hands, sneeze or cough into a tissue and throw the tissue away, regularly clean common surfaces in the home, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home. Even with severe cases, the absence of a test does not delay treatment. Doctors can provide supportive care to ease symptoms, and this is done with or without a test.

Q: How many people are being tested?
A: We don’t know how many people are being tested. Commercial laboratories are not required to report the number of tests they’ve ordered; however, they MUST report any positive tests to public health.

Q: How will we know if people in our area are positive for COVID-19?
A: Laboratories must report positive tests to public health. If/when we are notified that we have lab-confirmed positive cases, we will let the public know through our website (, media partners, social media outlets, communications through other community partners such as Emergency Management Agencies.

Q: Are there home testing kits available?
A: No. We understand people are concerned and that many individuals would like to be tested. Right now, the only way to get tested is for a physician to order the test. But again, if you have mild symptoms you should isolate yourself from others in your household and care for yourself at home. If your symptoms become worse, call a healthcare provider.

Social Distancing

Q: What is social distancing?
A: Social distancing means minimizing contact with people. It also means that if you are near someone in public, try to stay at least 6 feet away. The less contact people have with one another means the less opportunity for the virus to spread. Slowing the spread of the virus means we can keep our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.


Q: Should I wear a facemask?
A: If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room.

Event Cancellations

Q: Should I go to church/party/community gathering/bar?
A: Right now, federal and state guidelines recommend staying home if possible and limiting time in public places as precautions associated with social distancing. The more we use social distancing techniques, the more we reduce the risk of the virus spreading. This is especially important for older people and those with underlying health conditions who are most vulnerable to the virus.

Price Gouging

Q: Where can I report Price Gouging?
A: On March 14, 2020, at 10:15 AM, Governor Kemp issued an Executive Order and declared a Public Health State of Emergency in the State of Georgia. In the Executive Order, the Governor recognized that it is necessary and appropriate to take action to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Georgia’s residents and visitors to ensure that COVID-19 remains controlled. He further ordered that during preparation, response and recovery activities for this Public Health Emergency, price gouging of goods and services necessary to support Public Health would be detrimental to the social and economic welfare of the citizens of this State. Accordingly, he enacted price gouging controls for the State of Georgia. If you see price gouging, please report it on this link:

State of Georgia Hotline

There is a state of Georgia hotline people can call with questions or if they think they may have been exposed: 1-844-442-2681
Again, if you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, please contact your primary care doctor, an urgent care clinic, or your local federally qualified healthcare center. Please do not show up to an emergency room or healthcare facility unannounced.


Civility Series 2 – Power of Social Media


The Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church (SIPC) will sponsor its second forum on Civility on Wednesday, March 4 at 7pm in the sanctuary. The purpose of this gathering is to discuss how we live ethically in this new age of social media. The objective is to identify the power and the problems of social media and to provide tools that can help us deal with it conscientiously and morally.

There will be three 10-12 minute “Ted Talk-Like” presentations by Sandy Mentzel, Amber Williams and Rabbi Robert Haas with The Rev. Dr. Jeff Garrison, pastor of SIPC as moderator.

Sandy Mentzel is a digital marketing and project coordinator at Hospice Savannah and founder of Savannah’s Social Media Breakfast. She earned a BA in Economics from Rutgers University.

Amber Williams is Public Affairs Manager of the Georgia Air National Guard and a podcaster. She studied video communication at Bowling Green State University.

Rabbi Robert Haas is the rabbi at Congregational Mickve Israel, as well as a stand-up comedian and user of Facebook. He is a graduate of the University of Texas and went to rabbinical school in Los Angeles.

The panelist’s presentations on the power of Social Media will be followed by an op en discussion, moderated by Rev. Jeff Garrison.  Questions from the audience will be encouraged.  Join us in what promises to be a lively discussion!

For any questions about the forum, call the church office at 598-0151.

* Nursery available.

SIPC Hosts Award-Winning Lecture Series

SIPC will broadcast via live stream one of the nation’s leading lecture and cultural art series in Liston Hall  from 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM.  Bring your lunch and a friend to this stimulating lecture series. We will  have tables set up for seating along with coffee, tea and water to drink.

Ann Compton, a 41-year veteran of the White house press corps who covered seven presidents during her tenure; Mitch Albom, an author, columnist, radio host, and philanthropist whose books have sold over 39 million copies and been translated into more than 45 languages; and Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at NYU whose last two books were New York Times best-sellers, are among the impressive lineup of speakers.

The 15 speakers will offer informed perspectives on a wide range of today’s most relevant topics, including poverty and hunger, the global water crisis, immigration, mass incarceration, religious freedom, and big data’s inequality and threat to democracy.


SIPC Organizes Support for Local Coast Guard

Skidaway Island Presbyterian church has a tradition of welcoming Joys and Concerns from its members during Sunday morning services. Recently Commander (CDR) Drew Behnke, a member of the United States Coast Guard, stood to announce that many of his fellow Coast Guard members were experiencing financial difficulties due to the extended government shutdown.

Members of the church’s Mission Committee put their heads together to come up with a plan to support those in need. Working closely with CDR Behnke, the idea emerged to purchase individual gift cards, not to exceed $50, for distribution among the 420 Coast Guard members within the coastal stations of Georgia. In less than a week, cards valued at over $3,400 were donated.

As the word spread among the island churches and throughout the larger community by way of The Landings Association website, the amount of support swelled to over $5,000 and 1700 hotdogs.

SIPC Welcomes Brendan Mungwena

Brendan Mungwena is a Zimbabwe exchange student studying macro economics at Armstrong State University, thanks to the Georgia Rotary Student Program, and was a guest speaker at SIPC on January 28. Brendan received a warm welcome from his American host family, the Eskews – Austin, Kay and Sam.

Click HERE to read Brendan’s testimony.
Click HERE to read about Brendan in the January 19 issue of the Skinnie magazine.


A Message from Union Mission

Patricia Youngquist, Executive Director of Union Mission, spoke to the SIPC congregation during the Worship service on Sunday, January 13. The following is her message:

Homelessness is a growing problem, not just in Savannah but across America. The need for help, for supportive services, for a hand up out of homelessness, is great. Last year, over 4,500 men, women, and children were homeless in Chatham County. That could be for a day, a week or longer. Right here in Chatham County, on any given day, there are approximately 1,000 people living without a stable home. These people could be in emergency shelters, on the street or under bridges, in motels, in their cars, or couch surfing with friends and relatives.

Union Mission began 80 years ago as the dream of a man of faith. Our founder, the Reverend George Akins, came to Savannah from Toccoa Falls Bible College in the north Georgia mountains. The suffering he saw on the streets around him during the Great Depression inspired him to create a place of hope and help that would touch the lives of those most in need.

His dream has been changing lives in Savannah ever since. Each year, hundreds of men, women, and children come to Union Mission looking for a beacon to light their way to a new life. Here they find safe beds, hot food, and the help they need to rebuild their lives. Many of them tell us that we are the first place that truly gave them a hand up out of homelessness into a better tomorrow.

Union Mission works to change lives by creating an environment where individuals can thrive and lives can be rebuilt. The program at the heart of what we do is our Emergency Services Program. Our two facilities, Grace House for men and Magdalene House for women with children, offer 90 days of housing and supportive services, including mental health care, employment and training support, and dedicated staff trained to address the specialized needs of individuals and families recovering from homelessness. Our goal is to help them leave homelessness and transition to safe, stable housing.

In 2016, (we are still gathering our 2017 stats) we served 474 people. In doing so we provided over 28,000 nights of shelter, served over 84,000 meals and helped over 300 people find employment. We helped over 200 people find stable housing. .

Union Mission is a place of second chances. It is a place for those who are weary to find rest, for those who are ready to find a fresh start, and above all a place where hope lives on. You can see it in the faces of the people we serve and hear it in their stories.

One such story is the story of Niaisha. After ending a 15 year relationship with her children’s father, Niaisha moved to Savannah from Cleveland to be closer to her family. She soon discovered that her family was not going to be able to support her in a way that she had thought they could.

Niaisha reached out to Union Mission and within a few days there was a room for her and her two children at Magdalene House. Beyond just providing them a safe place to sleep, Union Mission provided intensive case management, connecting Niaisha to counseling, child care assistance and affordable housing in the community.

Despite the struggles she encountered, Niaisha was determined to create a better life for herself and her two children. Within 90 days, Niaisha moved from Magdalene House to her own apartment, a safe space where she and her family could continue their journey to a brighter future.

Today, Niaisha works at the Georgia Ports Authority and both of her children are honor roll students. She is also enrolled in a program that will enable her to purchase her own home in two years.

Niaisha said, “Supporting Union Mission is not just helping one, two or three people; it’s helping generation after generation. By Union Mission helping me, they’re creating a legacy through my children.”

I’m humbled when I hear women like Niaisha and others express their gratitude for the help they received at Union Mission. But the work we do would not be possible without the generous support of people just like you – men and women of faith who are committed to doing what Jesus did – accepting people where they are, loving them, and extending the gift of grace to those in need.

You can extend that grace in a variety of ways. You can join us as volunteers, as financial partners, or as prayer supporters. Your support as a volunteer can help bring the light of hope to mothers at our Magdalene House working to build a better life for their children, or lift the life of a man at Grace House who feels forgotten by the world. With your help as financial partners, we can continue to provide a safe place for those who have nowhere else to turn. As prayer partners you will under-gird with love and grace the work we do each day.

Celebrating 40 Years

Video created by Eleanor Graham.