May 30, 2021 UPDATE:
This afternoon, the vestry voted to approve the changes proposed earlier this week by the in-person worship committee. The current changes will go into effect Sunday, June 6, and they will remain in effect through the month of June. The in-person worship committee will meet again at the end of June to recommend additional changes for July.
Changes to In-Person Worship Protocols for June 2021
As stated previously, we will make changes in 4-week increments. This will help clergy, staff, and volunteers who are learning/re-learning processes. It will help us to make decisions as a response to changing guidelines rather than as knee-jerk reactions. The only exception will be if we need to make an immediate change due to rapidly deteriorating conditions locally.
In presenting these new guidelines, we acknowledge that all of us have varying levels of comfort with transitioning into a mask-free world. We acknowledge that all of us are in different places psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually as we emerge from a long period of grief and trauma. We want to be a space of compassion and healing for all, understanding that for some, the process of return and healing will be slower than for others.
We will prioritize compassion and care for those who are not vaccinated due to health concerns or age ineligibility, those who are immuno-compromised, as well as those who are vulnerable due to age and/or other health factors. This is part of our public witness. As followers of Jesus, we have a special obligation to care for the young and the vulnerable. We want to provide space for all members of our body and all guests who wish to worship in person to do so without feeling they face undue risk. We are willing to move slowly in order to ensure we don’t leave anyone behind.
For the month of June, our primary focus is COMMUNION-- with God and with one another. All the changes this month are related to bringing as many of us together as possible, as safely as possible, to affirm our love for God, for one another, and for our neighbors. Toward that end we are making the following changes:
- We will eliminate RSVPs and, unless we encounter an issue with overcrowding (i.e., not being able to maintain 6-feet of distance between different household groups), we will not limit attendance. We want to be together again, plain and simple. We want to eliminate as many barriers to coming together as we safely can at this time. You will still need to check in with an usher upon entry for contact tracing purposes. We will continue to sit in an every-other-pew formation to maintain distancing, with 8 am sitting in white pews and 10:30 sitting in blue. The middle ribbons will be eliminated, and parishioners will be trusted to self-monitor for maintaining 6 feet of distance between those not living in the same household.
- We will return to gathering around the altar rail for Holy Communion. As a Eucharistic people, we find healing in Communion. This happens sacramentally when we gather at the rail together to receive the Body of Christ. As we receive the body, we remember that we ARE the body. We are one with Christ and one another. We will hand sanitize as we approach the rail. We will maintain distancing at the rail between household groups. We will continue to distribute in one-kind only. Parishioners may receive the host directly from Amy+ at the rail, or they may opt to receive pre-packaged consecrated hosts from a table set up at the center of the rail.
- We will return to having an outdoor “coffee minute” after the services. At St. Andrew’s, communion doesn’t stop at the rail. We find joy, support, and healing when we gather together in community over a cup of coffee or a plate of cookies after the service. Coffee and snacks will be served on the upper breezeway after the service. Snacks will be individually packaged, or masked and gloved volunteer servers from Parish Life will serve food. Once you have received a plate, please spread out on the breezeway or patio below to enjoy each other’s company. Obviously, we can’t wear masks while we eat and drink, so be mindful of distancing.
- 8 a.m. will be masks-optional for those who are fully vaccinated. We will continue to require masks for the 10:30 service. We want all to feel welcome and safe coming to worship with us, and we understand that right now that means different things for different people. What matters is that we find ways to be together again and that we don’t leave anyone behind as we move forward, especially non-vaccinated children, people who are unable to be vaccinated due to health concerns, immuno-compromised individuals, and others whose age and/or health renders them vulnerable. Our body is not complete unless all who desire to be with us in person are able to be.
- We will continue to connect with parishioners unable to join us in person through online offerings, phone calls, cards, Petals to the Metal flowers, and STAR mailings. Fully vaccinated Lay Eucharistic visitors may return to bringing communion to homebound parishioners who request it. Those who are not able to be with us in person are integral parts of our body, and we will do our utmost to remain connected and attentive to the needs of all.
In closing, I would like to thank our in-person worship committee and vestry for the time, prayer, and work they've put into making the best decisions possible under challenging and oftentimes confusing circumstances. Through their care, faithfulness, and wisdom, they-- along with a host of weekly volunteers-- have guided our parish through the past year of in-person worship with no Covid transmission associated with any of our worship services. We will have a parish-wide celebration next Sunday, June 6, with outdoor receptions after both services to give thanks to God and to honor all those whose hard work, courage, and dedication carried St. Andrew's through the past year. Please plan to attend, and please continue to keep me, the in-person worship committee, and the vestry in your prayers as we continue to transition toward normalcy.
DEC 23, 2020 UPDATE:
After much prayerful consideration and in consultation with our Sr. Warden, Louise Stevenson, I am making changes to our upcoming worship schedule. This is in response to predicted weather conditions for Christmas Eve, as well as the current Covid situation in our area. The revised worship schedule will be as follows:
1) There will be NO in-person worship on Christmas Eve. While this is a great disappointment for many of us, myself included, it seems to be the safest choice in light of deteriorating weather conditions through the afternoon and evening of Dec. 24. Thanks to a wonderful team of volunteers which includes musicians, singers, acolytes, altar guild, and flower guild among others, we have recorded a lovely Christmas Eve Service which will be sent via email at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve. It will air on Facebook at the same time.
***Please note: This will be a Eucharist service, and in order to enable full participation, I have consecrated wafers for individual distribution so that you can receive communion at the appropriate time as you participate in the recorded service. Pick up times for consecrated hosts will be 4 pm to 5 pm THIS EVENING and 12 pm to 1 pm TOMORROW (Dec. 24). We will be stationed outside under the breezeway and you can simply drive up, roll your window down, and tell us how many you need for your household. (Please wear a mask.)
The bulletin for this service can be found HERE.
3) There will be NO in-person worship Sunday, Dec. 27 or Jan. 3. Instead, we will have Morning Prayer via Zoom at 10:30 am. The Zoom services will be recorded and posted at 3 pm, just as our in-person services have been, for those who prefer to watch at a later time. The link and bulletin links are posted below:
- Zoom Link
- Dec. 27 Bulletin
- Jan. 3 Bulletin
If you are unfamiliar with Zoom or cannot connect via computer, please note that there is a phone number you can use to call in and listen to the service.
- Meeting ID: 85855800919#
My plan is to return to in-person worship at our usual times (8 am and 10:30 am) on Jan. 10. The two-week shift to online services serves two primary purposes: First, it provides a small break for the hard-working team who have helped make safe, in-person worship a possibility for the past 6 months. So many people have gone above and beyond to help keep worship going during these challenging times, and we owe them our gratitude. Secondly, refraining from gathering in person over the holidays is a way that St. Andrew’s can support ongoing statewide and local efforts to keep Covid transmission rates from rising any further at a critical time for our communities and our hospitals.
Many times over the last few days I have had to remind myself that Jesus wasn’t born into ideal circumstances. That first Christmas didn’t play out in a way that anyone expected— not Mary, not Joseph, not the shepherds, and not the animals who woke to find a newborn king in their feeding trough! This may not be the Christmas we want, but it’s the one we have, and I’m certain of this: wherever we are, whatever our circumstances, Christ our Savior is born, and the angels are singing Gloria!
I hope to see many of you this evening and tomorrow for communion pick-up. If I don’t see you then, please know that I wish you all a blessed, safe, and healthy Christmas!
May Christ be born anew in our hearts during this holy season,
Please see the video below for how the "flow" of communion works in church.
DEC 3, 2020 UPDATE:
With Covid rates in our area rising and our 10:30 service attendance climbing beyond what the vestry and re-opening committee have set as our capacity limit for the nave, your wardens and I have decided to add an additional Rite II service on Sunday afternoons during Advent at 4 pm in the nave. Our hope is that this will help us keep numbers comfortably below 30 for each of our services. If one service fills up, this gives anyone wishing to attend in-person two options to choose from for an alternate service.
For Advent, all services will be held in the nave and the schedule will be as follows:
-8 am: Holy Eucharist, Rite I (no music)
-10:30 am: Holy Eucharist, Rite II (with music)
-4 pm: Holy Eucharist, Rite II (no music)
Please remember to RSVP to Bart Cousins at firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Friday if you plan to attend an in-person service on Sunday. (This includes those who are scheduled to serve.)
Thanks to all of you for your patience and willingness to be flexible as we continue working to provide safe and meaningful in-person worship at St. Andrew’s!
June 29, 2020 UPDATE:
As you know, our In-Person Worship Task Force has been hard at work these past few weeks implementing our plan and then evaluating and re-evaluating based on feedback from our volunteers and service attendees. In our meeting this past Monday, one thing was clear to me: it takes a lot of work to make worship happen from week to week! The precautions we are called to take in order to help keep one another as safe as possible while still trying to create a meaningful worship experience requires a great deal of time and effort. I am grateful to all of our volunteers and staff who are contributing to making in-person worship a possibility for our parish. It is truly a labor of love!
In our meeting this past Monday, our task force decided to tweak some things based on your feedback and the feedback provided by our volunteers and to send out some reminders and recommendations:
- Starting in July and going through August, we will follow a pattern of Holy Eucharist on 1st and 3rd Sundays and Morning Prayer (with homily) on 2nd 4th, and 5th Sundays. While in an ideal world many of us would prefer to have weekly Eucharists, set-up for Eucharist services is a big undertaking at this time, especially for our altar guild. The best way we can care for them and honor their ministry is to follow this schedule for the time being.
- The restroom by the flower guild room will be open during the 8 o’clock service. The upstairs restrooms will be open at 10:30. If you need to use our restroom facilities, please be sure to practice proper hand hygiene. This includes washing your hands with soap and water and visiting the hand sanitizer station outside of the restroom before returning to worship.
- Please remember to RSVP to Bart Cousins (email@example.com) by NOON on Friday if you plan to attend one of our in-person services. (This includes people who are slated to serve.) Our altar guild needs to know how many to prepare for. In addition, we have limited space for the indoor service. It makes VPODs, ushers, and the rector nervous when we have a full slate of RSVPs, and extra people begin to come in. None of us wants to be the “bad guy” and turn people away— especially people who RSVP’d. Moving forward, if we have 40 RSVPs, then out of respect for those who reserved a spot, we will ask people who arrive without RSVPing to wait outside on “standby” until the prelude begins. Then, if seats are available, we will admit those on “standby.” And please remember, our 8 o’clock outdoor service is a great option, and our online services are an even better option in terms of safety.
- As the 4th of July holiday approaches and vacation season continues, please remain mindful of any high-risk activities you may have participated in. If you feel that you’ve been in a high-risk situation (large crowds, no distancing or masks) or you’ve visited a “hot spot,” out of care for your fellow parishioners, please consider refraining from in-person attendance for two weeks and join our online worship service. And, of course, if you know that you have been exposed or have tested positive and have had direct contact with parishioners or staff, please notify us so that we can take appropriate safeguarding measures for the health of our congregation and community. Please be assured that confidentiality will be maintained, and we will do our best to provide any support we can.
Finally, thanks to our in-person worship task force for the thought and time they continue to put into this work. These are challenging times, and the decisions are difficult. Each time we meet, I am impressed by their dedication, their prayerful and collaborative spirit, and their wisdom and perspective. Please continue to keep me, Bart Cousins, Sam French, Doug Overbey, Gretchen Prisock, Louise Stevenson, and Tamra Turberville in your prayers. And if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.