Dear Parish Family,
I have noticed, having been to a restaurant for "outdoor seating" and on a walk on the beach with Meredith for Mother's Day, that people seem to be, more and more, venturing outside. Some of those people, based on many of the license plates that I saw, are from other states.
It is difficult to say whether the Coronavirus is beginning to subside or not. Some would say "yes" and some would say "no." And, there are speculations that abound that say that we may very well have a resurgence during the flu season: the fall through the spring. No one knows for sure, just as no one seems to have a clear indication of a treatment, or, that the researchers are close to finding a vaccine. There is a question of antibodies, who has them; and do they stay in one's system or do they dissipate so that one is still vulnerable to get the virus once they have had it. Again, many questions without clear answers.
Then, there is the other front that raises many questions and concerns: what about the economy? How much longer can we keep businesses from being opened and expect those businesses to survive, for families to be able to survive, for our economy to rebound. And, when people do go back to work, what will they be coming back to in the short run and in the long run?
So many questions! Who to trust and why? We have talked about this before; and, no one has all the answers, at least not yet. In the midst of all the questions, and our country reacting and responding in varying ways, we need to seek and trust the Lord. That, I believe, with all my heart.
And, while we are exploring all of these questions, one other: When will the Church be open again for Worship? I mentioned last week in my e-blast, that we have been exploring this question for weeks. I have been talking with our Bishop regularly, with Jim Lewis, our Archdeacon, with other clergy in our Diocese, as well as other clergy on the Island; I have spoken to our Staff and our Vestry. And, we have come to a decision; at least for now.
This coming Sunday, May 17th, we will open the Church doors for worship at our 10AM worship service! In order to do this, I have consulted a number of samples as well as real protocols for doing so; the precautions that we must take before, during, and after worship. I am attaching a list of the "Guidelines" that we are going to use, and that we will use to instruct those who are involved in worship; including the ushers, to be able to do what we are hoping to do in providing worship.
There are two very important thoughts immediately: we do not expect everyone to come for worship and, if you do, it is critical, for your sake, and others, that we all abide by the attached Guidelines!
To the first point: not only do I not expect everyone to come, not all should! Some have compromised health; some are anxious, worried, even fearful, and some may not feel well come Sunday morning. If you fit any of these categories, please stay home and stream the worship service! We will continue to live-stream every Sunday, so please feel the freedom to stay home and enjoy the blessing of worship at home; with family and/or with friends. But, do not feel obligated to come, or guilty if you don't come!
For those who do come, please abide by the attached Guidelines. It is important for all of us to "be on the same page;" to abide by the Guidelines for the sake of our Governor's Executive Orders, for the sake of our Bishop's desire and the protocols of the Archdeacon, the Standing Committee, and what our Staff and Vestry has worked toward. In fact, when our Vestry and the Diocese addressed the Guidelines, there were a couple of adjustments and tweaks, but eventually was approved by the Diocese and unanimously by our Vestry.
Since the Guidelines will be attached, please read them through before coming to worship on Sunday, if you are planning on coming. If possible, wear a facemask and bring your own hand sanitizer; if not, we will have both available to you.
I am so looking forward to being in worship with others in an almost "usual" worship (along with the unusual "social distancing"). And, if you do come, please don't feel that you "must" receive Communion. At this time, only bread (the host) will be offered. There will be a station in the sanctuary; and, if there is need for an "overflow room" for worship, we will use the Fellowship Hall, and communion will be brought to you.
I want to thank, once again, the Sound and Video Team, the Music/Worship Leadership Team, Steve Chisholm and the Staff, the Altar Guild, the Flower Committee, the Lay Readers, the Vestry, and all those who have gone “above and beyond” during this challenging time!
And, thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement during this time. Please continue to pray for those who are serving in healthcare professions, the EMS workers and all First Responders, for those working in stores and gas stations, and others who have gone back to work. Pray for our political and business leaders who are making decisions about what to do. Pray for the individuals who have contracted the virus, for those who have family members and loved ones who have contracted the Coronavirus or have died because of it.
This continues to be a difficult and challenging time. We are trying to make decisions for St. Luke's that are both responsible and cautious for all, and yet seek to meet the varying needs of a wide range of people with a wide range of feelings about the Coronavirus and how we should be responding.
We may need to back off and move back to "isolating" and close down our worship service again. If need be, we will, particularly if the "flu season" brings the very possible resurgence. I ask for your prayers both now and in the future for the decisions that we have made and will make.
May our Lord continue to bless you, keep you, and provide for all that you need.
With love, in Christ,
Guidelines for returning to Worship Inside the Church Sanctuary:
Lord, we ask that you take away any fear, and grant wisdom, compassion, and care to all of us as we seek to honor You and trust You. We ask that you would protect all of us, particularly those who work in Heathcare. We also pray for a treatment for the Coronavirus and a vaccine to prevent its’ spread. We ask, too, that you give all of us wisdom as we navigate this time and continue to seek to worship You and care for those around us. We ask and pray all this in Jesus’ Name, Amen!