We have all felt this long and terrible absence from our normal experience of Church. As great as it is to be able to use technology to stay connected, it isn’t the same as meeting face to face. We have missed receiving the Eucharist, singing together, and simply being with each other in the sacred space that we have all come to love—the building of Holy Apostles. This past week, the bishop released a detailed, comprehensive plan that we will need to follow in order to re-open our building and begin worshipping together again. This process is going to be challenging, and it is going to require creativity, patience, determination, and a firm trust in God. We are going to have to be committed to finding a way forward together in uncharted waters over the course of the next 18 months or so. The most important thing is that we are committed to caring for each other and journeying together with each and with Christ. It is also important to remember that measures outlined by the bishop are temporary. We will get through this together. Here are some highlights of the plan for re-entering our building, along with my commentary that situates the plan for us.
+ When the Governor deems that Delaware County is in the “yellow” phase, and when CHA has met all of the protocols required by the diocese, we can begin having in-person worship together again with restrictions (see below). The criteria for entering the yellow phase is that there are less than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents per day averaged over 14 days in the county, along with adequate PPE for health workers, and adequate testing available. We are right on the county line, but we have to follow Delaware county because the majority of the land upon which the church is situated in located in there.
+ In the yellow phase, we cannot have any worship gatherings of over 25 people. Our average Sunday attendance in 2019 was 56, although it is less in the summer months. Allowance also needs to be made for guests and visitors. Believe it or not, we often have more visitors in the summer (especially late summer) than normal, even as regular attendance is down. So, we will need to determine how many extra services we will need in order to comfortably accommodate everyone who wants to attend and make sure that everyone’s spiritual needs are met. We will also need to create a system for coordinating who comes to which service in order to avoid overcrowding.
+ Thorough disinfecting will need to take place in-between services. Having one or more services outside when possible might help to alleviate some of the strain and cost of disinfecting.
+ Masks will need to be worn by everyone except when receiving Communion. I will be allowed to take off my mask while preaching and while praying the Eucharistic prayer, but I will wear a mask while distributing Communion.
+ Thankfully, we can celebrate the Eucharist together. Bread and wine will be consecrated, but Communion will be received in one kind only—the bread.
+ Strict social distancing will be observed. We will have to sit and stand at least 6 feet away from each other (except those who live with each other), and we can’t shake hands or hug during the peace. We will have to change the way we receive the offering. We will also have to change our habits for entering and exiting the building.
+ Congregational singing cannot happen for awhile. This is because evidence suggests that singing can spread the virus farther than normal speech, up to 27 feet. We can have a lead singer along with instrumentalists, as long as the singer is 30 feet away from everyone else (a potential challenge in our building, but we will be creative). We can also creatively use our virtual choir recordings.
+ Live-streaming the services and other on-line worship opportunities will continue. Some of us may not be comfortable to come back right away and we will need to continue to offer other ways to connect. One of the blessings of this time has been that we have been forced very quickly to adapt, and I hope we will continue to utilize some online services even after all restrictions have been lifted.
Phew! It is a lot to take in (the 26 page document is even more detailed!), but with God’s help we will continue our worshiping life together while doing everything we can to keep each other safe. There may be some of us who do not feel comfortable returning right away and that is ok. There are tough decisions we all need to make. Please know that however you decide to be involved with your church right now, you will be always be loved and supported. No matter what! As you read this note or read the bishop’s protocols, you might have questions or concerns. Please reach out to me, or to John Day our Senior Warden. I am more than willing to speak with you about any of this. Like I said, this is going to require some patience and I want to make sure that we are all on the same page as much as possible.
As the vestry and I make plans for re-opening the building, it is important that we have more information to make the best decisions. We have created a survey to help us in this task. Please complete this short survey at your earliest convenience. There is a convenient online survey, and I am also sending print surveys to those who I am aware do not have internet access. If you would prefer a print survey, let me know. I cannot stress enough how important this information will be for us. There are no wrong answers. Don’t be discouraged, trust in God, and remember that nothing can separate us from God’s love for us.