Keeping Us Safe

 

May 6, 2021

My Dear Friends:

New Protocols for our Church Campus

I wish to first thank you for following our protocols during the past nine months since our reopening in late August last year. We have remained safe and healthy which has always been my primary objective, and that of our Re-Entry Planning Task Force. Although, I am sure there are those who would like us to get “back to normal” as soon as possible, St. Paul reminds us that we are to assist and care for those who are weaker than us. So, although many of us may be fully inoculated, there are those who are not or cannot be vaccinated and we need to remember and care for them also.

As Pam Hurd, one of our Task Force members, said, “we are on a journey and this is another step in the process of reopening fully.” And she is right. As a church, we have come a long way through a difficult and challenging process. In late March 2020, only three (3) persons engaged in virtual or online worship on Sunday mornings; now our average in-person attendance is over seventy (70) congregants at both services. It would be remiss of me not to mention that a total of over one hundred and sixty (160) persons attended our three services on Easter Day. We held three successful events during the last five months, following our protocols and the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and ensuring the health and safety of those who attended. As persons become fully inoculated, they are returning to worship and events on the Campus. For this we give thanks to Almighty God.

Therefore, in keeping with the CDC guidelines and seeking to maintain the health of our faith community, our Church’s Re-Entry Planning Task Force and I are implementing the following new protocols for our Church Campus effective Sunday, May 16, 2021. Please read them carefully since there is a list of new protocols and practices that will remain in place, and others that will not resume at this time.

 

Inside the Church Building and Worship Services

New Protocols

  • All congregants (fully vaccinated and unvaccinated) will be required to continue wearing masks during worship services.
  • Kneelers will become operational again to be used during prayers.
  • Congregants are to take their Bulletins with them when leaving the Church Building and not to leave them behind.
  • During worship services, fully vaccinated congregants will be able, if desired, to sit with family members outside of their immediate household, and friends, with whom they are in regular contact outside of the Church setting.
  • Fully vaccinated congregants may now sit in the same pew with other fully vaccinated worshipers if they wish to do so.
  • Fully vaccinated congregants are to be mindful and respectful of congregants who are still practicing social distancing.
  • Communion will continue to be administered in one kind (bread only); however, congregants will return to the altar/communion rail, kneeling if able, to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Ushers will indicate when persons are to proceed to the rail.
  • Ushers will collect the Offering as was the case prior to the pandemic, passing the plates to the pews.
  • Unvaccinated congregants will continue to exercise social distancing, mask wearing, and hand sanitizing. The Ushers will assist in accommodating persons who are unvaccinated. You are requested to let the Ushers know. Other directions are the same as for vaccinated persons.

Continued Protocols (Practices which remain in place)

  • Congregants will continue to sanitize their hands prior to entering the Church Building for worship.
  • Contract tracing, via the recording of names and contact information (an E-mail address or a telephone number) of congregants will be maintained.
  • During the Peace, greetings will continue from our pews, as is the current practice.

Practices which will not resume at this time

  • Singing is not allowed in our Church Building at this time.
  • Coffee Hour will not be resuming at this time.

 

Outdoor Services ONLY (Beginning from May 16)

Fully vaccinated congregants:

  • May choose not to wear masks although mask wearing is still preferred.
  • Are required to sanitize their hands before entering the worship space.
  • Are to be mindful and respectful of congregants who are still practicing social distancing.
  • Are not allowed to sing during worship at this time.
  • Will continue to receive Communion in one kind (bread only); however, congregants may come to the altar area to receive the Blessed Sacrament.

Unvaccinated congregants will:

  • Continue to wear masks, hand sanitize, and practice physical/social distancing.
  • Please inform the ushers if help is needed with this.

Other Protocols for Outdoor Services:

  • The Offering will be collected by the Ushers as was the case prior to the start of the pandemic.
  • During the Peace, greetings will continue from our seats as was the practice during the pandemic.

Please note these new protocols do not apply to the Outdoor Services on Sunday, May 9 (Rogation Sunday and Mother’s Day).

 

Inside Houg Hall (Parish Hall), Thrift Shop, Bethany Ministries Building, Coffey Hall (Office Building)

Houg Hall

  • Protocols are the same for Houg Hall as for the Church Building.
  • No Coffee Hour or Food in Group events or meetings are allowed in the building at this time.

The Thrift Shop:

  • Masks are to be worn by customers visiting the Thrift Shop.
  • Hand sanitizing is to be continued on entering the Shop.
  • Physical/social distancing protocols are to be continued.
  • If no customers or visitors are present in the Thrift Shop, and all members of staff are fully vaccinated, masks are not required.

Bethany Ministries Building:

  • If all members meeting in the Bethany Ministries Building are fully inoculated, mask wearing is not required.
  • Masks are to be worn by all persons if unvaccinated persons or individuals of whom there is no knowledge of vaccination are present in the Bethany Ministries Building.

Coffey Hall (Office Building):

  • If all members of the Office Staff are fully vaccinated, masks are not required.
  • Masks are to be worn by all persons if unvaccinated persons or individuals of whom there is no knowledge of vaccination are present in the Office Building.

Please note that, even if masks are not required in certain circumstances, mask wearing is always the safest option, and you are invited to do so, if you so desire.

I have also included the latest Choosing Safer Activities Chart for Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Persons so that you have a better picture of the current CDC safety measure guidelines. You can access the chart by clicking this link.

Please allow me to briefly comment on two (2) Indoor Activities on the Chart pertaining to worship: “Attend a full capacity worship service” and “Sing in an indoor chorus.”

  • Attend a full capacity worship service: The CDC has recommended that it is safe to have a full capacity worship service setting provided that those attending are fully vaccinated and wearing masks during the service. However, for unvaccinated congregants it is the least safe option. In light of the two recommendations, our Re-Entry Planning Task Force and I have decided that since not all of us are fully vaccinated, there will be some areas of the Church building/worship space in which we would be at full capacity. However, other areas of the worship space may not be at full capacity to accommodate unvaccinated persons and those who prefer to continue practicing social distancing.
  • Sing in an indoor chorus: Although the CDC recommends that singing can be done by choruses or choirs, but not by congregations, the Bishop’s Regathering Team has decided not to allow singing of any kind during worship services in our Diocese at this time.

I have no doubt that we will be able to worship, fellowship, and function in the way we love to in the not-too-distant future, but we need to be judicious in the way we approach this process so as to avoid any repercussions. In the meantime, I encourage you to continue joining me in being prayerful, hopeful, and trusting God to work out this process and pandemic in His time, and not ours.

Should there be need for clarification of any of these protocols, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Please continue to stay safe and healthy. I will continue to pray for you, your family and loved ones.

With love and every blessing!

Father Tony