A Message from the Rector on Reopening Worship
Please review our Guidelines for Returning to Worship.
A Message from the Rector on Reopening Worship
May 14, 2020
Dear sisters and brothers,
As you know, the suspension of public gatherings at St. George’s to help halt the spread of the Coronavirus has stretched to two months. This long but necessary response to the pandemic has nevertheless undermined the very essence of what it is to be a congregation: to congregate! It has been especially difficult for those of us who live our faith according to the liturgical rhythms of the Christian life. A cruel irony of the past weeks is that the very thing most needful for Christians in a time of crisis has been most problematic: worshipful fellowship.
I am very pleased to share that in accordance with recent pastoral protocols issued from Bishop Bauerschmidt, as well as varying sets of local and state guidelines, St. George’s will resume limited forms of in-person public worship this coming week beginning Monday, May 18.
On Monday through Friday of next week, we will offer Holy Eucharist in the chapel at noon and 5:00pm. Due to social distancing requirements, we are not able to accommodate more than nine participants for each service (ten including the priest). It will be necessary for those who wish to attend one of these liturgies to sign up in advance, limited to one service per person for the week. Click here to view upcoming worship times and to sign up. Depending on demand, we will consider offering weekday services the week of May 25 for those who were not able to attend during the week of May 18.
Also, I am grateful to share that we will offer four services of Holy Eucharist on Sunday, May 24 at 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00am. These services will alternate between Hampton Hall and Johnson Hall. More information about each will be forthcoming next week. Here again, we are going to abide by various guidelines on in-person gatherings as we slowly “phase-in” our return to public worship. We will observe social distancing at these services, and attendees will need to wear masks. While it may seem odd, with limited seating capacity, we will have to ask for reservations. These are indeed strange times. The link to sign up for Sunday, May 24 will be sent to you early next week.
While the resumption of in-person public worship represents a much-anticipated welcome step forward for St. George’s, I must communicate very strong caveats to the entire parish community. Please see the guidelines below that will govern our public worship for the foreseeable future. I will highlight here the unfortunate necessity of urging anyone, and especially our senior adults, who have pre-existing medical conditions to refrain from attending services at St. George’s for a while to come. I also highlight the challenges of smaller children, especially those with medical conditions or those who may be too young to keep a mask on during the entirety of a service. I would caution such families from attending just yet. Neither of these cautions feels good for me to communicate, but they are necessary.
Be assured that the church will do all we can to ensure a sanitary and safe worship environment. However, we are not able to guarantee your health. You will have to take responsibility for yourself. In short, if anyone has any reservations whatsoever about gathering in-person for public worship at St. George’s, I recommend you remain at home and participate via our live-streaming service. Again, I highly recommend refraining from worship if you have health conditions that make you more vulnerable to Coronavirus.
I am very grateful for the wisdom discerned from seemingly endless conversations with our senior leadership, my clergy colleagues, our excellent staff, our bishop, and other area pastors. I am also thankful for an ad hoc committee of medical professionals that has been offering invaluable counsel and direction. This committee includes four parish medical doctors and a nurse practitioner. All have helped shape the guidelines. I understand that we may learn new things in the days to come that could alter the shape of this limited re-opening to public, in-person worship at St. George’s. We are trying hard to balance prudence and our call to worship. It pains me that we cannot all return to public fellowship at the same time. But I thank you in advance for your loving patience and understanding with these plans, guidelines, and recommendations.
With so many, I have been able to spend even more time in the Bible over recent weeks. And I have been connecting with a theme that runs through the Letters of St. Paul: his longing to be in person with the recipients of his correspondences. For example, in the Letter to the Philippians, he speaks of the congregation there as those “whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown” (4:1). To his beloved protégé Timothy, Paul writes “I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy” (2 Tim. 1:4). I trust we can all relate to this theme as never before. The suspension of our liturgical life as we have known it has only increased our desire for it. While a painful loss for a season, this may represent fresh new fruit for the season ahead.
In an earlier correspondence I asked that we remember that a Christian perspective of history reveals a pattern of God bringing forth renewal and reformation from cultural upheaval and even calamity. We are Christians. We are people of hope. We are people of new life. And I long to be with you, looking forward to new life for St. George’s in the days ahead.
Yours in Christ,