Return to in-person worship will be on
Sunday, October 25
|There will be a lot different about worship services in lieu of COVID-19 restrictions
|We are pleased to announce that our Sunday "in-person" worship will recommence in the church beginning on Sunday, October 25. There will be one morning service at 10:00 am. Our strategy going forward will be incremental, taking one measured step at a time and adapting. It should be noted that the goal is not simply to restore services. The goal is to offer relevant and inspiring worship.
Since all Diocesan COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions are currently in effect, there will be many changes to how the service will look and function. You may find the details at the Diocesan website. Of particular note are the following:
• Due to cleaning protocols, services in the church will require a four hour time gap after any usage before another service can take place. As an example, if a service takes place at 9:00 am, it would be over by 10:00 am; then the cleaning would take place (estimate an hour). The next service would then be able to take place in the same space at 3:00 PM. We have requested an exception to this, but it was referred to a committee with a sense it was not likely to be granted.
The use of the parish hall for worship services is under consideration. However, with six-foot social distancing requirements, and the clergy person being mandated to be thirty feet away from the congregation, the number of people allowable will be small. In addition to the cleaning protocols and social distancing are the limitations of service leadership (especially if it is the Holy Eucharist) and time and use conflicts in available space. Consideration for other days and times for worship is also taking place. Through it all, the goal of relevant and inspiring worship remains the same.
• Due to social distancing requirements of six feet, attendance will be limited. Every other pew will be left vacant. Families and couples can sit together; individuals must sit apart; six foot social distancing will be in effect. In other words, seating will be a puzzle for a while. Our best estimates of seating ranges dramatically from 40 or so, to 70 or so, depending on social group configurations. Please note that Ushers will be actively involved in seating people.
• Admission will be on the basis of first come, first serve. From what we have learned from other churches already reopened, their attendance is about 50% of what it was pre-COVID-19. If a number of people arrive simultaneously, there may be a wait until people are seated. During that time, outside the front door, social distancing is to be maintained. It is also possible that there will be insufficient room and that some will be denied entry as a result. Based on what I have been hearing, it sounds unlikely we will have this issue with attendance. The first weeks will determine what our realties are and will need to change.
• All congregational entrance into the church is to be through the main door. Diocesan protocols require churches to carefully control their entry and exit points.
• Everyone entering will be required to complete and sign a Covenant/Contract Tracing form. In sum, the questions will inquire as to your health, potential exposure to COVID-19, and whether you are willing to abide by the safety requirements required by the Diocese. This must be completed each time you are in attendance. People are expected to stay home if they think they may be sick. At this juncture we are not required to take peoples’ temperatures or measure their oxygen levels; although both have been discussed.
• There will be no Nursery/Children’s Church. For the time being there will be no Nursery nor Childcare program, therefore during this interim, all babies and children will be with their parents in the worship service.
• Face masks, appropriately worn, are required. No mask, no service. Appreciating there are strong feelings about this, we will stand on the Christian expectation and commitment that the strong (who need no mask) will wear a mask out of consideration and love of others, out of their conviction in Christ and make their sacrifice for the sake of those others who differ.
• Hand cleaning is expected as part of the protocols. There will be hand sanitizing stations around the church.
• There is to be no physical contact (shaking hands, hugging, kissing) on site. Greeting will be verbal but not physical. At the appropriate time in the service, the peace is to be passed while staying in place and at a distance. During the time for communion, people are expected to maintain social distances.
• There will be music, but no singing. Music will be either by organ or piano. We will introduce music videos as time goes on.
• The offertory will be collected at offertory baskets at the main entry.
• For the time being, communion will be in bread (wafer) only. As time evolves, this will change. While communion in the form of receiving the Body of Christ is sufficient for a full communion, the Blood of Christ matters. When we find a dignified way that honors the sacrament, we will do this. In a conversation with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry last month, he speculated that the common cup distribution of communion is unlikely to return as a practice in the liturgy for many years, if ever.
• Communion will be served at a standing station on the floor of the nave. Inasmuch as the Diocesan requirements strive to limit contact points, communion at the altar rail is currently off-limits.
• The clergy are required to: wear their masks except while they are speaking; have a 30 foot distance during the service; and to maintain social distance before and after the services.
• There is no current provision for receptions or gatherings after the service. Although it is under discussion in the Diocese, at this time people are expected to leave directly after the service.
• Every liturgical ministry (usher, altar guild, lector, Eucharistic Minister) must be retrained to serve. For the time being, there will be no acolytes, no choirs, and no Eucharistic Ministers in the liturgy. When wine returns to the communion service, the need for Eucharistic Minister will return as well.
• Those willing to serve as Ushers, Altar Guild, Lectors (reading the readings) and as the Clean-up Crew (after the services) are to contact Megan at email@example.com to schedule a training with Fr. Bill.
|The livestream services on Facebook and YouTube and the Sunday Zoom services will be continuing|
One matter we face that no other Episcopal Church in the Diocese faces is that we have a large congregation. Our average weekend average worship attendance was about 360 people. Most of the churches in the Diocese of Easton saw less than 60 people in attendance (some in the teens), some churches were around 100 or so, and a couple were around 200. That meant most were doing well with one service on a Sunday before this began.
Generally more than half of our weekend attendance was on Saturday evening. At this juncture, since we can do neither live music nor observe the other meaningful characteristics of the service, Saturday service is not scheduled to return yet. The months ahead will dictate where and how we move on this service.
Our holy concern is that we will need to figure additional options that meet people’s needs to worship together. In changing times such as this, we need to be thinking more than simply how to restore the things we knew; we need to be getting inspired and create something new. Pray for us as we seek God’s will and think about the best way for us to proceed.
Therefore beginning the weekend of October 24 and 25, the schedule of worship at Christ Church will be:
Saturdays: 5:00 pm Live Stream Worship (will run continuously thereafter)
Sundays: 9:00 am Zoom Worship
10:00 am In-person Worship/Communion
For the first 3 weekends of October, the services remain the same as they have been:
Saturdays: 5:00 pm Live Stream Service on Facebook
Sundays: 9:30 am Live Stream Service on Facebook
10:00 am Zoom Service
All of this information is also available in the October issue of Crossroads newsletter, which was published and sent via e-mail and regular mail to those who have opted for a print version of the newsletter, and which can be found on our website.