May 22, 2020
We have set the date for beginning In-Person worship again. We will gather in Sanctuary on Pentecost Sunday, May 31 at 10 a.m.! You may recall that I announced last week that we would re-open in-person worship on June 14, however, we have been able to make significant strides in gathering the supplies needed and getting the proper cleaning of the sanctuary and bathrooms in particular accomplished. So, we now believe that we can be ready May 31. That same weekend (so beginning May 30), we will move the evening service to Saturday at 5 p.m.
We recognize that there will be some, perhaps many, who will not yet feel safe in indoor, group settings and will stay home and enjoy the live stream or come to the Drive-In service on Saturday.
We received substantial input from the Diocese of Central Florida, for this Phase 1 of the re-opening process. You may read it for yourself (8 pages…) by visiting cfdiocese.org, clicking on COVID-19 and selecting the document: “Forward in Faith, Not in Fear, In Caution and Preparedness.”
In response to this document, on Thursday, May 13, I met (virtually) with Sr. Warden Lee Steininger, Jr. Warden Kathy Oas, Jr. Warden in waiting Joe McLaughlin, Bill and Teresa Chernault who do the bulk of the cleaning along with Ian Johnson and Marce Musser who were part of an initial consulting team I put together when this crisis began. The guidance from the Diocese allowed us to open as early as May 31, but at that time we were concerned about our ability to be fully prepared and supplied on May 31 and about those who still would not feel safe. Work and further conversation with the entire vestry has made us confident we can do what is needed at the church to be ready on May 31, and another two weeks will add nothing to our preparedness.
So, we decided to target “in-person” worship re-launching on May 31 at 10 a.m. The cleaning requirements mean that we will not try to have two Sunday services. If the space is only used on Sundays, special sanitizing is not required as the virus will not survive on surfaces for that length of time. So we will just have the 10 a.m. service, which will also continue to be live streamed.
For those who wish to come out, everyone will be expected to wear masks, and we will limit capacity to 45 people (25% of capacity) with proper social distancing. We will make masks and hand sanitizer available, and mark off pews where people cannot sit. In addition, there will be no handshaking, no hugging, no Passing of the Peace, no coffee hour and no Christian Education. Communion will continue to be bread only, no wine. We all look forward to the time that all these can be part of our gatherings again, but that time is not now.
We will continue an evening option, but we will move that to Saturday at 5 p.m., effective May 30. It will be a “hybrid” service where people can come and either sit in their cars (for more isolation), or in chairs appropriately socially distanced. This service is being offered for those who are not yet comfortable being in an indoor group setting, but want more than a live stream.
This is a temporary measure and not a move toward a permanent Saturday evening service. We plan to continue this service as long as participation warrants it.
We will maintain records that will allow contact tracing should someone from the parish receive a diagnosis of COVID-19. That will mean asking everyone to sign in on arrival.
It is not the intention that this schedule will continue indefinitely. When conditions permit, we would hope to return to 7:45 and 10 with Christian Education between. The addition of a permanent Saturday (or Sunday) evening service is being discussed, but such a new venture would be a separate effort.
Other studies, meetings, etc. that have moved online will begin to meet in person after May 31 on a case by case basis.
I want to thank the vestry for their willingness to take on reaching out to all the active members of the parish during our time of quarantine. We believe that we were able to at least leave a message for everyone. The vestry reports that it was a highlight of the quarantine to have the chance to visit with many of you!
I would like to thank Katie Wilson who has stepped up to organize a continuing effort at maintaining these connections particularly targeted for those who have special needs (shut-ins, etc.). If you are contacted as part of “St. John’s Connects,” please welcome it!
Please be in prayer that this works well and that as a church family we can find ways to continue to connect and serve one another and our community in this “new normal.”
I look forward to seeing all of you again, face to face!
The Rev. Eric Turner