Friday, July 24, 2020
Dear Christ Church Family,
I am delighted to announce that Bishop Stokes has approved our plan for a limited re-opening of the church for in-person worship. Our first service will be offered next Sunday, August 2, at 9:00 AM. This is cause for a community wide celebration. Still, while joyful, many of us will likely have mixed emotions on that day; because for the time being, even in-person worship will not be exactly like the church experience we remember. I can’t help but see a parallel between our return to (limited) in-person worship and the return of the Babylonian Exiles to the Temple in Jerusalem after seventy years of being away from their ‘house of worship.’
In the Book of Ezra, we are told of the ruined Temple that the Exiles discovered upon their return. Wishing to restore their community to the practice of worshiping in “God’s House,” they immediately set about rebuilding from the ground up the magnificent structure commissioned by King Solomon. When the foundations for the new temple were laid, the community decided that this was an occasion to celebrate.
Ezra writes (Ezra 3:10-13):
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets… and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,
‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever towards Israel.’
And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away.
This was a time of joy, but Ezra tells us that some people mourned because, when they saw the more modest foundations of the Second Temple, they realized what had been lost – even if only temporarily – by the destruction of Solomon’s more extravagant building.
Of course, the situation is different for us as we return to our house of worship after an absence of just a few months; but there is a striking similarity between the two. For we also look upon this return with expectations that are perhaps unrealistic; because things have changed for us as well, if only temporarily. The dangers of the Corona Virus continue to pose a real threat to our society; and as has been extensively reported, churches are places where the virus has an increased potential for spread. So, appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the safety of all who attend worship.
For the foreseeable future, church will look a lot different for us when we gather to worship in person. The Diocesan guidelines demand that:
- Social distance guidelines must be followed which will require that individuals and households keep at least six feet apart from one another.
- The passing of the Peace can only be shared with hand waves and smiling eyes.
- Entering and exiting the church will be carefully choreographed.
- No gathering will be allowed either before or after the service, both inside and outside the church.
- Masks must be worn throughout the service (except for the few seconds allowed to consume the Host).
- The priest will distribute the Sacrament in one kind (wafers only) directly to worshipers in the pews.
- No singing will be permitted.
- Everyone who attends must reserve a seat in advance so that contact tracing protocols can be followed.
Given the above, church will certainly feel and look different. But there will also be important aspects of the service that will be comforting and familiar.
- The liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer will be followed.
- The Word of God will be read aloud and preached.
- The church will be draped in rich tapestries and lit by candles.
- Organ music will be heard once more.
- The Bread and Wine will be consecrated in front of worshipers and the faithful will be offered Christ’s Body to consume in the form of wafers.
- Most important, we will gather in person once more as a community of faith in our church building itself.
For those who feel that they are not at high risk for the virus, this limited form of in-person worship may be a welcome return to some semblance of church has they know it. For others, we will continue to live-stream our existing services on Saturday at 5:30 PM and Sunday at 8 AM and *10:30 AM. Please do not plan to attend the in-person service if you are in any way uncomfortable with this plan or are showing symptoms of the virus. You have alternatives; and we will look forward to seeing you later when you deem it safe to attend a church gathering.
Important information regarding the policies and procedures for in-person worship will be posted on the church website and in our worship bulletins. A separate email blast will also go out with the details of this new service
In time we hope that the crisis will have lessened to such an extent that we can resume more of our normal practices. The Bishop will let us know when that is possible. Until then, let us find God and community in the various ways that the God of Abundance has made available to us.
The Very Rev. Michael Way, Priest-in-Charge
*because of the 9 AM Eucharist, the 10 AM Virtual Eucharist will be scheduled 30 minutes later so that the church can be disinfected between services.