A Message from the Priest in charge...
Since our last regular edition just a week ago, it seems the whole world has shifted. If you're feeling a bit disoriented, rest assured that I feel the same. So let's try to put some "plans" out there regarding St. John's so we can start to feel like there is at least a few things we can depend upon.
(Caution: Even the best-laid plans get altered as circumstances change!)
Following the Bishop's directive, all of the parishes and worshiping communities in the Diocese are closed for worship and other activities. That includes St. John's. We don't expect this to change in the next few weeks and will certainly impact our Holy Week and Easter services and those beyond. So, here's what we are planning at this time:
- A daily devotional is being published via Constant Contact (the same platform that brings you this weekly email). It started off with just text and then we added audio. Next week, we will add video for our messages on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with Michael Spring offering his reflections on Tuesday and Thursday. I am deeply grateful for the imaginative work of our new Administrative Assistant, Jorge Darr, for all the recording, videotaping and editing he has provided. What a gift!
- You can always tune in to the "live-streamed" services at other churches around the area, in particular The Cathedral of St. Philip and St. Luke's in Atlanta. Check their websites for details and times.
- We tried a "conference call" format for Compline on Wednesday evening and the quality of the call was not good at all. So we are looking at other alternatives (Facebook "live", etc.) and will let you know when we feel comfortable with trying a different way. Thanks to everyone who called in (or even tried to) because that speaks well of our desire to stay connected through our tradition of common prayer.
- This Sunday, March 22, you will receive a text-only email with the "sermon" provided by our seminarian, Ryan Washington. Beginning March 29, we plan to add audio and/or video in the link provided in the email.
- For Palm Sunday, we will be video recording (in advance) a streamlined service with the critical elements of our traditional worship. Palms will be blessed, readings will be read and bread/wine will be blessed at the altar. A prayer for those who cannot receive the sacraments physically but who can receive them spiritually will be offered (that would be for the majority of us). Tom and Jenna will provide music to augment the "virtual" service which you can enjoy at 10:00am on Sunday, April 4.
- During Holy Week, our Maundy Thursday service will also be streamlined and video-taped in advance with Taize music offered by Tom and Jenna. That service will be available via this medium at 7:00pm on April 9.
- On Good Friday, an audio-only service of Stations of the Cross will be available and will be augmented by pictures of our "stations" as the readings are done. We need at least seven volunteers who would be willing to come in to our "studio" (the church office) and record the readings. This would involve limited exposure to everyone - only the reader, me and Jorge present while the recording is being done. If you're interested, please let me know. Jorge and I are in the office Tuesdays - Thursdays. The "Stations" service will be available through the Constant Contact (CC) email at noon on Good Friday.
- On Good Friday evening, an audio/video service will be offered through CC email at 7:00pm, featuring a streamlined liturgy and music from Tom and Jenna.
- We will not be celebrating the Easter Vigil as usual this year, but will instead include the lighting of the new fire at the beginning of our "virtual" Easter service. The "broadcast" of that service - at 10:00am on Easter morning - will feature our Easter readings, a sermon and special music offered by Tom, Jenna and three "brass" musicians we had engaged for the day. Following that "broadcast" we hope to offer "drive-through communion" during a 30-minute period for all those who are interested at the portico in the horseshoe parking lot. Plans are for you to pull up in your car and receive the host from me as well as a small bag of Easter treats. We are currently running this idea and others by the Diocesan staff to make sure that they fall within the recommended guidelines. Stay tuned for more updates.
- In the weeks after Easter, until we are able to resume regular worship, we will be offering devotionals using various media and pointing you to other resources that you can access on your own. At some point, we know we will be able to gather around the Lord's table again and that will be indeed a joyful day.
On reflection, we're doing the best we can with the resources we have, hoping to reach the broadest audience we can. Nothing has prepared us for this situation. I often laugh at the things that we clergy were "never taught in seminary." But with imagination, dedication, your support and God's help, we will all get through this and perhaps begin to see "church" in a new light.
Please don't hesitate to share what has touched your heart and soul, what hasn't worked for you and any ideas you may have for something else. We will respond as best we can to your needs and desires.
From a pastoral care perspective, we have reached out by phone to all those who have no internet connection or access to email and those who are confined in a nursing home/assisted living facility. If we have missed someone, please let us know. Phone calls and cards will continue and may be expanded to reach out to all parishioners. If you would like to be a part of this "keeping in touch" ministry, please let me know.
As for our outreach ministries, we continue to distribute gift cards from local restaurants and blessing bags to our familiar friends from Wednesday evening. And we've partnered with IGNITE in College Park to support their efforts to support the needy in the community. We are exploring other ideas for distributing food and supplies, while keeping everyone safe. Again, your ideas are welcome!
Lastly, don't forget to continue to mail us your pledges and free-will offerings. Staff still needs to be paid and the lights (at least a few of them) still need to be on. Your faithful financial support during this time is both essential and deeply appreciated.
Stay in except for essentials. Wash your hands. Stay safe. Say your prayers.
Love, peace and blessings to each of you.
Rev. Terri +