Dear Saint Markans,
As many of you know, this past fall, the Bishop’s Office distributed updated re-opening guidelines indicating that faith communities would be permitted to re-open for down-sized public gatherings when both State and County positivity rates fall below 5% for seven (7) consecutive days. Because Saint Mark’s catchment includes multiple Counties, we opted to require fourteen (14) consecutive days below 5% before progressing to our next re-opening Phase.
Beginning Sunday, February 21st, Saint Mark’s began Phase 2.5, which has involved a deliberate, incremental re-opening during the season of Lent, including two weeks at 25 per service, two weeks at 50 per service, and two weeks at 100 per service, with the possibility of gathering up to 150 per service on Easter Day. Progression from one step to the next requires continued positivity rates below 5% AND continued commitment to all safety protocols by those gathering for in-person worship. We’re proud to report success in the latter, with worshipers, ushers, and leaders showing love and respect for each other by complying with all necessary best practices. Unfortunately, however, we are seeing a rise in positivity rates in Hennepin and other surrounding Counties. While we don’t yet need to be alarmed, we do need to be cautious, so, in light of local positivity rates in excess of 5%, we must again modify local practice for the sake of public health.
Our aim is to thread the needle here, honoring both our previous policy statement regarding a required seven-day closure in the case of two consecutive days of positivity rates over 5% AND the new reality of rapidly-rising vaccination rates (presently at ~22% statewide).
Here is what we propose to do:
Easter Vigil & Easter Day (April 3rd & 4th) are unaffected – those registered will be permitted to attend and will be subject to all current safety protocols, particularly masking, distancing, and refraining from singing;
Eastertide (April 5th & beyond) IS affected in the following manner:
Hennepin County positivity rates 5% and below: up to 150 participants per service;
Hennepin County positivity rates 5%-6.5%: up to 100 participants per service;
Hennepin County positivity rates 6.5%-7.5%: up to 50 participants per service;
Hennepin County positivity rates 7.5% and above: no registered participants, worship team only;
Registration (April 5th & beyond) will continue to open each Monday (see note below*) for the upcoming Sunday’s worship services, and the number of registration slots made available per service will be based on the positivity rates announced the previous Saturday (e.g. Registration for Sunday, April 18th will open on Monday, April 12th, and the number of slots available per service will be based on positivity rates announced on Saturday, April 10th; **please note: registration for Sunday, April 11th will open on Tuesday, April 6th, as we’re closed Monday, April 5th for Easter Monday).
AS OF SATURDAY, APRIL 3rd, Positivity rates are: 6.6% in Hennepin Co. and 6.6% in Minnesota.
THIS MEANS THAT: registration for in-person worship, beginning Tuesday, April 6th, will be capped at 50 participants (not counting the worship & production team), until further notice. The first Sunday affected will be Sunday, April 11th.
Because our worship participants will include both those who have and haven’t yet been vaccinated, all existing safety protocols will remain in effect. Please plan to arrive early, as stated in the registration materials, and to abide by the entryway health screening. Please plan to remain masked and physically-distanced. Please plan to refrain from singing and physical touch during the passing of the peace. And please plan to abide by all traffic-flow guidance from your ushers and clergy.
We know this is not the news we wanted to receive during this most holy time of year, but it is the reality within which we continue to work and worship and witness. Though you’ve given much during this past year to keep yourselves and one another safe and healthy, we must ask that we give again in service to Love, for the sake of each other’s health and safety. We’re so close to beating this, so let’s make sure we’re doing our part to maintain our good progress. Thank you to those of you who’ve managed to get your vaccinations already. And continued prayers for those of you, and for your families, who are yet waiting in the queue.
Please know how excited we are to be back together again, in God’s good time. And please know that we will do our very best to keep you updated and informed as conditions continue to evolve and unfold. In the meantime, be a good friend and neighbor: mask up, keep your distance, and get those vaccinations!
I remain ever yours, in Christ,