Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral
The Very Rev. Paul J. Lebens-Englund, Dean
Epiphanytide: Friday, February 12, 2021
RE: Cathedral Re-Opening Progress Report
Summary of Key Points:
Saint Mark’s current metric for modest re-opening is 14 consecutive days of sub-5% positivity rate;
Current trends indicate Saint Mark’s may return to small-scale, in-person worship on Sunday, 2.28;
Worship numbers will be limited and participation by registration only – no drop-ins admitted;
Worshipers may only enter/exit through designated doors and must remain in the Nave proper;
Health screens, including temperature check, will be administered upon arrival;
Worshipers must properly wear masks at all times and maintain 6-foot distancing btwn households;
Worshipers may not wander from designated seats, sing, or physically touch during the peace;
Communion in one kind (bread) will be distributed, in place, to those who desire it;
Progression through Phases may be rolled back and re-started, as conditions demand;
Safety and success of re-opening process depends on all of us doing our part.
Dear Saint Markans & Friends,
Grace and peace to you in the Name of the Holy One, in whose presence we live and move and have our very being! I pray this finds you and yours well, savoring every day with grateful and hopeful hearts.
I’m writing you today with an important Cathedral update.
As you know, since Sunday, March 15, 2020, your Cathedral has strictly limited on-site gatherings, in compliance with public health mandates to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Our initial ‘Phase 1.0’ lasted from March through May, and we have been in ‘Phase 2.0’ since June, which allows for limited on-site weekday Staff work and weekend worship.
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. As of the writing of this letter, we are at day eleven (11), and anticipate day fourteen (14) this Sunday, February 14th.
As a result, your Cathedral leadership team is preparing for a cautious return to public worship during the season of Lent. Beginning Sunday, February 28th, we anticipate returning to our regular schedule of three Sunday services – 8am, Rite I; 10:30am, Rite II; and 5pm, Evensong – and we propose to gradually increase toward our target Phase 3.0 numbers according to the following Phase 2.5 schedule:
Sunday, February 28th – Lent II: 25 worshipers (includes 6 ushers)
Sunday, March 7th – Lent III: 50 worshipers (includes 6 ushers)
Sunday, March 14th – Lent IV: 50 worshipers (includes 6 ushers)
Sunday, March 21st – Lent V: 100 worshipers (includes 6 ushers)
Sunday, March 28th – Palm Sunday: 100 worshipers (includes 6 ushers)
Sunday, April 4th – Easter: 150* worshipers (include 6 ushers)
Please note: In addition to ‘worshipers,’ each service will include a worship leadership team of up to ten (10) persons; There may be signs of on-going Nave A/V project early in Phase 2.5; *The State of Minnesota currently permits up to 250 worshipers.
Registration is required for all on-site worship. Registration links will be available on the Cathedral website and in our weekly connections e-mail. Those requiring assistance may also call the Cathedral to receive registration help from the front desk. Worship registration will begin on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning Monday @ 8am and ending Friday @ 12noon for the following Sunday. Because of limited numbers, you may likely find your preferred service full by the time you attempt to register. If so, please try another service. This will be a wonderful opportunity to try something new, perhaps something you’ve considered but never been forced to attend. Let’s see this as an adventure.
Those registered to attend worship are asked to arrive thirty (30) minutes prior to the beginning of your service. Doors will be closed ten (10) minutes prior to worship. Those requiring wheelchair access must park in the west-end turnabout off Hennepin and enter through the new carriage door ramp. All others are asked to enter through the main narthex entrance at the front of the Cathedral. The carriage door and the main narthex entrance are the only doors through which worshipers may enter. People who are not on the registration list or who arrive after the doors have been closed will not be admitted. All guests must wear a mask (double masks are preferred) and maintain a minimum six feet distance between members of different households. As always, a self-screening is requested prior to leaving for the Cathedral, and a second health screening, including temperature checks, will be administered upon your arrival. Please be smart, and if you are not feeling well, or have been around others who have tested positive or who are not feeling well, please stay home. Once in the building and seated, worshipers will be asked to remain in their designated seats. The only purpose for which worshipers may leave the Nave, once admitted, is to use the designated restrooms, which are limited to the two restrooms below the bell tower and the family lounge restroom just off the art gallery hallway. For obvious public health reasons, communion will be distributed only in one kind (bread), there will be no food or drink distributed before or after worship, and guests will be asked to minimize congregating on their way to and from their vehicles.
Just as favorable public health metrics have occasioned our shift to Phase 2.5, so, too, will unfavorable public health metrics occasion our return to a lower Phase. Should County COVID positivity rates exceed 5% for two consecutive days, we will return to a lower Phase. Should we revert to a lower Phase, we will then require seven (7) consecutive days below 5% to return again to a higher Phase.
Additionally, our ability to function safely in Phase 2.5 and to successfully progress toward Phase 3.0 for Easter requires the whole-hearted commitment of each person to abide by all safety protocols and practices, taking all direction from trained ministry leaders who will assist with entry/exit, seating, material distribution, and traffic flow. Failure to comply with all safety directives will result in immediate removal and wide-spread, persistent non-compliance will result in our return to a lower Phase, regardless of positivity rates. These decisions will be at the Dean’s sole discretion, with consultation from ministry leaders.
We are so excited to have this opportunity to come together again, and we have every confidence we can do this safely and responsibly, balancing both mutual care and mutual accountability to create an atmosphere that is warm, tender, compassionate, and prayerful. We know, too, that no matter the precautions in place, some of our beloved members will not feel safe to return until a later date, and that is okay. We remain one, no matter what.
Please accept my sincere gratitude for all you’ve done to bring us to this new day, and for all I know you’ll do to keep us on course in the weeks and months ahead. There is a risk inherent in hope, and that is that our hopes might be disappointed when they collide with reality. So I’m asking you to take that risk with me – to hope that we can return, again, to some safe semblance of togetherness, while also recognizing that there may be disappointments and further challenges along the way. Know that we are in this together, holding each other up in prayer, cheering each other on in faith.
And every step along the way, I remain yours, in Christ,