I hope you are well.
As promised, I am following up with an update on our masking policy at church. My email this past weekend noted that we were watching the increasing numbers in our area, and also that the Bishop was meeting yesterday (Monday) with her Health Advisory Team. Unfortunately, the numbers have continued to trend in the wrong direction. The percent positivity rate on testing in Norfolk has increased to nine percent, and the CDC guidelines indicate that Hampton Roads is an area facing high risk of transmission.
Bishop Haynes sent an email update this morning. While she will not be mandating policies at this time and is leaving decisions up to local parishes, she did offer clear guidance based on the recommendations of the Health Advisory Team. They strongly suggest masking indoors for all people - regardless of vaccination status - anywhere that is in a high risk zone and anywhere that has positivity rates above eight percent. This aligns with CDC guidance and with the convictions of our own church leadership. Therefore, beginning immediately, masks are required at all worship, formation, and fellowship gatherings taking place indoors at St. Andrew's (or official church events hosted indoors elsewhere). This includes worship this coming Sunday, August 8. This mask requirement holds regardless of vaccination status, for the reasons outlined in my previous email. Studies have shown that the Delta variant can infect and be transmitted by people who are vaccinated, so we all need to mask up to protect one another. Most especially, we are protecting the children of our parish who are not yet able to be vaccinated, and the more vulnerable folks among us who may have compromised immune systems. I know that this is a discouraging step backward after a brief return to normalcy this summer, but it is the loving thing to do.
At this point, the rest of our worship will remain the same. We will still enjoy congregational singing, with the help of the summer choir; we will just do so with masks. The current pew spacing will stay as it is, and communion distribution also will remain the same. We also will continue our alternative Children's Chapel/Family Service in the Auditorium, or outdoors when possible on the corner of Princess Anne and Leigh. For now, our services remain at 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., with the Children's Chapel service taking place simultaneously at 10:30 a.m. We are streaming the 9:00 a.m. service.
More information will be forthcoming about our plans for the fall. We are busy planning some fun kickoff events for all ages - including a parish picnic, a backpack blessing, regathering events for various church ministries, and more. Kickoff Sunday will be September 12, and we will return to the normal 8:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. worship schedule on that day. Stay tuned also for news about our formation offerings this fall. Despite this return to masking indoors, we are hopeful that we'll be able to move forward with our plans for resuming many of the fall activities and ministries that we love. If you haven't come to church in a while, please look out for ways to re-engage with your friends at St. Andrew's. We miss you!
Thank you for your support and understanding. Feel free to contact me with questions.