From the Rector's Desk
The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin
Rector, St. Columba's Episcopal Church, Washington, DC
July 8, 2020
Dear Ones,

As we continue through this uncharted territory of life during a pandemic, I write to share news of decisions and next steps we are taking at St. Columba’s.

I share the growing eagerness and impatience that so many of us have to gather anew, while balancing the duty we have as individuals and as a community of faith to do everything in our power to protect the health and safety of those around us fellow St. Columbans, Washingtonians, everyone threatened by this current crisis. More than anything, I wish we could all get together and celebrate – to worship, sing, break bread, share the Eucharist, pray, laugh, hug, and praise God.

Together, we can do this. I keep thinking of the Exodus when the Hebrew people had to wander through the wilderness, never quite sure of their next step – and that went on for forty years! Yet the experience brought them to deep trust in the abiding love of God who led them to the Promised Land. As never before in my thirty-plus years of parish leadership, I find myself without a map, putting all my trust in God. Holding one another in prayer, calling to check in, meeting in small groups via Zoom, running errands and providing meals – in all these ways we are growing in resilience, with hope and trust in God.

To chart our next steps on this journey, I have met with the leaders of each and every ministry of St. Columba’s, and am inspired by and grateful for your creative, resilient, and adaptive responses. You are continuing to connect, pray, learn, strengthen relationships, and care for one another in ways that are awesome and holy. I have also heard directly from many of you via email or our recent survey; thank you! Unsurprisingly, as a large congregation we would like a bit of everything! Our staff is continuing to adapt and respond in new ways. Going forward, we will expand – or reduce – these opportunities as safety and prudence dictate. 

Surely, we will gather and worship again in the ways that, until mid-March, felt so normal. In the meantime, in full consideration of the options for phased reopening set forth by our mayor and bishop, and placing our commitment to the health and safety for the greatest number of people first in our planning: 
  • We will offer online access to worship indefinitely and will slowly offer opportunities for small in-person gatherings for those who so desire. 
  • We will reconsider our approaches to serving food and caring for neighbors so that we can be true to our call to serve. 
  • We will accommodate DC-mandated changes in the Nursery School to meet the critical developmental needs of our youngest and support young working families.

Read on for full details, and check in for updated changes on our
St. Columba’s Safety Protocols (SCSP) for all Gatherings

Each person is required to sign the diocesan Covenant for Regathering prior to regathering in person for any St. Columba’s worship or event – on church property or elsewhere. You will only have to do this once; it will be kept on file in the parish office.
  • Download it here
  • Sign it virtually and email it to:
  • Or print it out and mail in to the church, or bring the signed copy to the first in-person gathering

When gathering outdoors on church property or in parishioners’ yards for St. Columba’s events, participants shall observe the very safest practices: 
  • Maintain a minimum of six feet physical distance
  • Wear masks
  • Wash and disinfect hands
  • Do not share objects 
  • Stay home and take care of yourself if you have health risks or experience any COVID-related symptoms
  • No more than twenty people – this is a recommended maximum; to maintain safe distance between participants; smaller areas may require smaller numbers, larger areas may allow for more.

All COVID-positive tests are reported to the DC health department (or the health dept. of the relevant county). That prompts a contact tracing process. If that person has been at a St. Columba’s gathering, w e believe our bond with one another requires us to reach out and notify all other attendees as members of the Body of Christ.

IMPORTANT – These protocols may change with the increase or decrease of the spread of COVID19. Check for Updates
In coming weeks, St. Columbans will have two ways to worship together – 
Online Sunday worship and weekday morning prayer will be offered for the foreseeable future. Every parishioner can participate and we can share the Good News near and far.
  • While I dare say we’ve done a good job, we’re continually looking to improve your experience.
  • Zoom coffee hour is now offered on Sunday mornings at 11 am (Summer schedule). Click here to join us on
“House Church” will launch next week; groups of up to twenty meeting outside in parishioner’s yards with prayers, sermon, and pre-consecrated Eucharist. 
  • Flexible format so you can adapt as the Spirit moves you   
  • Observe St. Columba’s Safety Protocols – SCSP – as noted above.
  • Stay tuned for your invitation to participate

“Courtyard Church” and “Open for Prayer” are under consideration for future launch
  • We’re exploring options to celebrate the Holy Eucharist with a set number of people in the Courtyard and/or having the Church Nave open at set times for personal prayer.

A steadily growing number of parishioners are committed to deepening relationships and faith through Bible studies, prayer circles, book groups, and more. Three options for participation are available at this time – 
Online gatherings continue in abundance 
  • Opportunities are updated regularly on our website
  • Let us know if you need assistance setting up, hosting, or participating in on line gatherings
In-person “off campus” – Check-in groups and the Mothers’ Group are among those hosting small gatherings in parishioner’s yards. Hooray! For these and all subsequent in-person St. Columba gatherings please observe strict safety protocols.
  • Observe SCSP – as noted above
I n-person “on campus” – Small groups may meet in person at St. Columba’s when doing so is vital for those involved. 
  • Courtyard, playground, Great Hall, or meeting rooms may be available, some outfitted for a mix of in-person and on-line participants
  • All gatherings at St. Columba’s must be scheduled in advance with Operations Manager Tony Kittrell
  • Observe SCSP – as noted above

Serving and caring for others is central to our calling and practice as followers of Christ. Our new initiative to end family homelessness in the District of Columbia is underway in partnership with Housing Up. The early generous response to our request to raise $30k in 30 Days for 30 Families is simply awesome; thank you! Given the safety precautions needed and the advanced age of a majority of those who currently serve as hosts, it is untenable for us to re-open the Water Ministry at this time. We are reimagining how to align the intention of our hearts with the needs of our neighbors. If you want to help please contact Missioner for Community Outreach, Cami Caudill to be connected with our ministries in need of your assistance. 
  • Financial assistance is available to those in need through the rector’s discretionary fund, with thanks to those who have contributed recently and in the past. 

Love and care for one another, especially in seasons of need or rejoicing, is at the heart of our life as disciples of Christ. If you are having a hard time and would like prayers, conversation with a fellow parishioner, or to speak with a priest, please contact our pastoral team
  • For the safety of all concerned, we will continue to limit pastoral visits to those that can take place outdoors. 
  • To arrange small gatherings for a baptism, marriage, funeral or burial, please contact a member of the clergy. 

We’ve prioritized opening the Nursery School for full enrollment. The developmental needs of young children and the support of young families makes this paramount. New restrictions limit class size and mandate physical distance for all schools and daycare programs in the District. To welcome every child, we are repurposing some of the 2nd floor rooms for use by the Nursery School for the coming academic year.

While we long for the day we can be back “at church,” this season is a reminder that the church is us; we are the church, dispersed across the region and beyond. Thank you for being the church and thank you for your sacrificial generosity in support of St. Columba’s ministry. Thanks to you we are continually finding new ways to Live God’s Love .
  • If you are in a position to increase your giving to St. Columba’s, please do so. Many are struggling and you can make a difference. 
  • If you are experiencing economic challenges and need to reduce your giving, please notify Bronwyn Roy or Karen Sprague so we can be responsible stewards and adjust our budget accordingly. And of course, if you fall into economic hardship, please let me know so that we might assist you. 
  • If you have not yet made an annual pledge and are inspired to do so, now is the time! Pledge here.

This letter comes with my prayers, my love, and with full support of the wardens and vestry.
The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin, Rector