February 24, 2021

Dear Friends,

Nearly one year ago, on March 13, 2020, I wrote to you and announced that all public services of worship at St. Mary of the Hills would be suspended for a period of two weeks, as we began to confront the reality of COVID-19 in our midst.  Little did we know then, two weeks was only to be the beginning of our journey.  

Over the course of these pandemic months, we’ve learned much about new ways of being the Body of Christ – we’ve worshipped together via Zoom and YouTube as well as in outdoor spaces, met for study and conversation in a variety of online formats, cared for one another via phone calls, text messages, handwritten notes and outdoor, socially distanced visits.  We’ve also made space for the grief of not being able to gather in our beloved sacred space, the longing to hug one another, and the sadness of rituals and rhythms in our common life that needed to go unobserved.

Today, I am pleased to write to you and share that in-person public worship in the Church will resume on the Third Sunday in Lent, March 7, 2021.  

The significance of this date is not lost on me – it will have been 52 weeks, one full year, since a congregation last gathered for regular Sunday worship inside the Church.  It will also be the third Sunday of our journey through Lent, the same liturgical day that first dispersed our gatherings a year ago.  

How will this work?  

  • On Sunday mornings, two in-person celebrations of the Holy Eucharist will be offered in the Church - at 8:00AM (without music) and 11:00AM (with music). Attendance is limited to 25 individuals (including those serving) and online pre-registration will be required.  
  • Wednesday Eucharists will also resume in the week following, at 12:00PM on March 10, with the same restrictions in place; however, registration will be limited to 15 pre-registered individuals to allow for greater distancing. Additional weekday Eucharists may be offered.

Online registration for each service, via Eventbrite, will open one week prior to its start time. (For March 7th, registration will open on Monday, March 1, at 9:00AM).  Links to the online registration platform will be e-mailed and available on our parish website.  As we begin, I kindly ask that you wait at least a week between attending services to allow others the opportunity to register and attend as well.  

Additionally, in order to keep one another safe, we all need to covenant to keeping these practices:

  • Perform a self-check of symptoms before attending any service. Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, who is experiencing a temperature higher than 100.0 (F), or who might have been in contact with someone who has the virus, should not attend any service.
  • Masks that fully covering both nose and mouth are required for all in attendance at any service and must be worn at all times in the Church and on parish grounds.  Additional masks will be available.
  • At least six feet of physical distance between those who do not share the same household is necessary at all times. Pews will be marked with safe spaces for seating that allow for adequate social distancing between households.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be available for use.
  • Pre-registration is necessary to keep the congregation size within guidelines.
  • At this time, all other spaces within the building, including restrooms, the nursery, offices, etc. will need to remain closed.  
  • Between services, the Church will remain vacant to allow for adequate air exchanges to take place and surfaces will receive a thorough cleaning.

Of course, we will not all be able to be together at one time, and many will not yet feel comfortable attending worship with a congregation indoors.  Live-streaming will continue for the 11:00AM Eucharist on Sundays, and other options may be offered as we live into this new season in our common life.  Additionally, services of worship conducted outdoors will become possible as we move into spring and weather conditions allow.  

I am grateful to our entire Vestry, particularly Dr. Sterling Hutcheson, Faith Jones, Dr. Lisa Kaufmann, Dr. Chip Monroe, and Patty Patella, for their hard work on the development of plans that make this return to in-person worship a reality. From the beginning of this pandemic, these folks have advised me wisely as to ways of connecting with one another, while also keeping one another safe.

Finally, there are opportunities for you to serve at each liturgy.  We are creating new teams of folks who are interested and feel comfortable serving as either an Acolyte/Lector or a Greeter/Usher.  Click the buttons below to learn more and sign up.
You need not have any experience or previously have served in either way to sign up and serve. Training will be provided for both of these important roles.

There are, no doubt, questions which have not been answered here; together, we will continue to learn and adapt as we begin this new chapter in our journey amidst this pandemic.  If you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to give me a call or send me an e-mail.  Above all, know that I have not ceased praying for you and look forward to being able to, once again, pray together in the sacred space of St. Mary’s in the weeks ahead.    

The Reverend Andrew J. Hege