It so disappoints me, but due to this resent uptick in COVID19 transmission in Pensacola, we need to ‘tap the brakes’ on some of our recent loosening of safety protocols at church. In considering how we ought to adjust our ways of coming together, I have consulted with the leadership at Sacred Heart Hospital, several doctors – to include a pediatric doctor, and our Bishop. Unfortunately, what made complete sense to do two weeks ago – is now a lot more risky.
Facts bearing on the Problem:
- The Delta variant is more transmissible than the original version of this virus.
- Locally, the rate of infection is back up to 30%. Until recently it was under 10%.
- In the last week – there has been a 300% increase in local infections.
- 98% of those hospitalized at Sacred are unvaccinated people and the average age of the patient is much younger than the previous spike periods.
- Almost 25% of those people testing positive are vaccinated (breakthrough cases) but nearly all of these cases are able to rest and recover from home, not requiring hospitalization.
- Health professionals say that vaccinations, hand washing and masking are the most effective ways of preventing the virus spread and other mutations of the virus to form.
Temporary Procedures starting this Sunday: (re-evaluate in a month after schools start)
- Masks preferred for everyone.
- Social distancing (sit in a row with a bow).
- Eucharist – as before. Come forward to the Altar Rail (individually or in family groups).
- People will come forward down the side-aisle and return down center-aisle. The Eucharistic Minister will hold the Chalice with consecrated wine and offer you the words, but no drinking from the common cup.
Timing Adjustments to our Rally Day goal – which is always to restart all our ministries.
As we enter the programing year after summer vacations, it’s still time to step into ministry and our common life together. But rather than everything starting on August 15th – we will now start programing after Labor Day.
So, mark your calendar with these start dates:
August 8 - Backpack Blessing at 10:00 am on the front steps of the Parish Hall Porch
August 15 – instead of Rally Day – August 15th is now Discipleship Day. During the service and online we will distribute a checklist to poll your interest in ministries this year. Check off several ministries you might be interested in and ministry leaders will contact you.
August 22 – Start the weekly Sunday morning Faith Forum Classes “Back to the Basics” – in Parish Hall and on porch.
September 2, 9, 16, 23 - Christopher’s Concerts – on the lawn at 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm.
September 7 – Starts Sweet Studies, Bible Study for 3rd – 5th Graders, outside at the ice cream shop Marble Slab Creamery at 2:45 pm.
September 8 – Starts our Wednesday Morning Bible Study at 9:00 am on Parish Hall Porch.
September 12 – Starts Godly Play (Sunday School) for children 4-10 years old,10:00 am.
September 26 – Rally Day – where we celebrate our various ministries with signups and displays in Parish Hall and on the lawn, after both services.
September 29 – Starts Wednesday night’s Mid-Week Manna, 5:30 pm – 7:15 pm. We will share a meal (indoor or outside as is best) and then offer various programing for 1) Children 2) Teens and 3) Adults.
Choir – delayed start for now.
We had to make another tough call today. Because the ease of transmission and the dramatic increase in community cases in the past week, we must now cancel the Youth Mission Trip for next week. Like our teens, I am bummed and frustrated at this necessary safety step. In consultation with medical providers, we believe the risk is now greater than the reward. We are still trying to salvage the last day (Friday) of the trip, which is an outdoor clean-up event in the morning and a lunch-time cookout on the church lawn. Ansley+ and I will still meet with parents this Sunday in the Conference Room, after the 10:30 am Service, to discuss our options.
As siblings in Christ, we all need to do our part to protect those who are vulnerable. If you are sick, feverish, or have been exposed to the virus please do not come to church. After recently suffering through my cold, I am all too aware that common cold, flu, RSV and other viruses are also circulating these days. Wonderfully, you can participate in worship online from your home!
We will continue to watch the trends, and hope to be able to return to unmasking soon. Don’t lose heart. While it feels like two steps forward and one step back, we will make it through this. I love the people of our congregation and own the responsibility to protect us as best I can. I pray regularly for our abundant life and thriving together in Christ. In the spirit of loving our neighbor as more important than our personal freedoms, I encourage all who can be vaccinated to get vaccinated; for your own sake and for the safety of others.
Your Sister in Christ,
The Rev. Susan R. Sowers
Rector, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church