Grace and peace to you.
I’m writing to share with you that, with my support, our Safe Gatherings Committee has deemed it wise to suspend in-person worship again beginning on Sunday, January 3. Our plan for right now is to continually reevaluate the trends in our state and county throughout the next month, and, if the circumstances are improving, resume in-person worship with Ash Wednesday worship at the beginning of Lent. We are also asking that Sunday School classes, small groups, and committees meet virtually during this time period.
I expect this will be disappointing news to many of you, and I can understand why. Our fellowship and communion with one another has been severely curtailed and limited for nearly a year now. I know how much we miss the full sanctuary, the blast of the organ, and the warmth of the stained glass windows. This decision was made with this knowledge in mind, and the longing to be together is certainly something we all share.
Since we resumed limited in-person worship, we have managed the risk of exposure well and diligently observed the safety protocols put in place. As such, we have, by God’s grace, been able to avoid any outbreaks within our congregation. Still, as promised, we have continued to evaluate the data and risk factors regularly, and have decided to suspend in-person worship again for a few reasons:
- Our local positive percentages are going up and with the gatherings and travel of the holidays, case numbers are expected to continue to rise as the new year begins.
- Hospitalizations are increasing, again.
- We're entering the height of cold and flu season.
- The potential presence of a new strain of the virus that is more easily transmitted is cause for additional caution.
The good news is that the vaccine is on its way and so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, it will take some time for a good percentage of folks to receive the vaccine. In the meantime, then, knowing that the pandemic will not carry on forever, it seems prudent to us to suspend in-person worship until the holidays are behind us and, we hope, the numbers begin to go down once more.
Those who lead our services will worship as usual at 10:30 on Sundays and we are encouraging everyone to snuggle up on your couches, grab a cup of coffee, and tune in to our livestream at www.rpcjax.org/live which features new HD cameras that film from multiple angles in the sanctuary. It’s not the same as worshiping in person, to be sure, but there is an upside to church in pajamas and coffee on Sunday morning! (I can only imagine it, though… instead of being in my bathrobe, I’ll be in my clergy robe!) Just don’t get used to it, though, because we will open our doors again just as soon as we feel it is safe to do so!
In the meantime, please stay in good touch with us at the church, and let us know how we can be of service to you. Our ministry and worship continues, to the glory of Christ our Lord!
With gratitude for your understanding,
Rev. Brian Lays and the Safe Gatherings Committee