Beloved LCN community,

Last Tuesday (June 29), the LCN Council unanimously approved the Re-Opening Task Force’s proposal to resume in-person worship on Sunday, July 25. As we joyfully anticipate being together again in body to celebrate God’s presence in word, song, and holy communion, I want to express my deep and abiding gratitude to all whose efforts got us to this point: infectious disease experts, public health personnel, and research scientists; everyone who conscientiously wore their masks, kept 6-feet-apart, and when available, got their shots; and the LCN Re-Opening Task Force and Council members who shouldered the decision-making on our collective behalf over the past 16 months in the midst of ever-changing information. Huzzah and Alleluia!

I also want to acknowledge that the holy work of processing the grief and fear of the past year is by no means finished. While some in our midst are ready to bound back into the building, singing in mask-less joy and sharing the common cup at the table of grace, others still hold the muscle- and heart-memory of spending the past year+ approaching each new physical interaction with trepidation. What is more, our precious children under the age of 12 cannot yet receive the COVID vaccine. My hope is that the same spirit of generosity, compassion, and understanding that the crisis called forth in our collective body will continue to shape us as a people committed to sharing the self-giving love we receive from God. 

In that spirit, here is how we are approaching our worship practices for now, in the interest of lowering undue anxiety and embodying in our ritual life a deep regard for one another’s needs: 

1.   All Vaccine Statuses Welcome[1]
We encourage people to follow basic public health guidelines around staying home if you are ill or have been exposed to someone with COVID (particularly if you are unvaccinated), but we will not mandate this nor ask people to disclose their vaccination status before attending worship. Nor will we hold any official LCN gatherings to which only the vaccinated are invited.

2.   Face Masks — we encourage all participants to wear a face mask when unable to keep a safe physical distance from non-household members.[2]
At least until children under 12 can receive the vaccine, we ask that all worshippers wear a mask when a safe physical distance from non-household members cannot be kept. We hope this will make visible our desire for persons of all ages to be able to attend. Unvaccinated persons are encouraged to wear a face mask at all times, and of course, if for any reason you are more comfortable remaining masked throughout the service that is completely okay. 

3.   Congregational Singing Returns!!
But at least for now, we ask that people wear a mask while singing. 

4.   Pastor, Organist, Readers, and Assisting Minister may unmask when leading, but communion servers will wear masks during the distribution of communion, as they will be in close proximity to others.
 
5.   Touchless Peace Encouraged!
We have learned many new ways to express peace to one another without shaking hands, and will encourage worshippers to exchange the peace with one another with words, eye contact, and other contactless expressions. 

6.   Weekly Communion Resumes, with some adaptations:
  • Communion will be served with a common loaf (gluten-free wafers will also be available), and wine and grape juice pre-poured into individual communion cups. There will be no common cup. 
  • We will receive in a continuous line at the foot of the chancel steps, rather than kneeling or standing at the communion rail, though people are invited to pause to pray at the communion rail after receiving if they wish to do so, before returning to their seats.
  • Communion servers will be expected to wear a mask while serving, but attendees may have their masks off in order to receive the bread/wafer and wine/grape juice.

6.  Ventilation in the Sanctuary:
  • Window fans should be run during and after the service. 
  • The ceiling fans can be used during set-up and clean-up for comfort but should remain off during the service as they just serve to spread particles around, not eliminate them. 
  • We are not installing air purifiers in the sanctuary since they would add noise and cost but not any significant additional safety.

7.   Bulletins, Announcements, and Offering – Virtual Options will Continue
We will have some form of paper bulletin and offering envelopes available, and will also make available electronic versions of the liturgy and online giving, both in advance of the service and on site. If you have an e-reader or phone that you are comfortable reading from, we encourage you to make use of this.

As we return, I encourage you to be gentle and compassionate with whatever emotions arise – in yourself, and in those around you. Church ought to be a safe place to weep, laugh, rejoice, or lament; indeed, we stake our lives in a savior who openly wept, laughed, rejoiced, lamented, and more. God’s grace is abundant.

In Christ’s peace,
Pastor Kari Jo 

[1] While vaccines remain the best defense against COVID-19 and a profound way to participate in caring for those who cannot receive the vaccine or are otherwise at risk, it would undermine our mission to hold any kind of church-sponsored gathering where the unvaccinated were not permitted to attend.  
[2] At present, the CDC encourages the use of masks in groups where vaccination status is mixed, such as multi-generational gatherings (children under two, those with breathing problems, and those who are unable to wear a mask because of disability should not wear them). 
To contact our church’s office:
Address: 1310 Centre Street, Newton, MA 02459
Office Phone: 617-332-3893
In case of emergency,
please call the Pastor's Cell: 617-230-7887