A Few Thoughts on Regathering
There are several variations of the same joke. “How do you put 50 elephants in a small car?” Answer number one, “Slowly!” Answer number two, “25 in the front and 25 in the back.” Then, “How do you put 50 giraffes in a small car?” Answer one, “Slowly!” Answer number two, “You take the elephants out and put the giraffes in, 25 in the front and 25 in the back.” These silly jokes, with which I have terrorized my kids for over 25 years, are suddenly not as silly anymore. In a way, I have found myself thinking seriously about how to put 50 beloved friends inside our sanctuary in a way that protects their health, while allowing them to worship the Lord in community, as it has been our tradition for decades. Thankfully, I have gathered 10 very smart people around me to help me think and pray through very difficult issues. We are in the very early stages of creating a comprehensive plan for Bishop Fisher to review. What follows is a brief report about where we are so far. Some of these things may change, and when they do, I will let you know as soon as I can.
We are still in Phase One, as I explained in my video, which you can find below or by going to our
St. Dunstan’s website
. We do not expect to start Phase Two until the first week of June. We will be allowed to return to our beloved sanctuary at the start of this phase, which we believe will last between 12
months. We hope to re-enter around June 7
, but before we do, we must address the following issues:
1. Congregation Size: We can only have 50 parishioners in every service. The “Re-Gathering Committee” is currently assessing how this division will take place. More information will be available soon. We are hoping we can have 5 live services in our church and 1 pre-recorded service online to give everyone an opportunity to participate in worship. More information about the times of these services will be given at my next communication with you.
2. Social Distancing: We will need to ensure that at least six feet of distance is provided between groupings. To do this, we will rope off every other pew, and we will create some form of markings to show people where to sit. Ushers will be trained to bring family groupings to designated areas and individuals to other areas.
3. Wearing of Masks: Our “Street of Shops” warriors and others are busy making masks for all of us. Please bring your favorite mask with you, but if you forget yours at home, do not worry. You will be given a fashionable mask to take home with you. If you forget your mask again, we will bill you $10,000 to go towards the Rector’s vacation fund. Just kidding! If you forget again, we will give you a new mask to take home.
4. Nursery and Children’s Programs: Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide nursery or children’s chapel in a live format during this phase. Sarah will continue to post her excellent Sunday Chapel services online for all of you. We do see the value in having families with young children being able to worship together. For this reason, we are in the process of assigning one of our five live services as our “Youthful Presence Service” (This name may change.) More information about this service will be available soon.
5. Hand Sanitizers: These will be available throughout our church and you are highly encouraged to make liberal use of these before, during, and after the service.
6. Removal of unnecessary objects: The more surfaces we have, the harder it will be to sanitize the church after each service. For this reason, we will place all our books, Hymnals, and Bibles in storage until Phase 3. We will create and send out a digital bulletin for use during the service. We hope you download these to one of your devices and bring that device to church. For those who do not bring a device, we will have paper bulletins (Which will be sanitized.) We ask you to take the bulletin with you when you leave. The less we pick up, the easier it will be to clean-up after each service.
7. Thorough Sanitation: The committee is in the process of developing sanitation protocols for the cleaning of the church after each service and the bathrooms after each use. We already know we will have to hire additional folks to help us with cleaning, and we are in the process of assessing what the additional costs will be. More information about this will be available at my next communication.
8. Communion, Peace, and Recession Lines: We will be suspending the common cup during this phase. Theologically speaking, please know that we believe the real presence of our Lord is 100% in the host and 100% in the wine, so if you are only able to get one of the two elements, you have received 100% of his presence. We are in the process of developing protocols as to how communion will take place. Please know that the exchanging of the peace will not be done through hand-to-hand contact, hugs, or kisses for anyone not in your family group. This will be hard, but a simple wave of the hand will convey your love for your fellow parishioners. Hold on to the longing for contact. It will make it more special when we are finally able to hug our friends. Lastly, there will not be a recession line at the end of services during Phase Two. I will wave at you after the dismissal, and I will set aside temporarily my desire to shake your hand or hug you until a more auspicious time.
9. At-Risk Parishioners: We highly encourage anyone who has an auto-immune condition, or anyone who is not comfortable attending church for whatever reason, to continue to participate in our online services for a while longer. We will miss you greatly, but your health is of utmost importance to us.
10. Collection, Offertory, and the Use of Thermometers: We will suspend passing collection baskets during this phase. We will have a basket in front of the baptismal font. Please deposit your contributions there. A better alternative for all is the use of online giving. We have “Donate” buttons on our website and we have created a simple video that teaches you how to do this. You can find this video
We will not process the elements in from within the congregation during the offertory. We will have them ready at the credence table before we set the altar. Finally, we will not be using thermometers to determine who comes into our sanctuary. If you are concerned, please check your temperature at home before coming to church. Our medical experts tell us that, unfortunately, digital thermometers are still highly unreliable and give out false positives and negatives frequently. Just wear your mask and use hand-sanitizer liberally.
We are praying for all of you and I hope you do likewise. Your regathering committee needs all your prayers. I will continue to communicate often over the next few weeks. Please stay tuned.
May our Lord continue to bless you,