Dear Grace Anglican Church,
Let me borrow the Apostle’s greeting and say, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is a moment for faith in God. We especially need his grace and peace today. Fear is crouching at our door, but the Lord tells us not to be anxious about anything. I certainly don’t want you to be anxious about Sunday worship. I also don’t want anxiety to cause us to falter in worshiping the Lord, which is our very purpose for being. So, let me tell you what you can expect on Sunday and my reasons for moving forward in restoring the full liturgy with a few precautions.
We had all hoped that the COVID19 pandemic would be long gone by now. To the contrary, NE Florida is experiencing a rise in cases for the Delta variant. On top of things, our smartest scientific minds are perplexed by the mysterious behaviors of the virus and its variants. (See this helpful New York Times article.) We are not in control. But we know the One who is in control, and we need to worship him. To eliminate all concerns regarding COVID19, then our best worship option is to stay home and participate online like we did in the early days. For some with additional risk factors, this is still the wisest move. Our 10:45 AM service will now be broadcast from our website each Sunday. Short of that, what we include or don’t include in the liturgy has become mostly arbitrary. For instance, is touching the offering plates a greater risk than touching the pews and door handles? Is standing in front of someone in line for communion riskier than kneeling beside them at the rail? With seemingly negligible comparisons such as these in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to go ahead and restore the full Sunday liturgy with the following precautions.
Passing the Peace will be contactless. We will simply turn to those around us and say “peace” or “God’s peace be with you,” without shaking hands or making contact. The Peace is not a meet and greet or intermission. It is a highly symbolic liturgical act in which we are expressing the truth that we are not only reconciled to God in Christ, but also to one another.
Passing the collection plates will be facilitated by ushers wearing masks. You will be asked to handle the plate as you pass it down the row (except at the 7:45 service, in which it will remain at the back). If you’re concerned, I recommend a dab of hand sanitizer before coming to communion and otherwise avoiding touching your face as the CDC has consistently recommended. The offerings will be processed forward along with the communion elements in another highly symbolic act. We are not only presenting our money to God but also the very food we depend upon. “All things come from you O Lord, and of your own have we given you.”
We’ll leave additional space at the kneeling rail. We have placed discrete stickers at the communion rail to serve as guides for spacing out to leave a little extra room. If you prefer not to touch the railing, you are welcome to stand at the rail to receive communion. In a change from my original intentions, the clergy will continue wearing masks as they distribute the bread. The wine will already be dried into the center of each wafer.
Wearing masks in church is recommended, but not required. Ample medical evidence is proving that vaccines and masks are our two best protections. As of today, the CDC’s guidance is that all people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks when indoors in public gatherings in areas with a high transmission rate. Each member of our church needs to assess their own risk level and take appropriate precautions. There is no mandate here, just a call for prudence. Pray and don’t be anxious about anything. Please be assured that I am praying for you. I hope to see you Sunday.
Yours in Christ,