Regathering for Worship in the Fall
It is nearly impossible to believe that we are 6 months into this pandemic and social distancing practice. When we made the decision to close our doors to public worship and transition to online church most of the thought and hoped that it would for a short period of time only.
We have been proven wrong.
We miss you. We miss being together.
At the Vestry Meeting last Tuesday we committed to work towards regathering for worship in the church after Labor Day. Because the pandemic persists we will continue to have to take appropriate precautions to keep our community safe. These precautions will change the nature of our in-person worship dramatically but are necessary to prevent widespread COVID-19 infections. The details follow below, but the headline is this: We will regather for in-person indoor worship in the church at 8 AM on September 13, 2020.
We will continue to offer online opportunities for worship but will be adjusting our online worship practice in several ways which are outlined below. The goal of these adjustments is to try to gather our scattered community in a way that actively builds community and brings the church into our lives in a more powerful way. We know that it is a change, and we know that it will be different than what we have gotten used to, but we hope it will be better.
All of us are committed to remaining faithful to our vocation and our core commitments of loving God, loving our neighbors and loving ourselves as best we can in the midst of this moment. We thank you for your continued support and encouragement as we navigate these difficult times together.
How will we worship in person when we regather?
Our summer experiment of worshipping outdoors has been instructive. One thing we learned is that it is hot at 8 AM on Sundays on the bluestone patio. As a result, our worship has been accelerated. The heat has also made it hard to be prayerful.
When we regather on and after September 13 we will still be in the midst of pandemic precautions, but we can enjoy the shade and comfort of being indoors. Masks will still be required as will appropriate social distancing. We will create visual aids to observe safe communal worship practices. Because of concerns about disease transmission, we will worship without conditioned air, but with the doors and windows open. We will thoroughly clean and disinfect our worship space following the service. There are other constraints that will make our regathering more challenging than in the past, but we promise to navigate them all to prevent the spread of COVID illness and we thank you in advance for your flexibility. As is the case now, there will not be access to the Parish House for either the restrooms or for socializing following the service.
We will continue to gather for Morning Prayer Rite II for the foreseeable future as we await a vaccine for the Coronavirus.
How will online church change?
First, we will return to our 10 AM worship time.
Second, we are headed back to Zoom.
When we began our experience with online church we began with synchronous corporate Zoom worship. Zoom worship allowed for parishioners to see each other and to feel connected to one another in many ways. Because of technical challenges related to the increased volume of Zoom activity we found Zoom worship to be unreliable at the time and we switched to pre-recorded worship as we sought to perfect our online offering.
In that attempt for perfection, we lost our connection with each other. Now that the pandemic is enduring longer than we imagined, we will return to synchronous Zoom worship once again. As we do, we are inviting our parishioners into greater participation in the service. You will be able to join the Zoom service and see the faces of your community in prayer. More details will be forthcoming as we get closer to returning to Zoom together.
Additionally, Zoom worship allows for those who are not technically adept with mobile devices to join our worship by phone. More details will follow, but all details will be on our website, on our church calendar and in our At St. John’s to allow for one-click access to worship.
How can I participate in Worship?
Each service, both online and in-person, will have the opportunity for 2 readers, and a designated prayer leader. Please consider signing up to become a reader, or a prayer leader by contacting Sue Waiter at [email protected]. If you are already a lay reader or a Lay Eucharistic Minister, you can sign up to participate through our Ministry Scheduler Pro system.
Will there be Music in church?
Our new Director of Music, Jun Kim, is committed to working to help us use music prayerfully as we reimagine our online worship service. Music will be pre-recorded but enjoyed synchronously online. Zoom will also allow us to archive our recorded services for anyone who wants to worship with us asynchronously after 10 AM Sunday.
How long will we be worshiping like this?
We expect to worship in this way until a vaccine is found, or until some other significant clinical breakthrough with COVID 19.
As soon as we can be together, we want to be together.
We know that there will be challenges ahead as we seek to perfect our online worship service experience and we ask for your patience as we navigate through them. We are hoping these changes will increase our sense of connection and invite new participation.
Following worship we will continue to gather informally for relational check-ins and mutual support.
What about other programming?
Other programming will take place on Zoom throughout the year including Sunday School and Godly Play. Confirmation class, adult education offerings and other formation events. Our choirs will restart under Jun’s new leadership and all the details will be shared as they are developed.
There is a lot of work to be done to keep our community connected, centered, and faithful and we are committed to it. We know that this is hard, but if we persevere, we know that we will find a blessing.
Consider joining us for online worship exclusively if….
- You are 60 or older.
- You have any health conditions that you more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 such as a compromised immune system, or compromised lung or heart function.
- You have been in the presence of someone with COVID 19 in the previous 2 weeks.
- You have a fever of 100.4 or higher.
- You are experiencing cough, chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell.