Dear Church Friends and Family,
As days and weeks pass, there is increasing talk of churches reopening and resuming “business as usual.” As you know, I have had deep concerns about opening our doors prematurely and risking the health of our individual members – and by extension, the whole community. However, as we prayerfully discern when and how to safely reopen, we have been guided by the best thinking of scientists, doctors, and health department professionals; and, by the theological conviction that our highest calling is to love one another. Jesus said, unequivocally, that people will know we are his disciples, “by the love you show to others” (John 13:35). Jesus is clear that connection to, union with, love for God is not a private, self-beneficial, or self-centered thing – it is about a public love. You cannot have an eye toward God, if you don’t also have an eye toward God’s creation.
COVID-19 is no respecter of boundaries, ideology, or religious affiliation. I believe, as a matter of faith, that we should not engage in ill-advised and dangerous behavior, expecting God to protect us in ways we have been unwilling to protect ourselves. So, while we grieve over this prolonged absence from one another and understand the financial and emotional toll it is taking, we will continue to err on the side of caution.
In early June I asked a small group from the congregation to examine what it would take for Saint Stephen’s to begin public worship services. We discovered that meeting all the various guidelines was extremely complicated. After several weeks of research and planning they recommended that services begin on July 12th. We will have one Eucharist a week on Sundays at 9am. We will not be able to provide nursery care, or even have the nursery room open.
Under the guidelines of social distancing, it has been determined that the maximum number seated in the Nave is 38 but that it could be as few as 18 depending on the size of households attending. We will do everything possible to accommodate all those who wish to attend, but always following the mandated distance. Even with limited attendance at the Eucharist on Sunday mornings, St. Stephen’s will continue to have Morning Prayer on-line via Zoom , including Sundays. Also, the daily Morning Prayers will be sent.
Hopefully, this video will help you to understand what to expect.
Through the diligent work of qualified people and through internal reserves of creativity, patience, resilience, and courage, God is equipping us with both the knowledge and the faith to navigate this treacherous terrain. But we must be honest. We can expect this situation to continue for months to come.
We have made great strides in our community to alleviate the spread of the coronavirus and mitigate its deadly effects. Thank you to those within and throughout our community for helping to keep us safe.
I am reminded of this blessing from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:4-7
May the peace of God dwell richly in your homes and neighborhoods in these next weeks and months.