An update on worship at St. Anne's
I hope you are all doing well and keeping healthy! It has certainly seemed like a very long April this year! I’m sure many of you are wondering when life will return to ‘normal’. And for St. Anne’s this includes the question - “When will we be able to gather in person to worship rather than have on-line worship?” But just like we keep being told by governments and medical experts that even when the restrictions are eased and things start to open up again we are going to be in a ‘new normal’ that will be someone different from what we’ve been doing prior to Covid-19 – so too will the ‘new normal’ for church be someone different than we’ve all been used to.
Last week Archbishop Melissa gathered all the priests who are in charge of a parish (Rector or Priest-in-Charge) for a Zoom meeting. While we can’t know when the province will ease the pandemic restrictions and start allowing gatherings again, what Archbishop Melissa has said is that even when that happens she will not allow parishes to gather in their buildings for worship again until ALL the parishes in the diocese are able to do so. In other words, she won’t allow some parishes to start gathering before the rest of the parishes. So even if a parish could technically gather because their service would have, say, less than 30 people attending (or whatever the cut-off number the health authorities determine is the maximum) and enough room in the building to practice physical distancing, the bishop still won’t allow them to do so until we, as a diocese, find a way to allow the parishes who’s normal attendance would be above that number to also gather. My best guess is that what will happen is that all parishes will move to gathering for worship with some combination of in person and on-line worship. And of course, even once we can again gather in person, if a ‘second wave’ of the pandemic hits we will need to return to only ‘on-line’ worship and meetings again. So…. I am expecting to continue offering worship using Zoom for the foreseeable future. And I’m also expecting that the Archbishop will, in the not too distant future, give permission for us to also start to gather in person in some restricted way. I’m hoping this partial return to in-person worship will happen sometime in June but only time will tell.
So…for the time being Zoom worship is the ‘new normal’ at St. Anne's. If you haven’t yet tried our Zoom worship on Sundays I encourage you to give it a try! And if you joined in the first week or two and didn’t like it -give it another try! We did have a ‘Zoombomber’ in week 2 who was quite distracting but he hasn’t been back and we now have things set up to be able to quickly deal with the situation should he or someone else should do it again. (Thanks to Perry, Noel and Gail for offering their help as co-hosts to deal with the technical side of things during worship) There has been a big learning curve involved in suddenly offering worship using an unfamiliar program and format with no time to plan for it. And so there were (not surprisingly) some initial ‘bobbles’. Even parliament with all their technical support and staff had problems when they had their first ‘Zoom’ gathering of parliament!
I have been pleased that many people have commented that they were surprised to find that worshipping on line with Zoom ‘feels’ like worship for them. And that the opportunity to gather together as a community -even just virtually – is helpful for them. So, while we might long to return to the way things were for us before Covid-19, it’s going to be quite a while before we can just return to the “way things were”. And so we need to find new ways to be ‘The Church’ together that allow us to continue to worship God, support one another and focus on our mission and ministry in this new time.
A couple of you have asked why I am not doing the Eucharistic prayer as part of our Sunday worship. When we suddenly moved to worshipping ‘on-line’ rather than together in the building I made the decision that we would use Zoom and continue with the service we would normally have done at the 10 am worship but with the Eucharist eliminated. Other churches in this diocese have made different decisions. For example, a number of churches have simply suspended worship for the duration and are not offering ‘on-line’ worship. Others, for example the Cathedral, are gathering a few necessary people and recording their worship and then sharing it on their website or on Facebook Live or other ways of making it available to watch. And some, like St. Anne’s, are using Zoom to virtually ‘gather’ the community to worship ‘live’ on Sunday morning.
The content of the various worship services also varies pretty widely. A few (for example our Cathedral) are including the Eucharistic Prayer – blessing a tiny amount of bread and wine which is then consumed by the priest. However, all the bishops in the rest of our ‘liturgical province’ (which is composed of the dioceses in BC and the Yukon) except our own have forbidden their clergy from doing ‘on-line’ Eucharist in any way. Our bishop has not, and is allowing the clergy in each parish to make their own decision on what to include during this unusual time.
The reason I am NOT including the Eucharistic Prayer in our worship is related to my reason for using Zoom rather than pre-taping the worship and ‘broadcasting’ it for people to watch (although the later does indeed allow for higher quality audio and video). I chose to use Zoom because it allows us to gather (virtually) as a community and to worship together. Of course, it is not the same as gathering in person! But it’s as close as I could come given the restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic. Our Readers and Intercessors can do their role from their homes, Rachel and Jonathan graciously come in to the church building with me and lead the music and (I hope!) you all sing along. We can all say the responses together (even if for practical reasons I need to mute everyone’s mikes so we don't get feedback and background noise).
And the reason I am not using the Eucharistic prayer in the service is that I believe that Eucharist is something we do TOGETHER as a community. From the time the Anglican Church broke away from Rome all those centuries ago, Anglican clergy have been forbidden from celebrating communion alone. We must have at least one other person present to form a ‘gathered community’. So, while technically I could celebrate Eucharist since I have 2 other people present, I think that is a technicality that breaks the spirit of what Eucharist is meant to be. So, I am not including Eucharist during this time of ‘on-line’ worship because I just can’t bring myself to do the Eucharistic Prayer and then just ‘show you’ the elements that I am unable to share with any of you (not even just in ‘one kind’).
If you wish to experience the Eucharist ‘virtually’ then I encourage you to go to the Cathedral’s website. https://thecathedral.ca/ There is a link on their website for their weekly Sunday worship that does include the Eucharistic Prayer. You could even watch their worship as well as participating in our own since the cathedral worship is taped and posted on their website for the next week! If you want to talk to me about this I'm happy to do so. Just give me a call.
Celebrating God's creation
Next Sunday - May 10 (also Mother’s Day!) we are going to celebrate Rogation Sunday. Rogation is the spring counterpart to Harvest Thanksgiving in the fall. Traditionally it was the time when all those who work the land, accompanied by the clergy and villagers, went out into the fields and byways to ask God’s blessing on the weather, the pastures, the seeds and growing crops, and the whole agricultural industry. Thus the farmer and the congregation acknowledged their total dependence on God. Now, of course, we can’t go bless any fields and crops – most of you will be sitting at home to participate in this worship. And indeed, so far as I know, no one at St. Anne’s even works in agriculture (but do let me know if I’m wrong!) But I think it’s still important (maybe even MORE important) in our time and place to celebrate God’s gifts in creation. And to give thanks for the abundant life of this planet! So our worship on May 10 will focus on creation and the blessings God gives us through this world.
Normally, I would invite you bring in seeds and bedding plants to be blessed but that might be hard to manage in the current circumstances. Although I will have some seeds and plants present that I will bless. The seeds will then be distributed to our children and youth to grow and the flowers put into the St. Anne’s garden.
And if you are wondering about the name of this day … this celebration was originally called “Rogation Sunday” because in Latin the first word in the Prayer Book gospel for the day was “Rogare’ which means ‘to ask’: "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give to you". So ‘rogation’ reminds us that we can trust in God’s goodness.
Rest in Peace
On a far less joyous note, long time parishioner John Weston died last week. He was a faithful participant in our worship right up to the end. Coming for years in his wheelchair with a caregiver to help him. There is no funeral planned at the moment due to the COVID-19 restrictions and we don’t know what the family's plans will be.
Rest eternal grant unto him O Lord
And let light perpetual shine upon him
-Rev. Roberta Fraser