The season of Easter is coming to an end and this Sunday we celebrate the 3rd of the great feast days of the Christian year – Pentecost. I’m sad that we are celebrating another festival still not able to gather together in person to worship. But – through the gift of our technology we are still able to worship together! So, I hope to see lots and lots of you at worship this week! Don’t forget to wear something ‘flame coloured’ (red, orange, yellow) to celebrate if you can. If you are able to safely light a candle in your personal worship space at home please think about doing that for our worship on Sunday. Those of you who get the emails with the order of service attached will also receive a Pentecost colouring sheet of Pentecost Flames you can colour and cut out (if you don’t get these emails from me and would like to just email me back and I’ll add you to my list). I invite you (adult and children together) to print it out and colour it to decorate your worship space!
Don't forget we are doing a 'Zoom Coffee Hour' after worship. The people who stayed to try it last week enjoyed the chance to talk to one another. I encourage everyone who is on a phone or has a microphone on their computer/tablet (so you can talk to people over Zoom) to stay and give it a try! We will be dividing everyone who stays after worship into groups of 5 (or less) so you can talk to one another. This will now become a regular feature of our Sunday worship!
Next Sunday (June 7) we celebrate Trinity Sunday. Most of the people who replied to my questions about whether you would prefer the on-line worship to remain as it is or include the eucharistic prayer indicated that you would prefer it be as it is. But there were a couple of people who wanted the inclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer. So next Sunday I will include the Eucharistic prayer (but only I will receive communion). This will probably be the only time I include Eucharist until we start Phase 3 (see below) of our phased system to return to in-person worship. So if you are someone who likes to see communion included in our on-line worship then make sure to join on June 7.
Just to let you know... Zoom has an update (to version 5 I think it is) and if you haven't updated before you try to use Zoom after this Saturday (the 30th) then it will make you update before you can join the 'meeting' (or worship service as the case may be). So I suggest you make sure your computer/mobile device version of Zoom is updated before you try to join worship on Sunday. My Windows computer did an automatic update but my iPad is not set to do automatic updates so I had to do that manually. If you aren't sure if your device will be updated I suggest you join the 'meeting' early on Sunday so there is time for it to do the update if needed before worship starts.
Last week Archbishop Melissa released the plan for the ‘phases’ of restarting in-person worship in this diocese. It’s been divided into 4 Phases. The document is 26 pages long and below is a summary of the highlights. If you want to see the whole document you can find it on the diocesan website.
While the Phases are laid out as if they are a ‘linear’ progression, Archbishop Melissa emphasised we might need to ‘regress’ to a previous phase if the second wave (or third or whatever) of the pandemic results in increased restrictions again. At the moment, the parish leadership and I are trying to figure out how we can move into Phase 2 (and then 3 once that’s available).
This phased approach to re-starting in person worship has been designed with an abundance of caution since gatherings like church services have the potential to become ‘super-spreader’ events if someone who has the virus attends and can potentially then pass it on to lots of other people. Some of you will still not feel safe returning during the pandemic regardless of the precautions taken. And others of you will feel it is ‘too much’ and over the top. Our goal is always to keep our most vulnerable safe while still finding ways to ‘be Church’ together. I will be sending out a short survey to everyone to try to get a sense of how many people might want to return to in-person worship in the short term and how many of you will probably stay worshipping on-line or on your own for the time being.
We are currently in “Phase 1” with only on-line worship allowed. The building is ‘closed’ to any gathering for worship, meetings etc and also closed to tenants/ user groups (with limited exceptions). We are now at the point where we can choose to move to Phase 2 as of mid-June or stay with on-line only for the time being.
Before we are allowed to start Phase 2 – the start of limited in-person worship – we need to make a detailed plan for how we are going to handle the various elements involved and submit it to the diocese to review and approve. And before we restart any kind of gathering for worship the building has to be thoroughly cleaned and all non-essential ‘items’ removed and put away to reduce the number of ways that the virus can be accidentally transmitted.
Phase 2 includes strict physical distancing: everyone present in the building for worship or any other reason must stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone else not in their own household. That means seating in the church has to be ‘roped off’ to allow seating of people/families to be at least 6 feet apart, no touching of any kind or passing anything hand to hand (eg no passing of the offertory plates), no fellowship time (people must leave immediately after worship is over) etc. In addition, we are not allowed to sing together or play wind instruments. In person gatherings of children like Sunday school or nursery are not allowed. No in-person meetings, bible studies, fellowship groups etc. and all gatherings must remain on-line only. And, of course, we must have extra cleaning and sanitizing in place. We are also required by Provincial guidelines to allow our gatherings to be no more than 50 people maximum (that number includes the priest, music director etc) or however many we can fit in with the physical distancing in place - whichever is LESS. ). Phase 2 does not allow eucharist to be celebrated at all unless there is a separate on-line only service for it. And pastoral visiting in person is not allowed.
The diocese also recommends (but doesn’t mandate) closing the washrooms (except for emergency use), everyone attending wear a mask, we ask people to sign up in advance to come to worship and keep a log of every person who comes (so it can be used for contract tracing in case someone does come down with Covid19 -which has already happened in some churches in the US that reopened even with strict physical distancing etc), keeping all the doors and windows open for increased ventilation or holding worship outdoors and other similar measures.
At some point (the bishop has no idea when) the bishop will allow parishes to move to Phase 3 which keeps most of the restrictions like the distancing, no touch, no singing, etc. etc. but allows for communion to be celebrated, with the bread (only) to be distributed to those present with the priest (only) distributing the bread while wearing a mask. On-line worship will also continue for those not able or willing to come.
In Phase 3 we can also start some limited meetings and fellowship (like coffee hour) with limited numbers and distancing restrictions (and masks are recommended). Tracking who attends each week for contract tracing and asking people to sign up to come to enable us to restrict attendance is still encouraged. In Phase 3 we would be allowed to start some limited in-person pastoral care in the church building (with distancing in place) but home visits are still forbidden. Sunday school and youth gatherings are allowed with physical distancing and sanitizing protocols in place.
Phase 4 starts once the pandemic is over (when there is a vaccine or a viable treatment in place) so I don’t expect it to start until at least next year some time. This phase allows the church to return to communion in both kinds with the congregation allowed to again receive wine as well as bread (but dipping the wafer is permanently banned) , congregational singing, physically touching one another, Sunday School gatherings etc again allowed to proceed as we normally would. Basically, a return to what we were used to with some ongoing restrictions (like no dipping into the wine) and also a continuation of ‘lessons learned, like more cleaning, continuing to offer some things on-line as well as in person and so forth.
Forward Day by Day booklets: Some of you normally pick up the Forward Day by Day devotions booklets as part of your own daily practice. The May/June/July booklets are here but, of course, you aren’t! It would be a shame to let them sit here if they could be used. If you would like one, please let me know and I’ll happily put one in the mail for you.
Radish Seeds: I still have 2 more little packets of radish seeds. If anyone has a place in their garden to plant them please let me know.