When will we reopen for worship?
Some of us are itching to get back together for in person worship. Others of us are staying home and are concerned with a higher risk status (and the news of increases in the virus in States that are reopening). From a number of them I've been asked for reassurance that livestream worship will be continuing to meet their needs throughout the summer and into the fall.
As you know, we entered the Diocesan 'Phase 2' protocols at the beginning of this week. This means that groups under 25 people can meet together with social distancing, masks, no singing and with the reminder that people in high risk categories should keep themselves away from the risk that inevitably comes with in person gathering even with all these protocols in place. Some smaller churches in the Diocese have started in person worship with the 25 person limit. So people reserve seats on a lottery system or first-come-first-served system. Most churches in the Diocese do not yet have in person worship. The vestry decided that we wanted to wait until we were allowed more people than 25 together before we started in person worship. When will that be?
The Diocese is being cautious. So our phase 2 protocols started a couple of weeks after the counties entered the 'yellow phase'. The bishop has said clearly that we will not be entering 'phase 3' when the county goes 'green' this Friday. Working in conjunction with State and Local health officials and in discussion with a number of Diocesan leadership groups, the concern is first and foremost for safety. The Diocese is concerned that economic and political pressure has led the governor to open up earlier than his health officials would have wanted and before they regard large gatherings as carrying a tolerable risk. The indication is that we will not enter 'phase 3' until mid to late July at the earliest.
We do not yet know what the 'phase 3' protocols will consist of. The Diocese is working on those protocols and hopes to distribute them by the end of next week. When we have those, the vestry and I will be better placed to work out what church will need to look like in terms of conforming to those protocols once we enter that phase. The expectation is that we will be in 'phase 3' until a vaccine is readily available at which point restrictions will be mostly or entirely removed.
Throughout 'phase 3' we anticipate that there will be a number of people in higher risk groups who will continue to stay at home. For this reason we have invested in good quality livestream equipment. Services will continue to be livestreamed for the indefinite future even as we gather people back in church.
I know that this letter will reassure some of you and frustrate others who would wish things were moving faster.
Can I ask you to continue in relationship with your brothers and sisters in our church family and to continue in prayer and in relationship with your heavenly Father day by day. Make the most of each day to love God and love your neighbors as best as God enables you.
With love and prayers to each one,