Revised Plan for Indoor Worship Starting May 30by The Rev. Daniel P. Strandlund on May 27, 2021
It’s time to resume indoor worship! As you know, “Coronatide” is a shifting landscape, and so the decisions your BC and I made in April about pandemic precautions for indoor worship are no longer current. I’m writing with our revised plan for resuming indoor worship, which begins this Sunday. We plan to adhere to guidelines from the CDC and from our own diocese, adjusting as needed to best fit our specific context. This means that Sunday worship now involves fewer precautions for vaccinated persons. Here is what to expect:
- Masks: Fully vaccinated persons are no longer required to wear a mask indoors or on church grounds, though everyone may choose to do so. Masks are still encouraged and expected indoors for persons who are not fully vaccinated, including children ages 2+.
- Social Distancing: Fully vaccinated persons are no longer required to observe social distancing indoors or on church grounds, though many may choose to do so. (If you are wondering—yes, this means fully vaccinated persons can sit close enough to pass notes during the sermon.) Six feet of social distancing is still encouraged and expected for persons who are not fully vaccinated.
- Singing: While we will have instrumental music as part of indoor worship, St. Liz will not have congregational singing during Sunday worship. We will revisit this at a later date.
- Seating: For our initial move indoors, seating will be available in every other row. Seating is also now available in the narthex (lobby). The sound comes through in the lobby easily. You may also choose to sit outside or remain in your cars, where audio is available via radio at 89.3 FM.
- Nursery: The nursery will remain closed for the summer, as will other children’s programs.
- Communion: Clergy and lay eucharistic ministers will wear masks during the distribution of communion. Furthermore, we are resuming the use of wine at communion by way of intinction (dipping). Sipping directly from the common cup is not yet permitted, regardless of vaccination status. As is usually the case, if you would prefer not to receive wine, simply cross your arms over your chest when the chalice comes to you. We will come forward for communion; we will not remain at our seats, as we did when gathering outside. Communion traffic will move a bit more slowly and will be “one way,” with ushers helping to direct. Further instructions will be given in person.
- Vaccine Status: No St. Liz clergy, staff, or lay volunteer leader will require or otherwise inquire about your vaccine status before participating in any St. Liz activity.
- Live Stream: We will continue to live stream Sunday worship through usual channels. Our camera is now wall mounted, so tripod and lighting won’t disrupt anyone’s line of sight.
- Passing the Peace: Because social distancing is no longer required for vaccinated persons, there’s going to be hugging and shaking hands to the extent folks are comfortable. If you’d prefer not to make physical contact, I recommend holding up a peace sign for folks, or crossing your arms over your chest and bowing a little, as a way of participating that also signals you’d like to maintain physical distance.
- Timeframe: These changes go into effect this Sunday and remain in effect through Labor Day, with our making minor adjustments as needed. Your Bishop’s Committee and I plan to revisit these before the start of our usual program year. Summer worship is still at 10 am.
- Weather Updates: I’ll continue to text everyone weather updates on Saturday morning just because it’s fun and it’s important to know whether Sunday is an opportunity to wear those fun red galoshes you have. (Just kidding. We’re done with weather updates. Church is on, rain or shine!)
This is an exciting step as we continue our homeward journey as a congregation. Our approach has been slow and steady, focusing on making responsible incremental progress rather than taking too dramatic a step too early and risk having to undo progress. I think this has served us well and will continue to do so. But make no mistake, this Sunday is a big and happy step forward. I look forward to seeing you.
I’ve said before that we are now entering the most awkward part of the pandemic from a relational standpoint. Collectively, we are grateful and relieved to be making progress, but individually, we are not moving forward at the same pace. This is to be expected. While many folks are vaccinated, many are not—and many, particularly children, are currently unable to receive vaccines. Because this is true, resuming indoor worship means that it will be important for us to respect, trust, and communicate clearly with each other. It will be important that we not make assumptions about whom we can and cannot hug or with whom we can and cannot sit closely together.
Like I said, it’ll be awkward. Fortunately, Church is always kind of awkward: Holiness usually begins where the feeling of awkwardness begins. Right now, asking the obvious question, or saying the obvious thing, is probably a good idea: “Would you mind if we sat here, or would you prefer that we bump up to the next pew?” “I’m a hugger right now. Are you a hugger right now, or should we keep chatting from a few feet away?” “I’d love to hear more about how your year has been, but I’d like to take my mask off so let’s step outside to continue our conversation.” We’re all learning to be communal creatures again.
Finally, and particularly true for St. Liz, younger children and many older children are still unvaccinated. Many parents and other adults may choose to wear masks not primarily out of personal concern, but out of a sense of solidarity with them or to set a good example for them. Other adults will not choose to do so. Some families who have been largely absent from in-person worship will return, and some who have been present for in-person worship outdoors may choose to participate online from home for a while.
It’s all okay. We have different needs, and in this in-between time we’ll need to move at different speeds. That’s as it should be.
On the whole, however, this is a big step homeward, a great gift God is giving (back) to us. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
P.S. For the record, I am a hugger now, though out of respect for others’ boundaries, I likely won’t initiate. But after church, while we’re hanging around outside, I’d be happy to hug you back or shake your hand!