An Update on Worship for November

For the month of November, we will continue to live stream our worship services each Sunday morning at 10am.  Additionally, we will have outdoor, in-person worship services at 10am on the following Sundays:
 
                        November 1 (Feast of All Saints)
                        November 15 (Stewardship in-gathering)
                        November 29 (Advent 1)
 
We plan to celebrate Holy Eucharist on these Sundays and are committed to going above and beyond to ensure that everyone, at home and in-person, is able to participate as fully as possible.  The Sundays of November 8 and 22 will be Morning Prayer (what we’ve been doing), which is more fitting for an online-only format.
 
A letter went out this week with more info on what our focused financial stewardship season will be like this fall, and more info on the Feast of All Saints on Nov 1 is in this article below.  For now, I want to remind us of why we’re proceeding with worship as we are.  (If you’re not concerned about that, just scroll down to the All Saints details!)
 
My primary concern has been and continues to be the holistic well-being of our congregation.  Unfortunately, in a pandemic, this involves attending extra carefully to our physical safety.  It remains the case that the coronavirus is dangerous; it remains the case that we can be harmful to each other by way of transmission; it remains the case that wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and keeping church outside as much as possible are best practices to keep us physically safe.  Our bodies are sacred, made in God’s image, and I intend for us to continue treating them with the care they deserve.
 
It is also true that we are not only our physical bodies.  Our hearts and minds need care, too.  Each of us is more than a potential transmitter of a virus.  To this end we continue to make worship available online and to provide opportunities for prayer, fellowship, and the reading of scripture via Zoom (as admittedly unsatisfying as that platform can be).  I’m also trying to write things that are timely and interesting in these newsletters.
 
We have also begun gathering for in-person services outside.  While it was hot out, we gathered early.  But this past Sunday God gave us some beautiful weather, and we gathered at a more reasonable time.  Because this outdoor, in-person service went so well, your Bishop’s Committee and I have decided we should gather outdoors more often than we have been doing.  Thus, our every other week schedule in November.  Fall tends to be pleasant around here, so let’s enjoy it.  (Again, weather updates are best communicated via text.  Tet STLIZ to 71441 to subscribe!)  The two-week window also gives us plenty of time to make adjustments to worship and technology, as well as giving a healthy buffer in regards to the potential need for contact tracing.
 
There were 50-55 people physically present this past Sunday, most in the open air but some in cars.  Some of those folks would’ve shown up regardless of how we were gathering.  But others were there precisely because we were outside rather than inside, or because they were able to remain in their cars, or because they’re able to trust that their brothers and sisters in Christ will respect their need for bodily space and our collective need to wear masks.  During a time as anxious as this, these precautious, as onerous as they feel to some of us, are not only ways of maintaining physical safety, but are also ways of caring for each other’s hearts and minds.  There is no ‘zero risk’ option right now, and some of us are more vulnerable than others.  We need to be safe and also feel safe.  Being outside and distant and masked greatly address all these.  Additionally, it is not possible to get that many people safely inside our worship space right now.  Outside just addresses a lot of concerns.
 
Many of you may be wondering what we’ll do in December, or when it gets cold.  The honest answer is that we don’t know yet.  We are trying to take the steps that we can, when we can.  We will revisit this at our next BC meeting on Monday, November 23 at 7pm via Zoom.
 
Something I have learned from my colleagues across the diocese is that the single hardest thing churches have experienced collectively is reopening and then having to close down again, which was a painfully common experience this summer.  Your leadership and I intend to spare us that if we can.  Rather than trying to take one major step forward which we may have to un-take, it has seemed wise to me and to your Bishop’s Committee to take incremental steps in a homeward direction.  This remains the case. 
 
If you would like to talk more, either with me or with members of your BC, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Thank you for your continued flexibility and patience, with each other and with me, as we navigate the wilderness.  Now, on to All Saints.
 
Info for All Saints, Nov 1:
 
A lot of details here, so bear with me.
 
Communion: While we will have a ritual amount of wine for use on the altar, we will receive communion in one kind only: bread.  We’ll be observing extra precautions for on-site persons.  Folks on-site may receive communion without leaving their cars.  Folks on-site may also elect not to receive, as would be an option on a regular Sunday. 
 
If you plan to participate via live stream at home, there are two options: you are welcome simply to watch and listen to the service without receiving bread.  A second option is for you to come to the church beforehand to pick up consecrated communion bread.  This way you will have it ready to break and eat at the appropriate time as you watch the live stream.
 
If you plan to participate from home, consecrated communion bread will be available for you to pick up at the church from 9am-noon on Saturday, Oct 31 or from 8:15am-9:30am on Sunday, Nov 1. 
 
If you are unable to drive and need communion bread brought to you beforehand so that you can participate, please email me at danielstelizabeth@gmail.com and I will arrange for someone to bring you bread in the days before.
 
It is not considered a sacrament of the Church, and is not permitted by our Bishop as a means of participation in worship, for you to substitute unconsecrated bread from home and simply eat it during communion.
 
All Saints Crosses: It is our custom on All Saints to celebrate the wider communion of saints, including our deceased loved ones, by decorating a cross in their honor and presenting it before the high altar  We will do that again this year, albeit a bit differently.
 
After worship on Sunday, November 1, each household who desires will be able to enter the sanctuary and place a cross before the altar.  We will wear masks, and households will enter one at a time for a few moments of prayer together.  The altar will be set for All Saints, with fresh flowers, candles, and Wanda’s music playing in the background.  We’ll have ushers helping to direct traffic.  This will take as long as it needs to take.
 
Many of you have made crosses in honor of loved ones in years past.  You are welcome to bring one of those with you on November 1.  If you would like to make a new one, crosses are available in a basket on the church porch.  Decorate it however you wish and include your loved one’s name. 
 
God’s Peace,
 
 
Fr. Daniel+