by The Rev. Daniel P Strandlund | May 21, 2020As many of you know, Bishop Reed’s formal suspension of public worship for the whole diocese expires at the end of Sunday, May 24th. Some of you have reached out to ask about what’s next. I want to say a little about what you can expect, particularly about a congregation-wide survey that will go out this weekend. I’ll address this first.
As many of you also know, Lucy graduated from seminary this week, and we’re moving to San Marcos soon! Several of you have reached out with your congratulations (thank you!) and have asked about our move date, her ordination, etc. I want to say a little about that, too. I’ll address this second.
Next Steps for St. Liz
The suspension of public worship for the diocese expires after May 24th. This is permission to resume while abiding by extensive guidelines; it is not a mandate that congregations resume in-person worship. You can find Bishop Reed’s most recent communication here.
Because resuming public worship will not be a simple return to how we worshipped together before the pandemic, there’s work to be done and a lot of variables to consider. For the safety of our community, and for our loved ones at home, when we do resume public worship, we will abide by the extensive guidelines linked above. Please read them; they are covered in pages 5-9 of the document linked above. Social distancing, masks, no nursery or children’s chapel, no choir sitting together and singing—these are difficult but necessary and non-negotiable pieces of what public worship will be like for a time once we resume.
How is St. Liz getting ready to resume public worship? First and foremost, your Bishop’s Committee and I want to hear from you. To that end, I ask that your household complete a simple survey that will go out this weekend as its own email. We need to know if and how many St. Liz folks are ready to resume public worship, and what your concerns are. This is pastorally and practically important. For example, if we have tons of responses of folks saying they’re ready to return to worship on our physical campus, we need to make sure everyone can fit in our space while also remaining socially distant. Will we need one service? Two? Three? A rotating schedule? We just don’t know yet. If no one says they’re ready, then there’s no sense doing work we don’t need to do. Please complete one survey per household.
Second, if we’re going to worship on-site, we need to identify our volunteer pool. Who is comfortable being onsite, cleaning and sanitizing before and after, helping make sure folks are socially distant, wearing masks, etc.? St. Liz runs on Holy Spirit and volunteers. We’ve still got tons of Spirit, but this requires a new volunteer pool. Please reach out to Wanda at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re able and willing to serve. To the few of you who have already, thank you.
Third, we will continue to be guided by data as much as possible. We will continue to be guided by our bishop and diocesan staff, as well, in addition to local and state authorities. (This means our reopen will likely move more slowly than Texas broadly). As I said in a video a couple weeks ago, a two week window of continued decline of COVID-19 cases is a significant and much hoped for indicator. On Wednesday, May 6th, for example, we saw a bit of a spike in Hays County with twelve new cases reported. In the days following, that number dropped fairly consistently, but this week they’ve gone up again. Per the data linked above: fourteen new cases on Monday of this week, and another twelve on Wednesday. In my mind, when a spike like that happens, the two-week clock resets.
I say that to remind us that we’re not out of the woods, and that all the plans we’re making right now are necessarily contingent on external forces. For example, when the survey goes out, you will notice that one question asks if your household would be comfortable attending worship on-site on June 7th. That’s not an official start date; it’s just the soonest date which seems to me to be practical given the work we need to do. (Volunteers, a Sunday morning plan, internet upgrade, troubleshoot technical issues, etc.) It could be later for any number of reasons, including a spike in the spread of the coronavirus.
I wish this were not true but it is, and I love you too much to pretend otherwise. My primary concern is the same as it always is: that we remain faithful to our call to love God and our neighbors. Right now, loving our neighbors can actually mean remaining apart. In regards to our physical well-being, if all that was at stake was our health as individuals, deciding when and how to reopen would be a simpler task. Let folks self-select knowing the dangers of gathering, etc. But this is not only about our individual well-being, but the well-being of everyone with whom we come into contact. Unless I am very much mistaken, it remains true that I could be a carrier, either pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, and spread the virus for days without knowing it. It remains true that my physical presence could be dangerous to others, including people I love. So, for now, we continue to remain apart.
In the meantime, continue to pray for each other, for me, and for our community. Read the guidelines linked above to get a sense of what is required of us to be safe when we begin to reopen. And maybe cut yourself some slack when you start to feel guilty about all the ice cream you’ve been eating!
Next Steps for Lucy and Me
Lucy graduated from seminary this week! We did our best to celebrate the occasion within the confines of our apartment. As I think I’ve mentioned, we’ve watched a great deal of Great British Baking Show over the past couple months, and so we celebrated by having Lucy’s Great British Graduation. (If you’re not familiar with the show, please indulge me for this next bit as it’s largely frivolous.)
I don’t cook much, so this was all very intimidating. But it was fun. For each baking treat we had the show’s theme song playing and a ‘gingham altar’ and everything. On Monday, for our Signature Challenge I made classic American blueberry pancakes from scratch, which went pretty well. On Tuesday, we had the dreaded Technical Challenge: Mary Berry’s classic Victoria Sandwich. This one was so intimidating I asked Wanda to do it ahead of time, and it was amazing. (Star baker material!) Wednesday morning was Lucy’s actual graduation, and I had planned to make homemade blueberry scones for breakfast as our Showstopper Challenge. The scones, however, were just awful; they ended up in the trash can; and Lucy watched her graduation service on an empty stomach. “It’s a shame,” as Paul Hollywood would say. Hopefully, it was the thought that counted. (We had Franklin’s bbq for lunch that day, so it turned out alright.)
What’s next? We get the keys to our new place in San Marcos on May 29th, and the movers come on May 30th. We’re looking forward to settling in and exploring our new neighborhood. Lucy’s ordination to the diaconate will be in Montgomery, AL on Saturday, June 13th. The service will be much smaller than we’d like, and will lack almost all of the music Lucy picked, but we’re excited about it nonetheless and our families will be able to attend. I believe it will be live-streamed, so I’ll make sure you have the info when it’s available.
Lucy starts officially at St. John’s in New Braunfels on July 1st!