What’s Next for Worship

by The Rev. Daniel P Strandlund on September 24, 2020
Our next in-person, outdoor services will be the Sundays of October 18th and November 1st (the Feast of All Saints).  I promise that neither of these outdoor, in-person services will be at 7:30am!  As per usual, masks and social distancing are required.  In the meantime, we will continue to live stream services at 10am every Sunday, including those just mentioned. 
 
Final details will be communicated in coming weeks, but below is an outline of what we hope to do—and I say hope not only because things can change with the pandemic (or weather), but also because these ideas present new issues for us to solve.  Having named those caveats, here’s what we hope to try:
 
Sunday, October 18th:  An outdoor, in-person Morning Prayer service at 10am in the front porch and yard area of the main church building.  Not only does this bring us physically closer to our actual worship space, but the easier, stronger internet access allows us to live stream the outdoor service itself.  Thus, folks physically present and folks at home could participate together.  Plus, it’ll be nice for live streamers to see everyone’s faces.  (Or at least the top halves of everyone’s faces!)  This would also let us try this venue out before the more involved All Saints service on Nov 1. (See below.)
 
While this adds much to our current worship experience, it does present three new challenges: first is sound, since being outside adds a lot of ambient noise to microphones.  We’ve started troubleshooting this already.  Second is the potentially increased distance between the visual focal point of worship and folks sitting in their cars and listening via radio.  We may make it possible for folks to park on the grass, or move the visual vocal point a good ways down the main sidewalk to be closer to cars parked on Tilley.  Finally, whereas the Mission Hall has a sizable porch, there’s no real back-up rain plan at the main building.  If the weather is bad that morning, we’ll just have to call it off for that Sunday.  Reminder: if you don’t get our text messages, text “STLIZ” to 71441.  It’s the best way for us to communicate last second weather updates.
 
Sunday, November 1st, Feast of All Saints:  An outdoor, in-person service of Holy Eucharist at 10am in the front porch and yard area of the main church building, which we will also live stream.  This is dependent upon our successfully navigating the ‘front porch’ challenges above.  The basic communion idea is this: each household who desires, both those physically present and those at home, will receive a consecrated priest host (one of the big wafers) and will break that into as many pieces as is needed.  We will have a ritual amount of wine for use on the altar but will not share the cup.  Since Christ is not divided, all the benefits of communion are received even when we take only bread and not the wine.
 
For folks who plan to participate online from home, consecrated communion bread will be made available ahead of time to pick-up within a designated timeframe.  (For those who cannot drive, we will deliver.)  Home-participants will watch the live stream, and when it’s time to break and consume the bread, they will do so at home. 
 
For folks who are physically present, each household will receive enough bread to share wherever they are seated, on the lawn or in cars.  We’re still working out the details of distribution, but there will not be a communion line.  We’ll remain spread out in cars and on the lawn.  I will observe additional precautions—hand sanitizer, covering the bread, etc.—for altar work and distribution.  And just as we would on a regular Sunday, if your household prefers not to receive, just cross your arms over your chest for a (distanced) blessing.  Finally, we are still discerning appropriate ways to celebrate and mark the Feast of All Saints as a principal feast of the Church year.  Stay tuned.
 
Again, all of the above is contingent upon a number of factors.  But I am hopeful and confident that God will continue to lead us through this wilderness time, sustaining us with His daily bread.  Even if the front porch venue proves untenable, we will still hold outdoor, in-person services on Oct 18 and Nov 1.
 
For my part, my primary concern continues to be the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of our congregation.  It seems to me that slowly, steadily adding in-person worship opportunities honors the realities of pandemic risk with which we still live, while also honoring our spiritual and emotional needs to gather, which so many of us feel keenly. 
 
I still remember the exhaustion of the spring and early summer, when again and again we got our hopes up for a potential end to precautions only to have those hopes dashed.  To the extent that I am able, I intend to prevent our experiencing that kind of disappointment.  Thus, adding responsible, outdoor opportunities to gather as ‘special occasions’ to what is otherwise a default practice of remaining distant seems to me to be more sustainable than prematurely trying to return to weekly in-person worship, given the unpredictable realities with which we live.  Lastly, many of our congregants continue to feel uncomfortable gathering in person, and I am wary of moving us too far, too quickly without all of us.
 
I remain grateful for your flexibility, your prayers, and your mutual love and support of each other as we continue the long sojourn of Coronatide.  If you have concerns or questions about any of the foregoing, I welcome the opportunity to talk more.
 
God’s Peace,
 
 
Daniel+
 
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