July 12, 2020, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
May the God of Israel and the God of Jacob and the God of Jesus comfort, lead and raise us to our highest calling.
As you have read and probably heard, St. John’s is aiming to gather for in-person worship again on Saturday, August 1 at 5 p.m. Your leadership teams have deliberated and studied and prayed about when and how this could take place. We have set this date because we believe this gives us enough time to prepare ourselves to meet the challenges established by the Diocese and by governmental agencies for gathering for worship. One way to make this safer is to celebrate the service outdoors where the air will be fresh and naturally circulated.
Thank you to those who responded to the surveys with great enthusiasm and willingness. Thank you as well, to those who expressed concern for us all as the numbers of COVID-19 cases in Orange County are increasing. It is not for everyone to attend this service, nor do we have sufficient space to welcome all. There are, however, some critical statements that the Task Force wants you to understand:
We will continue to use ZOOM for our daily prayer services, even on Saturdays and Sundays.
Not all people MAY come to the gathering on August 1 (and thereafter). If you are symptomatic of any illness (increased temperature, coughing, breathing problems, etc.), we humbly suggest you wait until you are strong enough to join us. You are under no pressure to attend if you are not prepared to do so at this time. If the circumstances or the Diocese dictate, we will cancel these services and return solely to online worship services.
Here, then, are some of the other requirements for us returning to in-person worship:
• Reservations are required. (The database system the church uses – CDM+ – has the capacity to handle this for us.) We are limited by space and by regulation for how many can come, and are required to keep names of anyone who comes for in-person worship for ‘contact tracing’ purposes. We will send you the link for making a reservation in the coming days. (You will also be able to call in a reservation, if you prefer.)
• The reservations will be granted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
• The service will take place outdoors around the fountain in the courtyard.
• You will be required to bring you own chair and your own mask. If you don’t have access to a mask, we will have a few to help out.
• Please consider bringing your tablet or phone to use as your service bulletin. You may also choose to print a bulletin at home for yourself and bring it with you. Though we will have a few printed copies of the bulletin, it reduces contact and closeness if someone does not have to hand a bulletin to you.
• Maintaining proper social distancing will be asked of you as soon as you arrive. We will ask you to honor the “no-touch” and the six-foot rule for anyone who is not in your family or who has not been living in your home for the preceding 14 days.
• There will be two ways to enter the courtyard; one from the back parking lot and one from the front parking lot.
• There will be health screening (no-touch thermometers) and health question that you will be asked before entry. If you do not meet the requirements, we will ask if you wish for prayer, we will give you any referrals at our disposal and ask you to return when you are below the thresholds.
• If necessary, only the restroom in the gymnasium will be available.
• Concrete squares in the courtyard will be clearly marked for seating and seating may take place only in those identified squares.
• There will be no singing, but there will likely be some music.
• This one will be easy for Episcopalians: Shouts of “Alleluia” will have to remain at the level of moderate whispers!
• Only Eucharistic Bread will be served – and we will wait until the end of the service to distribute it.
• Rev. Karen and I will be screened regularly for COVID-19 since we will be having contact with more people than most others.
• There will be many stations for hand-sanitizer available, and you will be encouraged to make liberal use of them.
• Children must stay with their grown-ups in their designated squares, and will not be permitted to play on the playground equipment.
You can see the number of hurdles that are required if we are to finish this race as victors — and there is yet more to be revealed! I will send another email next week with the reservation information and the full requirements for participation.
One of the reasons we are waiting until August 1 is that I am going on a little vacation next week, and it is clearly not right to leave this for others to enact in my absence. For part of my absence, I will be in a monastery in Big Sur for some spiritual refreshment, where cell phones and internet are not available. Rev. Karen will be available as always to receive your calls or emails, if you need specific pastoral guidance.
If you haven’t been able to join us for daily prayer, this is the week to try it out! Beginning Thursday, the morning and evening prayer services will be alternately led by Rev. Karen and by volunteers from the congregation! It is one more way that Episcopalians exercise their rights as leaders whether ordained or not.
While we observe the shelter-in-place guidelines, St. John’s is worshiping online via ZOOM:
• Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we pray Morning Prayer at 9 a.m.
• Nighttime Prayer is prayed on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
• Bible Fellowship (open to all) ZOOMs on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m.
To ensure participants’ online security, we don’t publish ZOOM links; if you did not receive the church-wide email from me and/or Rev. Karen with the links, and would like to attend services, please email Rev. Karen and she’ll add you to the e-blast, and send you the links: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve posted all Zoom services since mid-March under the “Miss a Service?” button on the website’s home page. Search for a service you missed and get caught up. Go have a look.
I look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow morning at our 9 a.m. Morning Prayer service when Rev. Karen will offer her reflections on “Seeds that Fall on Good Soil.” It promises to be life-changing!