Dear Friends in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. I am writing to you on behalf of our Vestry in response to new developments within the State of Arizona as it relates to the COVID-19 restrictions. On March 25, 2021 Governor Doug Ducey announced the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions across the state, and I am writing to remind you of the practices at Church of the Epiphany-Tempe and what you can expect in the weeks to come.
As a parish within The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Arizona, our parish is subject to the authority of our church canons and our bishop. In accordance with that, the vestry deliberated what the best course of action would be for our parish as we move forward and as vaccinations rates continue to increase in our community. At the center of the discussion was the question of what is best for us to do to maintain the safety of our parish and to remain within the guidelines issued by our Bishop in the last several weeks.
Masks and Social Distancing
Church of the Epiphany-Tempe will continue to require masks for attending worship. Face shields are not the same as masks, and while none of us enjoy wearing masks, we will continue to do so until we receive word from our Bishop that masks are no longer necessary for the safety and well-being of all of our parishioners.
Along with masks, we will continue to honor social distancing within our worship services and on our campus. Thank you for continuing to honor the practices of our parish while attending worship or visiting our community.
Online Worship Sign-up
Since we began offering in-person worship after a period of online only worship, we have asked folks to sign-up online for the worship services you wish to attend. We will continue this practice at least through Easter Day. We have increased capacity for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter Day. There is enough space for everyone to attend Holy Week and Easter Worship services at Epiphany – in-person or online!
Beginning on April 11, 2021, we will relax the requirement to sign-up online to attend worship services.
For the time being, we will continue the process of asking you to check-in with our greeters when you arrive for worship. We are doing this so we are able to have a contact tracing list, and it helps us keep track of attendance for any given worship service! It may be a practice that our community will want to continue well past the pandemic, but for the moment, we are continuing to do it because the threat of the pandemic is not gone.
I have heard from many of you asking when we will be taking our worship back inside our church building. At this point in time, we will continue to worship outside; however, I am also aware that we will have to move indoors as the weather continues to warm.
For our early worship service, we will be moving inside the church building beginning the Sunday after Easter.
For our 10:30AM services, the Vestry has set a benchmark for us to follow to determine when it is necessary for us to move worship back inside: a mid-morning temperature that is approaching 85 degrees. When we hit that benchmark, we will move all worship inside. When we do move all worship inside, we will continue to follow the guidelines from the Bishop regarding congregational and choir singing inside a building.
Until the Bishop provides us with guidance relaxing social distancing requirements, we will continue to honor social distancing in our worship spaces – whether they are inside or outside. When we do need to move inside, we will continue offering a capacity of 100 people per service. Half of the seats will be in the church and the other half in the parish hall.
On Sunday, we will begin a walk with our Savior through a time of trial. We will sing hosannas when he enters Jerusalem, and we will weep with the women at the foot of the cross. We will enter into the practice of foot washing, and we will shout “Crucify him!” as part of the crowd that nails him to the cross.
Holy Week is the holiest time of year, and we are invited to honor that week in the ways that we continue to practice wearing masks and social distancing. I invite you to join us in the holy walk of this week and to know the passion of our Savior intimately.
Through all of this – Holy Week and continuing to use COVID-19 precautions – we are walking towards a new dawn, a new day, and the brightness of the resurrection. Join us on this holy walk, and let us share the Good News with all whom we know.
The Rev. Hunter Ruffin, Rector