For many months now, we have been in the midst of a time in which there has been a single constant for us as a congregation: change. The pandemic has pushed us to become a nimble parish that is able to respond to the changing environment as it relates to the spread of COVID-19 in our local community. Early on in the pandemic, we had to learn how to do church completely online, and we had to learn how to do so in a way that continued to honor the ways that worship is an act of the whole body of Christ. It certainly was not perfect as we had things we needed to learn along the way. Through all of that, you stuck it out and helped us to learn and grow from week to week as we sought to glorify God in our prayers, in our songs, and in our gathering as the body of Christ in virtual spaces.
This week, we have seen the highest number of new COVID-19 cases since early July with over 4,000 new cases being reported on November 19. The climbing number of new cases asks us to think about how we love one another in the ways that we will worship together. More pointedly, we, as a community, are asking how we can continue in our worship whilst preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our parish and in the broader community. To that end, Church of the Epiphany is going to pivot our worship once more.
We will continue to have worship on Sundays, but we will be moving our worship outside for all worship services. With that in mind, it might be helpful for you to know what to expect for your worship service for this coming Sunday, which is outlined below. You will also find an explanation of the plans for our worship as we move forward from Advent I (November 29) and beyond.
Sunday November 22: 8:00AM Holy Eucharist, Rite II
The 8:00AM worship service will continue as it has for the last several weeks. We ask that you continue to bring your own chair with you for Sunday, November 22, 2020. You will notice a chalk grid in the courtyard that identifies 6’ spacing between chairs. We ask that you use this grid to space yourselves 6’ apart as we strive to protect each other.
Sunday November 22: 10:30 AM Choral Holy Eucharist, Rite II
The 10:30AM service will move to the courtyard beginning on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The current rise in COVID-19 cases prevents us from being able to host worship in our church building. Being in a shared air environment increase the risk of transmission in our parish, and we can decrease that risk by worshipping outside. Chairs will be setup in pairings that are spaced 6’ apart from the neighboring pairs. If your family is larger than two people, you may move chairs together as long as your grouping remains 6’ distant from the neighboring pairings.
If you worship primarily online, we invite you to join us on YouTube on Sunday morning. We will continue to stream this worship service on YouTube. We will strive to provide the best streaming worship possible as we make this change; it is possible that the audio quality decreases as we adjust our setup for online worship. Thank you in advance for your patience as we learn and grow in this new worship environment.
Sunday November 22: 5:30 PM Evening Prayer with Holy Eucharist, Rite II
The 5:30PM worship service will continue as it has for the last several weeks. We ask that you continue to bring your own chair with you for Sunday, November 22, 2020. You will notice a chalk grid in the courtyard that identifies 6’ spacing between chairs. We ask that you use this grid to space yourselves 6’ apart as we strive to protect each other.
Sunday, November 29, 2020 and Beyond
Thanks to the hard work of our parish re-entry task force, we have a team of parishioners who are volunteering to setup and breakdown chairs on Sunday morning and evening. The chairs will be setup for all of our services beginning on the First Sunday of Advent. If you are willing to serve as a chair volunteer for Sundays, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can include you in the schedule of chair volunteers.
We will continue to use a system of worship sign-ups and check-ins for our worship services. The sign-ups and check-ins help our parish have a reliable way of providing accurate contact tracing in the event that someone in our congregation tests positive for COVID-19 and recently attended a worship service.
It is likely to get rather cool as we move deeper into December. Please remember to dress appropriately for the weather according to the service you are attending. Being inside or moving our worship inside is not going to be a safe option for us while the COVID-19 cases continue to increase in our community.
Christmas worship services will likely be outside. In their last meeting, the vestry approved renting heaters for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day worship services. We hope that it will help us to have as welcoming an environment as possible for our worship services on that holy day.
“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:1b-2 NRSV
We are all experiencing some form of fatigue from this pandemic. We are all tired of constant change. In the verses above, St. Paul reminds us to set our pace so we can run the whole race before us with perseverance and with the same commitment and joy of our Savior Jesus Christ. We, like Christ, are invited to practice our faith in this time of strife and change with faithfulness, and we are invited to do so in a way that makes sense for each individual or family.
As we move forward, we will be entering the season of Advent, which is often understood as a season of preparation and of hope. I invite us all to hold on to the hope of our Savior Jesus Christ as we enter into that season. Advent is a season for us to find the hope that does not disappoint, and it is a season for us to take a slightly slower pace. Perhaps it is more important this year than in many a year that we take on this practice of being still and of listening for the ways that God encourages us in our faith.
We are a parish that is filled with joy and with love for each other and for God. Advent is a time for us to celebrate that joy and love; it is a time for us to draw closer to God even in the midst of this pandemic. Together, we will know the love of God as we wait in hope-filled longing for the coming of Christ.