Resuming In-Person Worship

Resuming In-Person Worship

A Letter from our Rector

Dear Friends,

After careful planning and prayerful deliberation, I am pleased to announce that we will resume in-person Sunday worship at St. Peter’s on August 2, 2020.  We have been and will continue to follow the guidelines from the Diocese of Maine, Governor Mills, and the Maine Centers for Disease Control (CDC) during the pandemic. In this pastoral letter, I want to give you a sense of  how we can resume worship safely and what to expect.

The Covid-19 virus, as most of us now understand, is principally passed from person to person through the air via our breath – through speaking, coughing, laughing, and singing, especially in enclosed quarters. Wearing a mask, maintaining a six foot social distance, ensuring good air exchange, washing hands regularly, and sanitizing surfaces all go a long way towards reducing the likelihood of contagion. Can we bring these important practices to our worship? We believe we can, but worship will look and feel different as we apply these important criteria to our context at St. Peter’s.

Social distancing means that we can safely accommodate no more than 30 persons in our sanctuary at any one time. To increase the likelihood of accommodating everyone (and guests) without having to require reservations, we are increasing the number of services:

  • 8:00 AM spoken service
  • 10:30 AM service with instrumental music and chant
  • 5:30 PM Celtic service with instrumental music and chant

In the unlikely event that you should be the 31st person to arrive, please know that you will be invited to come back for another service. Past practice suggests we will sort ourselves out over the three services, but I want to give good notice.

All services will offer Holy Communion but will require that worshipers bring their own bread and wine/grape juice and consume them at your place in the pews – a kind of indoor picnic-style Eucharist.

The entrances, bathrooms, elevator, and sanctuary will have been cleaned, sanitized, and air flow exchanged to prepare our space before each service. That’s what we will do to prepare our space.

What can you do to prepare yourself for worship at St. Peter’s? Here’s your check list:

  • Only come for worship if you are well. If you are immuno-compromised, please use your best judgment and even check with your doctor to decide if it is advisable for you to come to worship. Everyone, though, should stay home if you have sniffles, cough, or obvious fever. Let your body heal until you are well again.
  • Keep 6’ social distance while on St. Peter’s grounds.
  • Wear a mask. No one will be admitted without one.
  • BYOC: bring your own communion (bread and wine). You can bring whatever you like but you’ll want to consume it all, so plan accordingly. I should think a cracker and a small travel-size container of wine with a drop of water added would be perfect.
  • Enter at the flagpole entrance. Only one door will be available for entrance on Sundays.
  • Prepare to sit in specially marked areas. It may not be your familiar pew. Dog owners may continue to bring their pets to church.

 Here’s what to expect:

  • You will be greeted warmly but at a 6’ social distance.
  • An usher will check off your name if you worship with us regularly. Guests will be asked for their name and phone number. We need this information for contact tracing. Please be gracious with the ushers who may momentarily forget your name and need reminding. This process will take time, so plan to arrive early.
  • We ask that you use hand sanitizer on entering the space. We will provide this.
  • As you enter the sanctuary, there will be a stack of bulletins and a basket for your offering. Please take a bulletin and leave your offering in the basket. (It will not be passed during the service.)
  • You will be directed to a pew. We will be sitting two persons per every other pew, with some seating available in the Columbarium area. The pews will be marked, and we ask that you sit in the marked spot – one person per mark. This ensures social distancing even for someone walking the aisle. If couples must sit together for pastoral reasons, please choose the foremost pew.
  • You will see that all books and tissues have been removed from the pews. The bulletin contains the full service.
  • There will be no congregational singing at any service.
  • The order/shape of our morning services will be changed to an ante-communion from Morning Prayer followed by Eucharist. I will write again about the advantages of this particular liturgical choice, but, for now, I just want to give you a heads up that we will not simply be returning to the familiar Rite I or II Eucharist services. Celtic Service worshipers will find their service largely unchanged.
  • At the conclusion of the service you will be asked to leave – using any door but keeping 6’ social distance and either retaining or depositing your bulletin in the bin provided. They cannot be reused. You may choose to use hand sanitizer on the way out.
  • There will be no coffee hour.

These lists should make it clear that we are not simply going “back to normal” at St. Peter’s. It is not normal now. The pandemic is still with us. Our Lord’s command to love one another still means we will work to lessen the chance of the spread of the corona virus, including, when necessary, sheltering in place. So, although we are resuming in-person worship, St. Peter’s is not “open”. Our regular meetings will continue to be held online, the Wednesday morning contemplative service will continue to be prayed remotely, and our buildings will remain closed and locked to all persons except for Sunday worship, for Loaves & Fishes, and for special groups who have contracted to meet at St. Peter’s and abide by our protocols for safety, cleaning, and sanitizing. So, there will be no walk-ins admitted to St. Peter’s, including our own members.

Still, worship is the most vital part of our life together. Every one of us may continue to pray by ourselves, and I hope we will – going into our room and closing the door, as Jesus advised. But it is equally true that we humans were created to bless and adore our Creator and in our worship together to experience our highest joy and deepest communion with one another.

I have missed being with you all.  And I, too, long for the day when we can gather at the altar, drink from a common cup, sing our hearts out, embrace at the exchange of the peace, and even just catch up over a cup of coffee. Until then, this way of worship will have its own graces. I have no doubt of that.  And I look forward to discovering them with you.

Over the next weeks members of the Vestry will be checking in with you to answer questions and address any concerns you might have. And I will write again with updates on our liturgy and to provide short, straightforward reminders.

Yours faithfully,

Lael

Article by Marjorie Miller

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