Bishop Michael Hanley has released guidelines for Reengaging our Buildings and In-Person Worship. The brief version is this: we do not know when we will be reopening. My preference is that we do not reopen until we are all comfortable returning to in-person worship.
At St. Philip, the decision to reopen will be discussed by the Vestry. Not only is this because it is important that we clearly discuss our concerns and struggles around this together, but we need to ensure we have the people-power to do what we need to do to safely gather.
Since our average Sunday size is between 28-35, we fall right in the middle of the Phase 1 (up to 25) and Phase 2. In addition, most of us are over 60 years of age. So, I just want to outline for you my thought-process regarding how we can worship again in-person.
- We should be able to welcome all who come to the door. I feel strongly that churches should not turn people away at the door. This just sends all the wrong messages.
- We need to ensure people can follow our service without touching a books or bulletins (though transmissions via surfaces may be quite limited according to recent information). This means that YOU can bring your BCP. But, since I want to ensure that those who do not own a BCP can also fully participate, we need to explore ways to share our texts without books.
- We need to ensure we have individuals who can share the extra work that may be required: increased sanitization, setting up chairs if we decide the parish hall is better for distancing than the sanctuary, other things we haven’t thought about. I do not want this to fall only on the shoulders of a few.
- We will likely be unable to sing together for a long-period of time. It might be worth asking: is singing important enough that we would rather sing loudly from home, or not sing but be in church together?
- We are a high-touch culture. We all need to agree that we will not touch one another or get closer than 6′ during The Peace for a period of time. I know this will be hard for us.
- We will not be able to eat or drink together for a period of time as well. This means no more coffee hour. This is a huge loss for our ability to share our lives together. I hope we can consider gathering together via Zoom, perhaps even after we are able to worship together in-person.
- Many people have expressed the desire to continue some form of online worship even after we gather in-person. Filming and picking up sound in space the size of the Sanctuary is considerably more difficult than Zoom from home, but I would love to explore this. If you, or someone you know, is tech-savvy and able or willing to learn how to run a meeting during the service, please let me know!
There is certainly more to discuss, but there is no rush as not only must we wait until Multnomah County reaches Phase 2, we also need to be sure that as a community full of vulnerable bodies, we can safely be together again. Church should be a place of safety for all of us.
Please, let me know what you are thinking and feeling about all of this. I want to be sure all of you can be a part of this discussion.
Blessings to you all,
The Rev. Maria