As we return to worship together in the same space, please do be aware that there will be a number of differences from what we have previously been used to. Some of these differences will actually benefit our ministry long after the pandemic has eased.
1) We will see new floor treatment! The installer has completed the work. Be prepared to see a new, and much improved look to our worship space!
2) New video and computer equipment will allow us to livestream our worship. This will enable our friends from other areas of the country (and even around the world) to continue to join us; and should enhance our opportunity to reach the world with the good news of Jesus, beginning in Ambridge.
3) We will be observing measures recommended to slow the spread of the virus, especially hand-washing, social distancing, and wearing masks while in the building. When you enter, we will have greeters who will ask you to sanitize your hands (remember, you will just have touched a door handle that a lot of other people have touched), point out to you the usual health questions people are asked on entering public buildings, and offer you a mask if you have not remembered to wear one.
For the sake of one another, I’m asking us to take these precautions seriously as we begin to come together again. The increase in infections in recent weeks is partly related to the increased number of inter-personal encounters in a more open economy. We cannot eliminate this virus, but we can reduce its spread. To attempt to do so is one of the hallmark practices of loving one another which is part of our response to God’s love for us and ours back to him. We are responsible for each other. So, if you feel sick, have a fever, have been exposed in the past 14 days to someone who has tested positive for COVID, please do not come to church that day – but please do join us via the livestream (the link is here).
4) In the sanctuary, our seating will be more spread out than usual; and because we have households of all different sizes, it will be necessary to assign much of our seating. We’re asking persons from the same household to sit together, to economize on space. If you are the only person attending from your household, you may sit in any open single seat – first come first served. For those being assigned to particular seats, don’t worry too much about it – as much as possible we’ve formulated the assignments based on where folks typically sit anyway, just more spread out.
If it’s helpful, you can refer to the attached seating chart for more details. If it’s not helpful, then don’t! The chart will also be posted in the sanctuary, and at least for the first week, we’ll also have family names on the assigned seats.
If people want to swap, that’s fine – so long as social distance is maintained.
Also, while all seats in the sanctuary will be disinfected as part of our sexton, George Nielson’s, weekly cleaning, there will be wipes available in the sanctuary for those who prefer to wipe down their own seat in addition.
5) We will continue using Morning Prayer as our worship service format, for the time-being. Initially this is for two reasons: (1) Livestreaming the service is going to be a new discipline for us, and we wanted to simplify that process as much as possible by not changing the format we’ve used the past three months; (2) we will need to see how many people will need to have Communion delivered to them in order to know how frequently we can observe it – since we would want to deliver the sacrament to online viewers within driving distance. We are tentatively scheduling a Communion service for July 26. After that we’ll reevaluate to see how frequently we can do Communion thereafter.
6) Unfortunately, we will not be singing during live worship, to begin with. There are too many scientific studies that raise concerns about group singing leading to clusters of coronavirus infections if even one person present is carrying the virus. Mark and Sarah Kwolek do have plans to arrange online prayer and worship events, using the GoToMeeting platform that we have used for weekly worship the past several months, but with pre-recorded music. They’ll be in touch with us with more details as those get worked out.
Along with other features of our re-entry plan we will be revisiting the need for refraining from singing, on a regular basis.
7) We will have limited childcare during the summer. Preschoolers will stay in the children’s play area at the rear of the sanctuary with one attendant. There will be a protocol of safety measures for both children and attendants. We will revisit opening the nursery again, and resuming church school classes, come fall and depending on how health concerns seem to be at that time. As we’ve just learned, two months can be a long time during a pandemic.
8) Because of the risks involved in serving and consuming food in a large group setting, we will not be having coffee hour at this time. This is another detail that we will look at adding back in as we see how things progress.
9) All restrooms in the building will be open. We encourage you to use common sense when using the rest room. Make sure you wash your hands. Dry your hands before turning off the water, then use the towel to turn off the water, hit the light switch and turn the door handle. You can then dispose of your paper towel in the trash receptacle.
10) As you know, both several Twelve Step groups and the band of which Elbie Yaworsky is a member have used our space in the past. I have met with the leaders of both organizations to go over our safety protocols. We are asking them to wait several weeks before resuming so we can learn the routines we need to practice to keep ourselves safe before we try to expand those routines also to protect our guests. All building users will observe social distancing and will be responsible for cleaning their own surfaces before and after they use the building. This will be in addition to George Nielson’s regular cleaning and disinfecting.
I know this is an awful lot of material. I expect there will inevitably be some confusion Sunday morning as we re-gather for the first time in nearly four months. You may want to allow for some extra time to get in the building, find your seat, and get settled.
I do need to add one final admonition: The Vestry and I want us to hold to some of the gains we’ve made during the pandemic, and two of those are starting on time and keeping the service relatively brief, both befitting the need of an online experience. We will start on time, and doing so will enable us to keep our time as limited and focused as possible.
I can certainly understand if you have questions. If you do, please let me know, and I’ll do my best to get you an answer – even if the answer is that I have the same questions myself!
Together let’s thank God for the privilege of gathering again to worship him, and remember to continue to give and receive grace: What seems strange and, in some cases, hard to accept, to us is probably that way to many other people. We all continue much in need of the mercy of God, and the best way to receive mercy is to give it. (Matthew 5:7, 18:21-35)
I look forward to seeing you this Sunday!
in Christ alone,