A Note on Reopening:Proceeding with Caution and Care
Beloved Members of St. Martin's,
We had a joyful, special experience during Holy Week, and it was wonderful to have everyone back in a limited way for our hybrid online and in-person worship. Most folks were very cooperative in following the guidelines established for everyone's safety. There were so many people who worked so hard to make that week happen-- over six weeks of planning and hundreds of man-hours went into bringing that single, glorious week's worship and online offerings into being.
As people are getting vaccinated, they are rushing to embrace some of the pleasures they have missed for so long-- and of course, gathering together for in-person worship and the use of our sacred space is one of those things we all especially long for.
We need to remember, however, that the situation remains somewhat unstable in terms of the pandemic. COVID-19 cases are again on the rise in Missouri and in the St. Louis region. The preponderance of cases are deceptively described as to be among "young adults"-- but then that term is later defined as people between the ages of 21-59-- hooray, your rector is a "young adult!" One of the main reasons why this group has been demonstrating higher rates of infection than their elders has been that they have been, until VERY recently, unable to obtain permission to get vaccinated (including your rector). It will still take some time to roll out the vaccine to this very large cohort of citizens, and to get rates high enough that we can all turn the tide at last.
We are, as of this writing, at the highest levels of infection we've seen since March 1. Meanwhile, only 22% of Missouri's population has been fully vaccinated. And it is at this point that we must remember that even vaccinated people can still be infected, although vaccinations help with severity of illness in most cases. No vaccine is 100% effective-- although they are hugely effective-- above 94% at a minimum-- and certainly valuable and desirable. We all need to maintain vigilance out of love for each other and for our neighbors-- that's the heart of the gospel, after all, and part of our witness as disciples.
So we are still going to be cautious here at St. Martin's, and pay attention to what is happening around us, especially with this latest surge.
Making Sure We Do Not Have To Take a Step Back for Worship
Your Regathering Committee is required to continue to update our worship and facilities plans periodically. On March 26, right before Holy Week, new guidelines were issued, and in some ways they are a bit more stringent in light of the surge that is currently taking place, and rightly so. You can read these by clicking the yellow button below.
As noted in the guidelines below, we need to start determining the prevalence of vaccination in our population in order to move forward safely and responsibly.
Vaccination is not required to sign up for in-person worship, ever-- only the willingness to abide by the guidelines set for the protection of us all, including correct mask wearing, temperature checks, and abiding by social distancing. However, the diocese does require that clergy and lay ministers be fully vaccinated and two weeks beyond that for expansion of in-person worship.
Small Groups and ReGathering: The Requirements
Many of our groups are very eager to return to using our building, and that is understandable. But once again, under the current plan we have in place, that is allowed under an extremely limited, case by case basis-- and the situation is unfortunately trending in a direction that reinforces our caution. The following examples of requirements are in line with our latest guidelines from medical professionals in the diocese as well as the CDC.
In order for people to be able to regather in small groups outside of worship, even of 2-3 people, in our buildings again, right now we are going to need to have every member of the group meeting in person provably fully vaccinated and two weeks past that second vaccination.
Parishioner groups wishing to meet in person at St. Martin's in the future-- and once again, the surge is impacting when that can be and how long that might be maintained-- will need to submit a written plan to the ReGathering Committee to be reviewed and approved. These written plans need to be submitted in writing to either our senior warden or our rector, preferably by email.
Groups will be held to around the ten-person limit we've used for the last many months for funerals, etc., before we were allowed to move to 20% capacity for worship just a few weeks ago.
Groups will need to be able to meet in a well-ventilated area which allows for at least 6 feet of distancing among members by requesting and registering for such areas; therefore some groups will have to move to our larger spaces Park Hall (as the bell choir has done, for instance) or to the nave.
All persons must be fully masked without fail.
And after a group meets in a location, there has to be cleaning of that area afterward, and provisions must be made for that at a time when our staff of paid and volunteer positions is smaller than it has ever been.
Just because one group gets permission does not mean, unfortunately, that we can declare "open season," -- especially as conditions change, of which we all need to be watchful and informed. That is not a reasonable expectation at this moment, sadly, as it appears that too many people who have not taken this health threat seriously still don't and thus affect us all. If cases continue to rise, previous permission for openings must scale back, at the discretion of the Rector and/or the Regathering Committee in the interest of keeping everyone safe and healthy.
One of the great lessons (and blessings, in a way) of this pandemic is a forceful and insistent reminder of how intertwined all our lives are, and of the concern and compassion we owe each other when we covenant to live together in community. That idea of a covenanted community is the heart of nationhood-- and the heart of Christian life.
Thank you for your continued patience and care of each other-- and for your continued love of your fellow parishioners. We are a family, and families and their support are needed more than ever.