Update from the Rector on Regathering and Coronavirus Protocols, May 15, 2021
Beloved Members and Friends of St. Martin's,
There's a wonderful old Yiddish proverb:
We plan; God laughs.
First of all, I am excited to hear that the CDC is moving to loosen mask mandates for those who are vaccinated. Your Regathering Committee has been meeting every two weeks since last fall trying to keep up with the changing conditions of this pandemic, and this is another, happy wrinkle. Just this Tuesday, we had made plans for 5 different in-person worship opportunities between now and September -- and then the next day, the CDC made its announcement saying that for those fully vaccinated, masks may be discarded.
Yet here are the facts of the matter: We are preparing a very brief questionnaire to determine our level of vaccination rates within our community. We are going to need all of you to participate to help us move toward being back in person with as few restrictions as possible. But we have no idea what that level is. We do NOT require proof of vaccination to attend worship, although we are currently asking it of those meeting in person in our building or on our grounds, after they have submitted a written plan, as well as of choir and liturgical ministers, since in the early days of the pandemic choral singing resulted in many outbreaks. Your rector is, finally, fully vaccinated as of three weeks ago.
Yet the approval just came down for children between the ages of 12 and 16 to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Children younger than that still cannot be vaccinated-- and it is, logically, within that age group that 20% of all current cases nationwide are being discovered.
Being a welcoming, and safe, community of faithful disciples is our top priority, and we currently have no plans to either require vaccination for in-person attendance or to drop the requirements for masks or social distancing. We must make sure that all of our members, from the youngest to the most classic models, are all kept safe at communal worship.
Thus, for the time being, we will, as we sort things out, continue to require masks at gatherings at or sponsored by our parish.
I give thanks that here in the Episcopal Church, as a liturgical church, we understand that worship is NOT simply entertainment. It is also NOT dependent upon being physically in a group, for "wherever two or three are gathered, Christ is in the midst of them" continually happens as we join with faithful people everywhere in prayer any moment we address ourselves to Almighty God by whatever name we use. As much as we love and rejoice at seeing our friends, seeing our friends is NOT worship. Lifting our hearts to God is worship. No one's right to worship has ever been affected by the restrictions put in place during this pandemic.
We Episcopalians know that worship begins in the heart, between each soul and God. It also MUST start with the determination to do no harm, because worship is rooted in love: love that is patient, kind, and bears all things and hopes all things, as 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us.
Worship happens whether we are together in person or not. If you don't believe me, just look at our Book of Common Prayer: There are in it 5 different daily prayer liturgies one can use every single day to worship God by one's self, and dozens of prayers besides for every conceivable situation. Every one of these liturgies can be led by lay people-- all baptized are ministers of God, as our prayer book reminds us repeatedly. One of the blessings of this pandemic was in leading us to expand online worship in the first place, but then also allowed us to immediately add Compline, one of those worship services that can be prayed and led by ANYONE, lay or ordained, twice a week-- reminding us that ALL baptized Christians are ministers of the Church.
The diocese is getting ready to prepare yet another set of guidelines for parishes within the diocese, and once those are established we will work hard to meet them.
I am so hopeful and glad that we may be seeing the light glimmering at the end of this very long tunnel. I look forward to the day when we can be back in our worship space with the minimum precautions possible, enjoying glorious music, wonderful fellowship, and Julia's scrumptious monthly brunches. But we need to be prayerful and deliberate. Your Regathering Committee, and I as your rector with spiritual responsibility for each and every one of you, appreciate your patience as we navigate these swiftly changing tides.
We will continue to make plans. And we will continue to seek ways to be both responsive and responsible.