Love Gather Worship RegatherPhoto Credit: Jacki Vitiello

Love Gathers: An Update on Christ Church Episcopal's Gatherings Related to COVID-19

Revised: June 2, 2021

Given recent guidance from the CDC and loosening of restrictions by Governor Northam, Bishop Goff is allowing clergy to make decisions, together with their vestries, regarding what precautions to take in order to be as inclusive as possible while not inadvertently becoming a site of community spread. Henrico County is in the yellow zone (5.4 cases per 100,000 as of 5/26/2021), using the Brown School of Public Health Global Epidemics website.

The Rector and Vestry of Christ Church therefore present the following:

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WORSHIP

Please join us for worship as you are able! There is no need to register in advance.

Blue upholstered chairs will be provided for all who would like them.  The back third of the church and the back third of the “transepts” area wil be designated open spaces to give people who desire more flexibility the opportunity to place chairs where they are comfortable. We have a number of people who are not comfortable being inside the church, so we will continue to place the speaker outside for those who wish to sit outside. The 9 AM service will continue to be live-streamed until we go to one service at 10 AM, starting July 4, and then the livestream will be the 10 AM service. Shirley understands that several people would like to see the Saturday service return, and asks you to be patient while we adapt to these latest changes and figure out resources (clergy, musician, sexton, and volunteers) for adding a Saturday service at some regularly recurring interval. The Wednesday 8 a.m. congregation has decided, for now, to continue to do Morning Prayer over Zoom, except for those Wednesdays that Holy Eucharist is celebrated by a priest, when the congregation will gather in the church.

Regarding masks and general congregation, the Rector and Vestry are asking all persons inside the church to wear masks, in respect for children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, teenagers who are still getting fully immunized, and all adults who are not getting vaccinated for health reasons. These restrictions will not persist indefinitely, but we need a little more time to understand who we would be excluding by lifting the mask requirement and seeing if a little more time of masking can reduce the number of people at risk. We also want to better understand whether people who are unvaccinated would wear a mask in church when most people are not wearing a mask, or whether they would instead stay home and suffer the isolation we are all tired of.

Regarding masks and preachers, lay eucharistic ministers, and readers, we are requiring all these ministers to either be fully vaccinated or wear a mask while they are serving. These ministers who are fully vaccinated may remove their masks while they are serving. Ministers who are not fully vaccinated may continue to serve but must wear a mask while serving to protect the minister and those in the vulnerable population.

Singing in church (congregational and choir) is now allowed (and we would say, encouraged)! Since we will be wearing masks for a little while longer, this further reduces risk.

Choir will continue to wear masks when singing. Stay tuned for an upcoming decision of the date of full choir returning to worship.

Outdoors, masks are not required, in general.

The social distancing requirement has been lifted, so there will be no requirement to maintain six feet of distance inside the church. Please remain aware that, for some, the low level of risk of COVID-19 infection, even when vaccinated, is still a threat. Thank you for being understanding when people say they do not yet feel comfortable without masks or with coming to church.

Handshakes, hugs, and passing of The Peace — Many of us are eager to restore touch to our lives! However, some desire more time. As you approach someone, please ask whether they are up for a handshake or a hug. Shirley is asking folks to answer with confidence. Our responses will not be taken as political statements or judgments about others, but simply a statement about what we’re each ready for today.

We plan to restart the nursery ministry at the 9 a.m. service as soon as possible, perhaps as soon as June 6. Please stay tuned for an announcement on when we’ll be able to resume.

Worship and activities for young children are happening at Church on the Playground (COTP) at 9 a.m. each Sunday. Children and their parents play, enjoy a Bible lesson, and receive Holy Communion. Since it is outdoors, masks are optional for Church on the Playground.

Holy Communion will continue in one kind, with wafers, since the sacrament is complete without the wine. Although the bishop has lifted the restriction on clergy and lay eucharistic ministers touching the wafers that are distributed, we will continue to use the trays for awhile longer. People are encouraged to consume the wafer as soon as they receive it, or consume it at their seat, whichever they prefer.

People who are not able to get to church should call Rev. Shirley to ask for a lay eucharistic visitor to bring them home communion.

FELLOWSHIP AND FORMATION

Coffee will be available between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. outside (weather permitting) through the end of June. Starting July 4, we’ll have coffee before and after the 10 a.m. service.

The diocese has lifted the restriction on all church activities. Ministry groups, small group fellowships, outreach ministries, Bible studies, etc. are all eligible to resume meetings in-person on campus or off campus. Please be in touch with the staff member you normally work with, or David Ellis our facilities manager, to make sure that the room you’d like to use is available. There is no limitation on the number of people attending a group. However, within your group, please openly communicate your comfort-level so that your group can figure out the numbers of persons you are comfortable with. Also, if there are unvaccinated persons or persons under 12 in your group, please talk about how to include them comfortably. Groups may decide whether to mask or not indoors for gatherings that are not worship-related. Please ask all members of your group what they are comfortable with and together find an approach that enables everyone to participate.

**There is a key difference in practice, for now, between Sunday and Wednesday worship using masks, and other activities where groups can decide whether to mask. This difference has to do with the responsibility of the priest to make worship available for all people.**

As you gather for fellowship after church, please move to the Milling Area or outside so that we can reach our goal of getting fresh exchange of air between services.

OUTREACH AND MISSION

Our hands-on ministries continue. Please check the weekly eNews and Realm newsfeed for how to participate.

UPDATES

Updates will be communicated as conditions change, especially as vaccines become available to persons under 12. Want to better manage your communications? Please contact Jenny Fairchild, Communications Manager, for assistance.

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