Where are we in the process of regathering? The short answer is that we, and the whole Diocese, are very early in the process of regathering.
At the last Vestry Meeting, Monday, June 15, the Vestry took the position to move cautiously in the process of re-opening the church. We perceive that in person church is unlikely to take place before September 6. Here is the reasoning behind this thinking:
- Demographically, St. Francis has a large percentage of members who are categorized as extremely vulnerable. This is due to a large percentage of members who are over the age sixty-five, who have other categories of co-morbidity, and who have stated they will not be attending church without either a vaccine or efficacious treatments. This is sad for all because the desire to regather is strong even for those who are most cautious.
- The requirements to regather in phase two are reasonably rigorous and will not allow for the kind of re-uniting that we will find satisfying. By that, I mean that members faces will be covered—including the preacher, social distancing will be followed with a 36 square foot circumference for each person in the sanctuary, there will be no vocal music or congregational singing, there will be no reception of communion, and sanitizing will have to occur before and after the service. Here is a link to the seventeen pages of guidelines published by the Diocese. (http://www.thediocese.net/Customer-Content/www/CMS/files/CVOID_19_Guidlines_English.pdf) The Vestry, including the Rector, believe these guidelines are well thought out, conform to the intentions and guidelines of the Commonwealth in phasing back to more normal life, and are the standard for keeping our parishioners safe from infection.
- Our current plan of continuing streaming worship through Zoom will, under the current guidelines, provide a more satisfactory experience than the socially distanced one that will be allowed for under phase two and likely for phase three re-gathering. In our current mode, we have a vibrant gathering time with greetings crossing over so many members. We have long time members, members who have moved away, new members, and guests who are getting to know one another in the pre-worship gathering and the after worship virtual coffee hour. We have music from skilled vocalists. None of these offerings will be part of our worship in-person until after phase three regathering.
- We also know that the same caution in regathering is being observed by our sibling churches in the Great Falls Area Ministry and in the North Fairfax Region of the Diocese of Virginia.
This news is not exciting. Some may be disappointed. But if conditions change rapidly, we will move to respond rapidly. In addition, we will be evaluating ways that we can respond to be more like the church we know—looking to add to the choir experience, other forms of music, guest preaching from more sources, and more effective use of our technology.
In the waiting time, keep St. Francis in your prayers and know that we are here to support you in spiritual growth and love.