The Governor of Virginia has been loosening up on guidelines around people interacting; what is the effect of those guidelines on worship services at St. Francis Church?
St. Francis’ leadership is following the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines as directed by the Bishop of the Diocese, who consults with her assisting bishops, the Standing Committee, and health authorities. Admittedly, Bishop Susan is being cautious in regard to opening up aspects of worship. Episcopal Churches in the Diocese of Virginia have been behind some of our Roman Catholic and non-denominational neighbors in regathering. But we are moving in the direction of in-person worship.
Here is where St. Francis is. We are scheduling outdoor worship at 5:00 PM every Sunday from now until at least October 1, weather permitting. Outdoor worship does have guidelines of which I will remind everyone: Click hear from more information on Outdoor Service
- The total number of participants is limited to 60 persons. This is simply due to the effectiveness of our amplification equipment. We are verifying how far away from the speakers that people are able to hear and, if more distance is allowed, we will reapply to the diocese for an increased limit.
- The participants in the service are required to be at least six feet from other worshippers in all 360 degrees of space. Yes, families may sit together, and they need to ensure that their neighbors are sufficiently distanced.
- Masks are still required.
- We also require reservations. There are number of reasons for this request. When reservations are made, we ask for an email. The email allows us to contact reservation holders if weather requires us to cancel the service or if contact tracing is necessary. It also keeps us within the stated limits of our regathering approval from the diocese. Please, make reservations. Please come to worship. Please, if you have not made a reservation, do not just show up. It puts greeters and clergy in the awkward position of having to turn people away and we do not want to do that. We will have larger limits and fewer constraints soon. We are moving to normal!
- Bring a blanket or lawn chair to sit on. Right now, our capabilities to accommodate set up and break down are limited. So, please come prepared to seat yourself.
As for indoor worship, the County of Fairfax, our medical district, has been under 25 new cases for three weeks now. We have finished a preliminary review with the Dean of the region for our indoor regathering plan. We are addressing the questions that were raised before submitting our plan to the Diocese for review. The turnaround time once submitted is generally about a week. So, we are thinking that some time in late April or early May we will be allowed to worship indoors. There will, however, still be limits.
- Total indoor participants will be limited to 50 persons.
- People will be required to sit in marked areas and leave six feet in all directions between yourself or family and the next person or family.
- Masks will be required.
- Music will be instrumental only.
- Reservations will be required
All of this information is cumbersome and keeps us mindful of this taxing year. The good news is that St. Francis has been extraordinarily fortunate with regard to COVID-19 infections and detrimental outcomes. Largely we have been healthy and able to connect through the internet. As we come out of this, it will not be like the shut-down—together one Sunday and Zooming the next. This will be a stepping up process with the eventual outcome of full regathering.
Thank you for your continued patience!