Francisco-fact: Worshipping outdoors, with communion?

When can we expect to worship out of doors together and will it be with communion?

A date for worshipping in-person out-of-doors has not been established. The church is going through a process internally and we will have to go through the approval process with the diocese as well, once we have decided to move forward.

Why are we going through an internal process? The best answer for this question is that we are evaluating where the congregation stands on regathering because there are many members who are very cautious about coming back together, including some members who have answered affirmatively about regathering in the church’s survey. Combined with this evaluation, we are also evaluating the human, financial, and logistical resources necessary to do outdoor worship. Such things as, will we engage a tent, where will we locate the outdoor space on our property, what kind of sound system will fill the space, will there be a need for set-up and breakdown, what do we do in case of rain or intense heat, and more. Moving requires some forethought and the church leadership is committed to thinking this through while preparing.

Zoom service coffee hour St Francis

Another factor in pursuing in-person worship as a process is evaluating what we will be giving up by splitting the congregation in two—those at in-person worship and those on Zoom. So, before we go over this choice, it might be helpful to know what church will look like in this phase:

  1. The service will be Evening Prayer not Eucharist. (See the Episco-fact for last Sunday, August 2 for the restrictions on Eucharistic celebrations). That reality will not change until the Bishop’s advisory on not sharing the Eucharist has been lifted.
  2. Social Distancing will still be required.
  3. There will be no physical contact.
  4. Masks will be required at all times, except for those worship leaders who are reading the lessons, prayers, preaching, or singing a solo, and only while those activities are being done.
  5. The passing of the peace is not part of the daily office.
  6. The service will be about thirty minutes long.
  7. There will not be a social hour or coffee time.
  8. Singing is limited to a soloist from a distance.
  9. The primary weekly service will be the Zoom service on Sunday morning at 9:00 AM.
  10. The in-person service will either be on Saturday or Sunday in the early evening.
  11. Tracey Kelly will not be present at these services.

One of the gifts of meeting by Zoom has been the gathering of our two communities, the 8:00 AM worship service group and the 10:00 AM worship service group, into one large gathering. The cross connecting has been delightful to watch and the genuine happiness on worshippers faces, new and old, young and not so young, and local and far away, has been heartening. This broader and fuller community has been the adhesive holding us together, especially while the normal attractions of Eucharist, physical contact and choral music can no longer do that work. We are continuing to be thoughtful about these realistic trade-offs of modifying this form of coming together.

Father David presides over Zoom service from St Francis sanctuary

As can be inferred from the above, in-person worship will not be a panacea to the things that disturb or ail our souls. Much of what we long for will still not be part of what and who we are as a community. The leadership of St. Francis know and sense the longing and desire. We also continue to empathize with the cautious and extremely vulnerable. We do not want to distance them from being part of our practices. Finding the solution to safety and community is a challenge. The Vestry is still working at it. We will continue to communicate where we are and where we are going as the outlook changes and new factors are presented.

Photo credit: Bruton Parish Church members practice social distancing during a recent service. Courtesy of Greg Davy. Zoom Service coffee hour, Zoom Service in Sanctuary by Patrick Killoran. Eucharist Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash All rights reserved.

Published by fr.david

Rector of St. Francis Church. Adopted son of the Old Dominion--Hampden-Sydney loving, Red Sox supporting, Burkean.

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