Home > Uncategorized > Weekly Lifelines 5/31/20

Weekly Lifelines 5/31/20

Dear Parishioner,

As our civic life creeps back toward some new kind of normal and with recent, albeit limited, permission given for Minnesota churches to reopen, I want you to be aware of St. Luke’s plans for re-gathering.
As is often the case in church, we’re paying close attention to our civic and political leaders even as we march to a slightly different beat. St. Luke’s rector and vestry are following the guidelines for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (ECMN) developed by our bishop and bishop-elect in conversation with government officials, subject experts, and other religious leaders.
While it would be more convenient to identify particular dates for reopening, conditions are rapidly-changing and unpredictable. As the plan states:
Instead, ECMN will be creating guidelines [for reopening] based on measurable benchmarks tracked by the state. There will be several phases of opening when specific metrics have been met or are present, and there will be some nuance in how these numbers affect faith community operations, based on the geography, membership, building size, and population of each specific faith community.
The guidelines outline a four-phase plan. Below is a summary of a much longer and more detailed plan, which continues to develop as new information becomes available. That plan and ECMN’s other resources for responding to this pandemic are available here.
Phase 1: Blizzard
Health Characteristics: The virus continues to spread at increasing rates in many communities. Minnesota is under a Stay-at-Home order
Faith Community Guidelines: No in-person gatherings; everything—worship, pastoral care, coffee hour, any meeting—is conducted remotely
Phase 1.5: Blizzard, after the plows have come through
Health Characteristics: The Stay-at-Home order has been lifted, but infections continue to climb.
Faith Community Guidelines: Groups of ten or less are permitted to gather only for the purpose of filming or live-streaming worship. Everything else continues to be held remotely
Phase 2: The Long Winter
Health Characteristics: Sustained reduction cases for fourteen days. Adequate hospital capacity and virus testing is available.
Faith Community Guidelines: Church offices may reopen. Limited in-person worship may resume, with strict provisions for physical distancing, eliminating opportunities to touch shared objects, and severe restrictions on singing. Worship probably doesn’t include Eucharist. Larger gatherings continue to be held remotely. Outbreaks might mean returning to Phase 1 protocols.
Phase 3: Spring
Health Characteristics: The spread of the virus is negative, vaccination or immunity is wide-spread. This is probably a long time away, possibly twelve to eighteen months.
Faith Community Guidelines: Offices are fully open. Eucharist is offered. Virtual options for gathering continue to be available.
Phase 4: Summer growth and transformation
Emerging into a new normal, communities reflect on what’s been learned from the crisis and how God is calling us forward into transformation.
Right now, we’re in the latter part of the Blizzard—the plows have come through, but things haven’t quite settled down—and we’ve got a long way to go before spring.
I must say: I am not excited about prospect of living with these restrictions for the foreseeable future. I dearly wish we could regather to sing together and pass the peace, to share communion and catch up over coffee. Facebook Live and virtual coffee hour are good, but they’re not enough. At the same time, it’s clear to me that this is the right course of action. COVID-19 is deadly, especially for people over age 65. We can not risk the life of anyone in our community by rushing to regather before it’s safe. In the midst of all the present uncertainty, one thing is clear: No worship service is worth the life of one of our members.
In the meantime, I’m working to develop a new virtual worship service for us, an online gathering that includes music, prayer, scripture, reflection, and fellowship. My hope is that it will be prayerful, interactive, and inclusive of the wonderful diversity of our community. It should even be possible to participate by telephone so that everyone can join in, with or without computer access. I’ll have more information and specifics for you next week.
The love the people of St. Luke’s have for one another is evident in uncountable ways, especially now in our deep desire to gather again as the body of Christ in one place. The same love that pulls us in also demands that we remain apart for a while longer, so that everyone can stay healthy and safe.
If you have questions or concerns about any of this, or if you just want to connect, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Categories: Uncategorized
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