Weekly Lifelines 4/8/2021

Easter thanks, COVID stinks
Thank you to everyone who participated in worship this Sunday, either on Zoom or in person. It was wonderful to see all of you and a real delight to share physical communion, in all its wafer-y crunchiness, with you. Sharing Easter communion with you felt like a tiny foretaste of the feast to come.  

On that note, in the past few weeks a number of people have asked me when St. Luke’s will open up again. With vaccination numbers climbing steadily and many wondering, I’m writing about the specifics.  

The answer is: Soon, hopefully. St. Luke’s has been following the guidelines laid out by the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. According to those guidelines, we can hold indoor public worship (with masks and appropriate distancing) provided the average weekly rate of positive covid tests is below five percent in our county.  

Olmsted County dipped below five percent at the end of February, and we prepared to reopen our building. Unfortunately, two weeks after the positive test rate dropped, it popped up again and has remained well over five percent, climbing every week. The most recent weekly average positive test rate is currently over seven percent.  

The positive test rate is not a perfect metric. It’s not as if everything’s fine at 4.9% and then suddenly at 5.1% everybody gets deathly ill. The rate is, however, a decent indicator of the virus’s prevalence in our community and the rapidity of its spread. If we were hovering right around five percent, St. Luke’s would cautiously reopen. Since the rate is over seven percent and climbing, we’re going to put off reopening for at least another month.  

Let me be the first to say: That stinks. As I said on Sunday, after more than a year of this, I’m tired of trying to find substitutes for something that has no real substitute. I want to gather with all of you to sing, hug, join hands in prayer, and share sacred food and drink without having to worry about wearing a mask, who’s sitting how far from whom, or what implications a cough might have. Navigating reopening is made extra hard because everyone is following different rules. Some denominations have been open for months. Some Episcopalians in other parts of the state have been in-person for many weeks. But we are Minnesota Episcopalians in Olmsted County: We’re in a diocese that’s taking a conservative approach to reopening and in a county which continues to have high infection rates. And so, because we place high value on protecting the health and safety of our members, we continue to wait.  

This will not last forever. The end is near (in a good way). We will be back in person and back indoors soon. Just to temper expectations, it will be pretty weird for a while: mandated low attendance, spaced out seating, no congregational singing. But, before too long, we will be back to some kind of normal.  

In the meantime, with the weather warming up, we’ll shortly be back to outdoor Wednesday evening Eucharists—look for details soon! And I hope you’ll continue to join us for Sunday worship on Zoom (or to catch the service a little later on Facebook) and Compline on Wednesday (details below).

Whatever comes our way, I’m grateful to be navigating these stormy waters with all of you. Hang in there; we don’t have far to go.

Yours in Christ, Justin

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