Here we are again. It’s the beginning of the new year and we’re still scratching our heads, wondering how to plan ahead, be with one another, and offer classes and fellowship opportunities.
Here we are again, wanting so badly to jump back into life, but we know that COVID cases and hospitalizations in Richmond and the surrounding counties are at an all-time high.
We know a lot more about the virus and its variants than we once did. Still, this is hard and we’re all tired of yet another layer of life during a pandemic. Our bishop, as usual, is doing a very good job of offering instruction and support to her clergy. While she is not forcing “shutdowns,” she has encouraged a return to virtual worship and virtual gatherings. She’s trusting her clergy and leadership to make the decisions that are best for their contexts.
At St. Paul’s, we have a hybrid approach. We feel it is important to preserve in-person worship. We feel that connection on Sunday mornings is important. Still, this doesn’t mean that we do so without thought and many considerations. I never thought I would discourage people from coming to church, but I must encourage any persons or family units in physically vulnerable situations to be very thoughtful as you make decisions about church attendance. Likewise, I encourage everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated and boosted. Hopefully, this surge will pass soon.
Due to the high vaccination rate at St. Paul’s, and because of our safe and consistent practices, your leadership and I are comfortable continuing in-person worship, but, through January, as we keep an eye on the COVID metrics, your staff will be working from home. We will stop serving coffee on Sunday mornings, the choir will not rehearse on Thursdays nor lead singing on Sundays. We will continue to mask, distance, sing fewer hymns, and refrain from the common cup on Sunday. The clergy will make emergency pastoral visits only; all other pastoral connections will be made via phone or through Zoom. Other ministries may be suspended, move to virtual-only, or pivot in other ways, depending on their particular needs and we’ll keep you informed if things change.
It’s hard for me to write all of this down in one place without feeling like a doomsayer. But even as we hit the brakes, I see so much forward movement. Our Sacred Ground small groups are starting. The Lenten Speaker Series is coming together with an engaging lineup. Formation events are happening and many exciting opportunities are on the calendar. And, because it is a vital ministry, our Emmaus lunch program continues to serve (in person!) community members in need on Thursday mornings using minimal staff. We will continue to serve our guests outside as we have since the beginning of this season of pandemic.
At St. Paul’s and in so many other places, church communities are pulling together to keep learning, growing, and serving. There is so much flexibility and humor, even in the midst of struggle and hardship. You are showing up, St. Paul’s. When the spirit calls, you are there. It might not be in the traditional ways you expected, but you are showing up with your great big hearts. Whether we come together physically or not, I feel our togetherness, your prayers, and your faithfulness to St. Paul’s.
Please join me in praying for those who are at risk because of COVID and for our medical professionals. The longest night of the year is past and with each day, we can hold fast to the hope of God’s presence and God’s light made known and made real in you.
Glory to God, whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation in the church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.
You can read more about our approach and COVID precautions HERE.