April 23, 2020
Dear Christ Church Family:
“Look! I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5
During the interim period between the previous rector’s departure and my election as your rector, when I was still your associate rector, an older, wiser parishioner would say each time she saw me, “Just think of all the things you’re learning!” At the time, it centered me and kept me focused on the ways God was moving in my life. I continue to take comfort in those words and go back to them often, especially in stressful or interesting times. At Christ Church, we are learning new ways to be the Body of Christ in a broken world, how to be a church that cannot yet gather in person, and a church that continues to share the Good News of God in Christ Jesus.
Although we do not yet know when, the day is coming when we will be able to gather in person for worship, fellowship, and learning. We do not know what those things will look like just yet, but some thoughts are beginning to take shape. I want to share with you some of the areas that the staff and Vestry are beginning to focus on as we think about re-gathering down the road. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are many things to think about.
Our return to in-person worship will be gradual. As a parish and a diocese, we will adhere to guidelines given by the Centers for Disease Control and the North Carolina Department of Health. Restrictions on numbers of people who can gather in one place will not go from zero to infinity overnight. We are exploring ways that the greatest number of people who want to worship in person can do so. This will likely mean at least one additional Sunday service, probably in the afternoon, and possibly a mid-week service.
Distance will still be key. We have been exploring how best our nave can accommodate people sitting at a safe distance and still be together. Your favorite pew might not be available, but that might give you a chance for a new perspective. We might not yet give hugs or high fives or handshakes at the Peace, but we can find new ways to acknowledge and affirm our siblings in Christ.
Worship will look different, at least for a while. Bishop Skirving will issue guidelines around numbers of people who can gather, celebrating and receiving communion, passing the peace and other areas related to worship. Those will be released before we gather again, and the staff and Vestry will look at how we live into those guidelines and make necessary adjustments. As I said before, this will be an easing back, not an opening of the floodgates. We are making plans to remove Prayer Books and hymnals from the pews. When we can gather again, we will publish all that we need in a one-time use bulletin. We will also make that bulletin available online before the service if people want to use their phone or tablet in lieu of paper.
Our online presence will grow. We invested in some highly rated equipment that will allow us to livestream our worship services in various platforms. We may also use those same platforms for classes, seminars, and other kinds of information sharing. The Daughters of the King, Education for Ministry, several Bible study classes, the Vestry, and the Episcopal Youth Community have all used Zoom to gather virtually and made those connections work well. Any group at Christ Church that would like to gather that way is encouraged to use it. Email Meg Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org) or me about setting up a meeting on Zoom.
We will take cleaning even more seriously. We pride ourselves on being a clean, welcoming space for all who come in through our doors. That will certainly continue as Ellie Roberts (Director of Church Life) and Terry Pitner (Custodian) work to ensure we have all the supplies and plans in place to clean and sanitize any space where people might be.
Social gatherings will be on hold. That means no coffee hour or other events until more time has passed. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have virtual gatherings. Phones and computers will still work for calling, texting, and video chatting. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.
The bottom line is that we want our space and our community to be as safe as possible to as many people as possible. We are going to do everything in our power to make that happen. If you have any questions, comments, or insight, please do not hesitate to reach out to either me or Senior Warden Jean Reichenbach (email@example.com or 252.259.7628).
God is continuing to do new things in our lives and in our world! Please know that you are in my prayers, and I am grateful for all who are holding me, the staff, and the Vestry in your prayers, too.
The Rev. H. Paul Canady III