Sunday Eucharist Update & Changes
Dear Church Family,
I pray that you are having a blessed week. The Vestry and I met yesterday evening, and have some VERY IMPORTANT information to share with you. Please read carefully. First of all, two weeks ago I asked you to prayerfully consider two options, either keeping our Sunday Eucharistic service at 9:00 AM or moving it up to 10:00/10:30 AM. As per my sermon last Sunday, discernment is the process of obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding through prayer. Although a valid point was made for moving the service up, the majority of members in good standing that responded to the survey voted to keep it at 9:00 AM. We need to trust that the Holy Spirit was at work and know that this is our best option at this time. The following are quotes from a few of the participants:
"When we made the change to a combined 9:00 AM service in 2019 (Prior to Fr. John retiring), it was done with Bishop Jennifer’s guidance. She said at the time that surveys showed earlier services at 9:00 were more accommodating to families with small children."
"When two service times were offered, St. James did not have many young families coming to the later service with any regularity. I am not sure this would be any different today. I do believe that some of the senior members would not attend a later service, so numbers might decline rather than grow."
"I would prefer to leave the service at 9:00, then coffee and Sunday School. But my main wish is that a consensus forms and I'll agree with the people."
Therefore, as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Phillippians 2:2, "fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." Secondly, Bishop Reed emailed the updated Covid-19 guidelines, and we reviewed them during our Vestry meeting last night. "The Phase 2(d): New Options for Vaccinated Individuals, were revised by The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, and churches and congregations may implement Phase 2(d) protocols as determined by local church leadership and only following a discussion and plan of action formed by clergy and the Vestry. That plan must be communicated to the congregation prior to any in-person gathering that will incorporate Phase 2(d) guidance, but does not need to be submitted to the diocesan office prior to implementation." Based on the guidelines, these are the changes that we made and agreed to for St. James:
Fully vaccinated* individuals are no longer required to wear a mask or physically distance indoors or outdoors on church premises. This includes worship services, fellowship, bible studies, formation, meetings, etc. Leadership should re-evaluate maximum capacities and space limitations for indoor gatherings of all kinds, with careful consideration of the activities taking place, size of space, ventilation, estimated number in attendance, and percentage vaccinated in each local context.
Masks and 6-feet distancing are expected and strongly encouraged for individuals who are not fully vaccinated indoors, for the sake of people who cannot be vaccinated. Clergy, staff, and lay volunteers may not require proof of vaccination of any individual.
At least three (3) rows of reserved pews in the back of the Sanctuary will be reserved for those who wish or need to continue to observe wearing masks and social distancing. Masks may also be worn by anyone wishing to continue to wear them anywhere and at any time in the church premises. Everyone's comfort and safety is important to us.
Those processing and recessing (crucifer, gospeler, priest, etc) will continue to mask during the procession and recession as per guidelines.
Passing of the Peace – out of respect for those that still need or want to maintain distancing – we will continue to pass the Peace without physical contact for a while longer.
The offering plate will continue to be placed in the center aisle, out of respect for those who do not wish to handle the plate.
Clergy and Lay Eucharistic Ministers are required to wear masks during the distribution of Communion, regardless of that individual's vaccination status.
On Trinity Sunday, May 30th, Communion will be offered in both kinds, with wine by intinction only, using one or more chalices to administer wine to communicants. The use of the common cup to administer Communion is still not permitted under Phase 2(d) guidelines. We will resume use of the altar rail for distribution of communion, where you may stand or kneel individually or with your immediate family. (Please do not fill the rail from end-to-end as we used to.) Fr. Arnoldo will offer the host, and pass it to the Eucharistic Minister, who will be wearing latex gloves. The Eucharistic minister will lightly intinct the host, and place it on the recipient's cupped hands.
Once reinstated, Sunday School for children will continue to require masks and social distancing for children and teachers - this will apply to childcare providers as well.
Adult Formation class will not require masks or distancing, but will provide enough space for those that should or want to continue to mask and distance to be comfortable in that setting.
Fully vaccinated staff members experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should be clinically evaluated and tested for SARS-CoV-2, and quarantine for 10 days if a positive test is returned.
Informal fellowship gatherings, such as coffee hours or luncheons, may return indoors. Those working in the kitchen to set up/clean up will be required to mask and wear gloves.
As we continue to move forward in the reopening of our church, let us continue to follow St. Paul's words in Phillippians 2:4, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." I love every single one of you and thoroughly appreciate all you do for each other, the community, and the world. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Your servant in Christ, Fr. Arnoldo+