Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father!
I write to you today to share the Vestry’s plans for resuming in person worship services at St. Barnabas. The Vestry has been hard at work crafting a plan to resume these services. My wife, Pam, a nurse, has given invaluable guidance to the Vestry concerning protocols we should adopt.
The Vestry’s guiding aim has been to devise a method that will allow us to return to meeting together as the Body of Christ on Sundays, while erring on the side of caution in accepting risks related to the Coronavirus. Naturally, different individuals and families in the congregation will want to make their own risk assessments. Some may not feel comfortable with attending Church in person yet, even with the new protocols; others may see the Vestry’s precautions as overly conservative. These are matters of private judgment upon which Christians of good will can differ. The Vestry is hopeful that many, or even most, of the St. Barnabas congregation will feel willing and able to return to worship within the constraints set out below, but it respects all decisions to the contrary.
The most important piece of information: Lord willing, we will reopen 13 September at ourusual time of 10:30AM.
The first and most important consideration in returning to in person worship is establishing that St. Barnabas is not a danger to its vulnerable neighbors in the Pavilion. Careful conversations with the Pavilion’s management about the measures being taken in the facility have convinced us that this is indeed the case. For instance, residents in the Pavilion have been asked not to attend our worship services, and they are quarantined for two weeks on principle if they leave the facility grounds. The
Pavilion is taking its responsibilities seriously; it has had only four Coronavirus cases during the whole of the pandemic. Furthermore, as noted below, we are going to limit our use of the facility to the sanctuary and the bathrooms, and will not congregate in the space between the sanctuary and the 21 st street entrance in order to minimize contact with the residents.
(Importantly, we will continue to livestream services for the benefit of Pavilion residents and anyone else who needs or prefers to stay home. The Pavilion’s management also assures us that the worship services in the sanctuary can be viewed on a closed-circuit television channel inside the Pavilion.)
The decision to return to worship is also contingent on an assessment that the level of risk assumed by the congregation is reasonable. The Vestry will be monitoring the situation closely. Reports of a positive test in the congregation, or a big local spike in the virus, would be of grave concern to the Vestry, and depending on the specific circumstances, could lead to a suspension of in person worship.
• Anyone who feels sick; is coughing or sneezing a lot; or otherwise feels unwell should join the livestream in lieu of worshiping in person.
• The elderly and immunocompromised are likewise strongly encouraged to join the
congregation online in lieu of worshiping in person.
• Anyone who has received a positive coronavirus test should abstain from in person worship until his or her two-week quarantine period is completed.
• Please inform me or the Vestry upon receiving a positive coronavirus test, regardless
of the circumstances.
Coming and Going
• The only entrance available will from 21 st St. (We have been asked NOT to use the main entrance!)
• Upon entering from 21 st St., please proceed directly to the sanctuary. We have been asked NOT to use the elevators or enter Regency Manor on the 2 nd floor.
• Hand sanitizer will be available at the entrance to the sanctuary.
• The children’s room and nursery will initially be closed. Children are quite welcome to join us in the sanctuary for worship or play in the back. If possible, selected toys will be placed in the back of the sanctuary. If they choose, parents may stand in the back of the Church and mind the children.
• The Vestry and I view any increase in noise or ruckus resulting from children in the
sanctuary as a total non-issue. If necessary, I will compensate by speaking louder.
• The seating arrangements: to maintain social distancing, one “family unit” per pew is our guideline. A “family unit” may consist of a single adult to a large family, or anything in between. Family units should be seated as close to caddy corner as possible on successive pews; signs will be posted on the pews indicating where family units should sit.
• After worship, the Congregation will be dismissed by row. Please proceed from the building expeditiously unless using the bathrooms; any visiting after church should occur outside on the 21 st St. lawn.
• Following worship, the Vestry and I will clean and sterilize the pews and the restrooms. Volunteers to help with this task are welcome.
During the Service
• Please wear a mask. Kids 12 or younger are exempt; if you have medical reasons for not wearing a mask please consult with me or the Vestry beforehand. We will have extra masks in case you forget one or yours breaks.
• The restrooms will be available during the service.
• Unfortunately, there will be no congregational singing. Fr. Chris will continue to provide music, though.
• We will also forego the passing the peace for now.
• Offerings will be collected with the usher holding out the basket for contributions to be dropped in; please avoid the passing of contributions. Congregants are also encouraged to use our new online donation system!
• About Holy Communion: the Celebrant (whether me or Fr. Chris) will sanitize his hands before distributing Holy Communion, which will be either in one kind or in pre-packaged containers with both bread and wine. The Prayer for Spiritual Communion will be printed in the bulletin for those who at this time are unable or disinclined to participate in Holy Communion.
Praise be God! We have, now at last, the chance to regather in person!
By God’s grace we can meet again and devote ourselves to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” and to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together,” (Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:24-25a).
Despite all the obstacles, you have shown great love for one another and to my family and me. Thank you for your devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ and to one another. As St. Paul put it, “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more,” (Phil. 2:8-9a).
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!