Although the bishops have guardedly offered July 1 as the earliest time we can return to public worship, given all of the constraints imposed – both external and internal – we anticipate the earliest we will return to use of the church is the second Sunday of September. We are doing this for a number of reasons, including the development of a cogent, thoughtful roll-out plan, continued work on the church infrastructure, the unknown as to what July might bring, and the very real need of downtime by the entire St. Thomas staff over July and August. Should there be a new resurgence or spike in the coronavirus, we will not move ahead with this tentative plan for September until a much later date. As much as it pains us to say this, we have been told we would do well to anticipate the real possibility of not returning to our churches until 2021.
As for now, here are the preliminary thoughts. Regardless of when the church re-opens, we will continue to offer the 10 am Zoom service of the Liturgy of the Word every Sunday (which is exactly as we do now). Those who find it to be more convenient or are concerned for their health and safety can be assured this option will remain in place at least through the majority of the fall. If – and this is a large if – it appears we can move about in relative safety, we will move towards also offering a much-abbreviated service of the Holy Eucharist, in essence the second half of the service of the Liturgy of the Word. We would offer multiple services to ensure all who wish to receive would have the opportunity to do so at a safe social distance. At this time, we cannot give you a firm date as to when this might commence.
Many factors will drive this: mandates from both Governor Cuomo and Bishop Dietsche as to the number of persons allowed to assemble; assurance that all safety precautions are in place for appropriate social distancing; the wearing of masks; modification as to distribution of the body / bread (no blood / wine); multiple locations of hand sanitizers throughout the church; ushers and bulletins (and ushers likely wearing gloves); no exchange of the Peace; no singing; and no gathering within the church or parking area before, during, or after the service. Clergy will be wearing face shields in addition to masks and in place of the altar guild preparing for the service, clergy will be the only persons touching any of the Eucharistic elements through the time of distribution.
Because this is an issue that impacts the life and congregation of St. Thomas, Carol will be extending an invitation to key people (medical and legal fields, social workers, Sunday School teachers, Buildings and Grounds personnel, our Wardens, older folks, younger folks with children) to join her in a task force to make the appropriate determinations and steps regarding a return to in-person worship and the use of our buildings as information becomes known to us. We will prepare the final document to be shared with you that spells out each precaution we need to take, how best to provide our spiritual sustenance, and ensure the health and safety of each member of this congregation.
Be assured we will communicate any information we have as we work to provide what will become our new way of being church. We send you our deepest thanks for your continuing support, as we send our love and prayers for you. We ask that you hold us in yours.
Carol and Tami
For those of you who would like to worship with Carol and Tami online through Zoom, please join our email list so that we can send you Zoom Meeting IDs, passwords and bulletins. Monday through Friday we hold interactive online Morning Prayer service at 10:00 am and an online Compline at 8:00 am. On Sundays we worship together – virtually – at 10:00 am. Please contact us if you wish to visit with us online! These short services will be a way to be together for worship when not able to physically gather. If you have not used Zoom before, please download the program before worship starts by going here. The online instructions are easy to follow.
The Zoom meeting allows us to be interactive – you will hear Carol or Tami, they will hear you, and you will hear one another. It will feel as if you are together in community.
So, if you would like to participate in our virtual worship opportunities, please send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.