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June 25, 2020

Greetings, Friends!

I’ve been looking forward to sending this email since the Fourth Sunday in Lent! On Sunday, July 5th, at 9:00 AM, Saint Michael and All Angels will be gathering together to celebrate Holy Communion in person! If you do not feel comfortable gathering in public just yet, we will also continue to stream our services. Whether you are here at 4911 N. Knoxville or somewhere out there on the internet, we want everyone who wants it to have the opportunity to join us in prayer and worship.

As far as the pandemic goes, we aren’t out of the woods yet, so there is much to be communicated. If you read this all the way to the end, I’ll throw in a voucher for a free cup of coffee at our next coffee hour.

We are doing our best to adapt and respond to the necessities of the global pandemic, so our reopening plan could change at any time due to circumstances outside of our control. Please know that myself, along with our clergy and lay leadership here at Saint Michael’s will be monitoring the situation and adapting our plans as needed. For the sake of keeping our expectations realistic, I would encourage you to see this reopening as a month-to-month thing. We may sail back to normal in the next year, or we may be back to sheltering in place by Thanksgiving.

Let’s start by saying that things aren’t going back to “normal” just yet. Working in consultation with clergy and laity from around the Diocese of Quincy, as well as listening to the CDC and local health departments, Bishop Morales has given us a set of guidelines to follow in order to reopen. Our Vestry designated a Reopening Team that has been working hard to come up with procedures for how we will follow these guidelines. At the end of this letter I will include a bulleted outline of what to expect when you get here on July 5th.

In keeping with the theme of things not going back to normal, we will not be offering nursery care or children’s church at this time. When we’re able to, we will. This goes for Christian Education hour on Sunday morning as well. Given the guidelines that need to be followed, and given that our first priority is to be able to safely gather again to celebrate Holy Communion, we will be working towards resuming nursery care and Christian Education hour as we are able.

Because of the cleaning protocols that we will need to follow after the service, we have also decided that for the time being, it is best to have only one service on Sunday. We decided on 9:00 AM because this is the time we’ve been meeting, and because we wanted to give both the folks who usually come at 8:00 AM and those who usually come at 10:15 AM to have the opportunity to compromise in this small way for the sake of your brothers and sisters in Christ at Saint Michael and All Angels. Again, as we get more clarity on how this global pandemic works, we will be working towards resuming our two service format.

Finally, coffee hour. I don’t know about you, but I miss coffee hour. One of the things that I love most about us is the way our church community enjoys being with one another for a bite to eat and a cup of coffee after church on Sunday. For now, we definitely cannot go back to offering a spread of food the way we like to. I don’t think we can even offer coffee from a common pot. However, I do think that we can space out in the Parish Hall, open some windows, and have some leisure time to spend together. I will have more details on if/how we can do this in next week’s email.

Here is a bulleted outline of what you can expect on Sunday, July 5th:

  • Before Entering the Church Building
    • If you aren’t feeling well, please stay home and rest.
    • Only one set of double doors will be open, and they will be kept propped open for the duration of the service in order to reduce the number of people who will need to touch the door handles. The other set and the kitchen door must remain locked.
    • Before you come in to the foyer, you be greeted by one of our new Medical Ushers. The Medical Usher will take your temperature. If you have a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees, we will not be able to allow you to come in to the building. This directive is from both Bishop Morales and the Peoria County Health Department.
      • It is not a bad idea to take your temperature at home before you leave, just to be sure.
    • The Medical Usher will also be taking attendance and keeping records of everyone who visits (at least a name and phone number) in case someone tests positive and we need to help with contact tracing.
  • Entering the Foyer
    • Face coverings must be worn at all times while in the church. Children age 3 and less and those who are unable to wear them for health reasons are exempt from this requirement.
      • Masks will be available as needed, but everyone is encouraged to bring their own as you are able.
    • As you enter, there will be no-contact hand sanitizer stations available in the foyer. Please make using hand sanitizer your first priority upon entering the building.
  • Proceeding through the Chapel into the Nave
    • As you enter the chapel, there will be a table with service books and weekly inserts on it. There will be a stack labeled “take one” and another labeled “leave one.” Please take one upon entering. Afterwards, either keep or dispose of the weekly insert yourself and then leave your service book in the “leave one” pile.
    • An usher will help direct you to your seat.
      • Please note that we will be entering the nave (big church) only through the double doors in the middle.
      • Don’t worry, we’re going to have everything clearly marked. I’ll even pass along a picture once we’ve finished marking things.
    • If you live together or otherwise are already spending time in close proximity with one another, then you may sit together. Otherwise, we will be practicing social distancing in the pews (again, we’ll have it marked and diagramed).
  • During the service
    • Unfortunately, given the COVID guidelines, we will not be offering nursery or children’s church in the immediate future.
    • We’re going to have music!
      • Choir members are asked to sit in the pews with their families as the choir loft is going to be limited to three persons.
      • We still need to wear our face masks as we sing. Will it sound funny? Maybe. We haven’t tried it yet to see. But it will also sound so much better than not having music!
    • In order to practice distancing at the altar, the altar party is going to be smaller than what we’re used to.
  • At the Peace
    • Think of two of the great bands from the 1980’s and 90’s, R.E.M. and the Georgia Satellites. R.E.M. said to stand in the place that you’re in. The Georgia Satellites sang a song called “Don’t give me no lines and keep your hands to yourself.”
    • Contact with your family is ok, contact with anyone that you aren’t already exposed to throughout the week is not ok.
    • Let’s plan on standing in place and greeting one another with a friendly smile (underneath our mask) and a nod, bow, or peace sign.
  • At Communion
    • We will continue to practice communion in only one kind (bread only).
    • The Celebrant will put on his mask, use hand sanitizer, and then come down to distribute communion. This is where things are going to be different.
      • You will remain in your pew and the Celebrant will come to you.
      • Do you miss kneeling to receive? Guess what, you can use the kneeler in your pew to do just that!
      • There will be devotional materials printed in the service books for you to use as you wait for everyone to receive.
    • After the Dismissal
      • You will be asked to remain in their pews until dismissed by the usher.
      • The usher will dismiss by pew allowing space for social distancing. Parishioners should exit by the center aisle to avoid multiple exits and potential back up in the narthex.
      • You will be encouraged to exit without stopping until you are outside the church or in the parish hall where conversations can take place while observing social distancing.
        • ****THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT! I love you and I miss you and I know that you love and miss one another. This is why we need to be diligent about avoiding traffic jams in the nave, chapel, and foyer. Traffic jams will undue all of the precautions that we have previously taken to practice social distancing. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT****
      • Service books should be left on the table in the foyer in the “leave one” pile. Bulletin inserts should be taken home or disposed of by the parishioners.

 

There really aren’t words for how much I’m looking forward to July 5th! And I can’t say enough about how great you all have been through this most challenging time. Your patience, willingness to roll with the punches, and generosity warm my heart and remind me of what a blessing it is to get to serve you as your Rector.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any comments, questions, or concerns about our reopening plan. And remember, we’re all figuring this out as we go, and that’s ok.

Blessings!

Fr. Waylon