Monday, November 9, 2020

Action Gospels

We are quickly coming to the end of the Church Year; the last two Sundays, culminating with Christ the King Sunday, have Gospel lessons that focus on Christian action.  This Sunday is the parable of the talents:  one person got five to work with, another two, and another just one.  Five and two were able to double their investment of money, time, and sweat equity.  The person with one talent did nothing – he was, sadly, fearful of failure.  The following Sunday has the well-known Gospel: “I was hungry and you gave me food…” and the converse “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat….” Even in the midst of our collective suffering, we have the call to reach out beyond ourselves.  With prayerful consideration, we can find ways to do the greatest possible good with our resources.  Then, on Christ the King Sunday, we will know who, indeed, is King of our hearts.

Brad Norris
Minister of Music

Monday, November 2, 2020

Flexibility and Virtual Christmas Services

As we approach our regathering, let’s be like Gumby:  Flexible!

Dear friends,

The Covid-19 pandemic has created havoc in our lives in many different ways.  The world over, people have had to modify all kinds of plans and adapt to ever-changing situations.  That’s certainly been true for us at St. Andrew’s over the past months, and I anticipate that it will hold true for many months to come.

As we lay plans for our November 29 regathering, I ask each of you to take to heart the need for us all to be flexible in our interactions and also, as always, to be kind to one another. 

In a recent meeting, our staff talked about what a fluid time this is, with new information coming out daily.  Led by our Health and Safety Officer Joel Duregger, our parish staff and leaders are working hard to prepare for the regathering by ensuring that all necessary protocols are in place.  We are also incorporating into our plans all new diocesan guidance as we receive it. 

One happy piece of new guidance is that a few choir members, wearing special masks, will be allowed to sing during our worship service.  What a blessing that will be!  (Please note that for safety reasons, congregational singing is still prohibited.) 

There will doubtless be more changes to our plans as the days go by.  One of my favorite lines in the BCP is this petition from a Compline collect:  “…that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness” (pg 133). Yes indeed.  May we rest in God’s eternal changelessness, and may we be as flexible as Gumby!

Special Virtual Christmas Services

After much thought and prayer, I have decided that our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services this year will be virtual, rather than in-person.  Even though we will have regathered for worship by then, the protocols don’t allow for anywhere near enough seating for the number of people who usually come.  There is no perfect solution, but doing the services virtually allows for the most people to participate.

Our wonderful staff and I are already hard at work planning three very special services to help us celebrate Jesus’ birth:

  • A Children’s Christmas Eve Service, complete with special music from Brad; cameos by some of our parish children; a retelling of the Christmas story using beloved creche sets; and a child-friendly liturgy.
  • A Traditional Festive Christmas Eve Service, making use of our rich Book of Common Prayer liturgy and beautiful music from Brad and other musicians.
  • A Simple Christmas Day Liturgy, straight from the Prayer Book.

You will definitely hear more about these special services in coming days, but I wanted to let you know as soon as possible that our Christmas services will be virtual.  This also gives our musicians, flower guild, and altar guild time to make and implement plans to add their beautiful gifts to our worship.

 --- Anne

Monday, October 26, 2020

How Are You Doing?

I wonder how everyone is doing - I mean how are you really doing?  We've had several months of trying to figure out how to live and function in circumstances we haven't, in our lifetimes, had to deal with on a national and global level before and it seems we are settling into whatever we call a new normal at this point, even if just a bit.  From simple life chores like going to the grocery to travel to Communion, I think by-and-large most folks are doing the best they can, but aside from the devastating impact on peoples' livelihoods, physical health, and the number of deaths, together with the widely recognized overly-stressed culture that we already lived in pre-COVID, the collateral damage on mental health is taking such a toll that even the World Health Organization has recommended not initiating a societal-wide lockdown to contain the virus, even as record daily cases continue to be reported. 

I don't have an answer beyond suggesting that we continue to be diligent in following protocols, reminding us that there are resources for those struggling with whatever is troubling, and that the community of faith that is St. Andrew's stands ready to continue to respond in love, as we have been.



A Few Thoughts on Stewardship

I have been a parishioner at St. Andrew’s for two and a half years, but I have been an occasional visitor for at least 25. I used to visit when I came to Virginia in the summers to see my family.  St. Andrew’s has become like a family to me, as well. When I was new, I could not get over how everyone talks to each other and knows each other. I had never had that in any church before.  People checked on me all the time even before the coronavirus. People care about me and look out for me. When it became too hard for me to come up to the altar for Communion, Bill and the other servers came to me for “drive-by service” at my pew. Once, I accidentally dropped the host in the wine, so they started helping me out by intincting it for me. And now that everything is shut, I still get phone calls, letters, and even care packages from people at church. I am especially happy that now we can receive Communion and that parishioners go out of their way to bring it to me. I feel special, and remembered, and loved.

I miss being with you at church, and especially the music. We are so lucky to have Brad and such talented musicians. We are also lucky to have Anne and Marc and the vestry who genuinely care for us.  I love our community and am grateful for our church family. Thank you for who you are in my life! 

Marge Rand

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Regathering on November 29, 2020

Dear friends,

Our vestry has been grappling for months with the tough decision about when to regather in person for worship. As you know, the issue is hard and complicated. Leaders in different arenas have come up with wildly different decisions about regathering—just look at the local school systems and their divergent approaches!  

I am deeply thankful for the leadership of our vestry and most especially for the grace that shapes their interactions with one another. In the midst of the vitriolic political atmosphere in our country, our vestry has practiced something else altogether: respectful, compassionate listening and speaking. They are modeling true Christian leadership, and I am so grateful. What a blessing to us all.

After much prayer and discussion, the vestry has come to consensus about a date to regather in person: Sunday, November 29, the first Sunday of Advent. That is the start of the Church New Year, a very appropriate time for us to start up live worship again.  

Between now and then, there is much to be done. Our regathering plan has been approved by Bishop Susan; now we need to attend to all of the practical details to make our regathering as safe as possible. In coming weeks you will receive information about the specific procedures and protocols we will be following, and we will also create a video to show you what to expect in our new-normal live worship.  

A few important things for you to know:
  • Although we will indeed do all in our power to keep everyone safe and healthy, nothing we do can eliminate all risk of infection.
  • Our virtual worship is here to stay. We will be live-streaming and also recording our worship services so that those at home can continue to participate virtually, and we will continue to offer ways for our virtual worshipers to receive communion.
  • No one—not even clergy or staff or vestry members—is required to come to in-person worship. Whether or not to do so is a very personal choice, and we will respect and support each other’s decisions.
  • If anyone attending worship in person tests positive for Covid-19, everyone present at that service will be expected to quarantine for 14 days. There will be no in-person worship the following Sunday.
There is a possibility that we will need to cease in-person gatherings in the future. Based on Virginia Department of Health statistics (see below for more information), I have set the following parameters around our in-person worship:
  • Once we have regathered, we will continue in-person worship as long as the combined average of the 7-day testing positivity rates for Hampton and the Peninsula remains under 10%. If the average reaches 10%, in-person worship will be suspended for at least 14 days and until the combined 7-day average is again under 10%.
  • If the combined average of the 7-day testing positivity rates for Hampton and the Peninsula is above 8% but lower than 10%, only one clergyperson will be physically present at the live service. The other will participate online. (This arrangement will lessen the possibility that both clergy would have to quarantine at the same time if there is any Covid-19 exposure at a service.)  
I know this is a lot to take in, and I imagine it will be met with many different emotions. Some folks may feel frustrated that we aren’t regathering sooner; others may feel anxious that we plan to regather at all in this circumstance. It helps me to remember that we are in an impossible, unprecedented situation; and that we are all, with God’s help, doing the best that we can.  

Writing about Jesus, the author of the gospel of John says, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Indeed we have. Especially in this challenging time, may we offer to one another and to our broken world the precious gift of that grace.

Blessings and peace to each of you.

Faithfully, Anne

Virginia Department of Health statistics 
We are using the “testing” dashboard found at this site, which is updated daily:
  • From the right-hand drop down menu, select “total.”
  • From the left-hand drop down menu, select a health district. (We will be tracking Peninsula and Hampton and averaging them together.) 
  • The percentage you see is the 7-Day Positivity Rate Total