At our 21 July “Virtual Vestry Meeting,” we continued our discussion about the how, what, and when of regathering in our building. Thanks to so many of you who responded to our parish-wide survey, we now have a much better sense of parishioners’ motivations and sentiments regarding regathering. At the same time, we also have “new” information in the form of recent public health data revealing a concerning uptick in cases of COVID-19 in the Tidewater area. With this information in mind, and parishioner safety still a primary concern, we marked our calendars to revisit the regathering decision at our 15 September vestry meeting. By that time we hope to have additional data from the reopening of Christopher Newport University and local public schools (assuming they hold in-person classes upon opening in mid-August and early September, respectively.)
In the meantime, the life of the church continues as we develop new ways of honoring the deeply felt yearning for worship within our sacred space. First, your vestry and staff will continue to work under the leadership of Parish Safety Officer Joel Duregger as we craft our carefully considered plan for regathering. We plan to monitor and learn from the experiences of other churches and larger social gatherings. We will educate ourselves with the most current information about coronavirus, specifically its transmission.
Second, we will share plans for “pilgrimages” in which parishioners may schedule time in our beautiful sanctuary for individual prayer and reflection. The space will be sanitized before and after each pilgrimage, and all applicable social distancing guidance will be followed. This offering responds directly to the motivation highlighted by so many in the survey -- to “be in our space” once again! (Look for details in your newsletter.)
Third, in response to the desire to regather for the purpose of “seeing good friends” (as revealed in the survey results), we will seek ways for small groups of interested parishioners to gather (fewer than 10 persons, outdoors, supplying their own refreshments, etc.) for the purposes of fellowship. This plan is still in draft form. Watch for updates in the weekly newsletter.
Finally, the church remains “open.” The pandemic forced us to stop gathering in the physical building. Virtual services will continue every Sunday (with some taking place in our sanctuary!) Online videos continue; in addition to Anne and Marc, parishioners continue to lead online services; daily prayers continue on Facebook and Instagram; daily emails and weekly newsletters continue; “check-in” phone calls continue; prayer chain continues; Christian Formation continues; Outreach Team continues serving the community; and Brad continues his music ministry.
Our mission -- “Building God’s Kingdom through Worship, Outreach, and Fellowship” – carries on, regardless of “where” we worship. We ask for your continued prayers of support and understanding -- for clergy, staff, vestry, and each other -- as we develop a successful regathering plan. We remain grounded in and guided by the knowledge that God has been and will continue to be with us.