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.
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