I am happy to announce that St. Paul’s is re-opening with limited capacity on Sunday October 11th.
We will hold services at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. The 10:30 service will have music and will be live streamed. We will be asking folks to register as we are only permitted 22 parishioners at 8:00 and 15 at 10:30 after necessary staff are in place.
You may also make a reservation from the Calendar on our website.
PLEASE LIMIT YOUR RESERVATIONS TO ONCE EVERY SIX WEEKS to ensure that everyone has a chance to attend church until regular services resume.
While I hope this is happy news for many what follows is a narrative description of what to expect as we regather under restrictions. Do note that we will not hold Adult Christian Formation on site and we will not have a hospitality reception following our 10:30 service. Our Home Eucharistic services with our Lay Eucharistic visitors will continue. If you’ve gotten all you need from this publication then you are welcome to stop reading. For those with nothing better to do, enjoy!
Church during a Pandemic
The day has arrived! You signed up a few weeks ago to attend church at 10:30am this Sunday. You’ve missed worshiping at St. Paul’s but you’ve missed the people even more. The drive to church on a Sunday morning feels familiar; the route, the absence of other cars on the road. It feels like Sunday morning again! You pull into the parking and the building looks just as you remembered (with the exception that the North Windows have been re-finished and they look like new).
As you get out of your car, however, you notice that the entrance into the church from our parking lot is blocked by a sign directing you to the doors on Market Street. As you walk down the sidewalk between St. Paul’s and Andrew’s Mortuary you see other people standing at least 6 feet apart from another in designated spaces; everyone has a mask on so you think you see a few familiar faces but you’re not sure, you wave anyway, happy to be here. You’re standing outside, you realize, because the usher has to ensure that she takes everyone’s temperature before they can enter the building; and of course, the usher is doing a great job at welcoming so there is some conversation as well; you wait.
Once you get inside you realize your seat, the one you’ve sat in every Sunday since arriving at St. Paul’s is not available. It’s not available because every other pew has been blocked off to prevent people who are not family groups from sitting closely to one another. You find a seat in the general proximity of your preferred place, but definitely not in the front pew.
You notice that there are no hymnals or prayer books in the pews. You look around again for familiar faces but folks are again masked. You recognize a few people and wave, perhaps even speaking from a distance, across pews or aisles.
When the church service begins there is no procession, the clergy walk in and take their seats. The officiant begins by offering some directions around the peace and the offering collection. When he is finished the organ begins playing and a soloist starts singing but no one else is singing; you appreciate the music in person nonetheless.
As the service continues you wonder who exactly the clergy are talking to: the few people in the pews or to the folks at home; this is an adjustment for everyone. When it comes time for the peace, there are no hands to shake or people to hug, but there are peace signs and warm smiling eyes with people saying behind masks “Peace be with you!”
Afterwards you sit down and wait for the offering plate to come around only to realize that it won’t be coming; you remember the directions that were given at the beginning of the service by the clergy about offerings being collected in a central basket near the font.
You receive communion on the floor of the nave, not at the altar rail as you are accustomed to doing while listening to another hymn being sung by the soloist. You make your way back to your seat for one more hymn and the dismissal and blessing followed by the organ postlude you’d missed so much.
Once that is finished you realize the clergy make themselves scarce and remember that there will be no coffee hour following the service. The usher directs people out a door different than the one they entered. People mingle about the parking lot for a few minutes talking and catching up before you get back into your car.
You realize church feels different right now, but nonetheless look forward to the time you can do it again in a few weeks, ensuring that others have an opportunity to worship in church before you return again. Until next time, you decide you’ll catch the live stream from home.