I am overjoyed to announce that Bishop Mayer has both praised and approved our plan for returning to in-person worship. A reservation system will make it possible for us to limit the number of people who are inside during the service. Seating will be assigned. Those inside the building will have their temperature taken, wear masks, sit in family groups at a distance from others, and sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting. There will be safe procedures for receiving Holy Communion. Initially, congregational singing will not be permitted. The 10:30 a.m. Sunday service will continue to be live streamed as will drive-in worship. We will advance this plan in phases over the next several months as we move toward a time when few, if any, COVID protocols will be necessary. If at any time the COVID indicators raise concerns, we will suspend in person worship until conditions improve.
We will begin on May 16 with a special service for the Vestry and Regathering Team and their households. This will allow us to test our reservation system and other arrangements we are putting in place. This service will take place at a different hour and will not be live streamed.
On May 23, the same group of worshipers will attend the 10:30 a.m. service in person. Their additional input will help us make further improvements in our protocols and procedures.
Beginning on May 30, we will increase the number of people who can be inside and the invitation will be open to all on a first come, first served basis. The reservation procedures will be explained leading up to that date. We will continue to live stream the 10:30 a.m. service each Sunday and worshipers may still join us in their vehicles in the parking lot. Those who wish to bring their chairs and sit on the lawn outside the building may do so, with masks and distancing protocols. The live streamed service can also be seen on the television in the parish hall where there overflow seating will be available.
When we are sure it is safe, we will add an 8:00 a.m. Sunday service, which will not be live streamed. This will allow sufficient time to make the nave ready for the 10:30 a.m. service and get the audio and video equipment ready for live streaming. It will also allow more time between services to resume in person Christian formation for all ages.
This announcement comes on a day when Coronavirus infections in the U.S. are at their lowest levels in seven months, thanks to the vaccines. We have been waiting, planning, and hoping for this time for over a year. I am so proud of the people of St. Martin’s who have been so patient and respectful throughout this long time apart. Our plans have been developed collaboratively by the Vestry, the Regathering Team, the Staff, the Buildings and Grounds Committee, the Liturgy and Music Commission, and the Christian Formation Commission. The Regathering Team has met almost weekly since March of last year. Their devotion and thoughtful contributions have been amazing. All of those leading our services, hosting zoom events, and quietly working behind the scenes have been faithful and dependable. Chuck Ambrose has worked miracles with our audio and video requirements. I give thanks to God for all of you!
The Very Reverend Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church