Dear Christ Church,

As I hope you know, we have been communicating by video every Sunday during our online worship services, and that includes parish announcements. But I wanted to write to you just in case some of you haven’t been able to tune-in for our online worship services.

The announcement is that, with joy and thanksgiving, Christ Church will be regathering for worship in-person.

I know that this pandemic has been exceedingly difficult for you all.  As you know, one week in early March, on the advice of public health authorities, we stopped sharing the Peace. The next week we stopped offering the wine of Holy Communion.  Then, on March 15th we suspended all in-person worship and began streaming our services online. It happened so fast. It was confusing and disorienting. We received competing and contradictory advice, daily, from all levels of government and from all levels of the Church.

But the Christ Church staff went right to work learning how to do church online. We invested in new cameras and sound equipment. We learned as we went. We had a few foibles along the way. But we never stopped trying to connect you to your faith and your church.  And above all, we never abandoned our mission to transform lives through the love of God in Christ. And we never will.

For two weeks in June, we resumed in-person worship. But it was Fool’s Gold, as new infections in our state and local area skyrocketed. And so, we settled into an uneasy and, in some ways lonely summer of worship on YouTube and classes and meetings on Zoom.

Along the way, we have seen loved ones lose jobs; we have seen friends get quarantined, get sick, and be become disabled by COVID, and, worst of all, we lost dear family members to this plague, and yet… we did not, and we will not lose hope.  As Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Over this time, we learned about masks, and social distancing and touch-free worship. We designed a way for people to come to church on Sunday, to receive the sacrament, and to find joy in small graces. This is very challenging precisely because our faith is an incarnational faith; our faith finds much of its meaning in that Jesus Christ came down to us in human flesh, to breathe, to speak, to sing, to cry, to eat and drink, to embrace, to offer a kiss of peace, and to touch. He did all of that and more, in part to show us the way, the way to sing, to cry, to eat and drink, to embrace, and to touch, and above all, to love… so that we could do the same for each other.

But then, one day, we couldn’t anymore. One day, we couldn’t embrace, or hold each other, or touch. Our faith was no longer incarnational. What we have learned is that it is very hard to be a Christian without being together. With that in mind, it’s time to come home.

Why now? We have learned how to be together much more safely than we could months ago. We are able to re-open principally because you all have abided by the guidelines set out by public health authorities. You have been wearing your mask and keeping social distance. And so, our rate of infection has gone down such that we can come back.

As an aside, I also know that almost everyone has an opinion about COVID and regathering in the church. Some people think that we never should have stopped offering in-person worship. Others think that we shouldn’t regather until we have a vaccine that is safe and widely available. And there are an infinite number of opinions to take with regard to that question. Here at Christ Church, we are trying to take a balanced and measured approach, informed by both science and our need to be incarnate with each other. We are doing the best that we can with the information that we have. And so, as Paul said to the Ephesians, (and here I am paraphrasing…) In all things, “be gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

We all have been through a lot. And it is still going on. But Christ is still Risen! We are resurrection people, after all!

Let’s get back to the announcement. In two weeks, on Sunday, August 30, we will have a Homecoming Service. We will gather outside, at 9 am, rain or shine, in the central courtyard, for a service of Thanksgiving and Joy. Please bring your own lawn chair, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Masks are highly encouraged for everything outside; masks are mandatory for everything inside.

And then, the next week, on September 6, we will worship INDOORS, OUTDOORS, and ONLINE, with an almost full slate of services.  Also, in September, we will be resuming SOME of our in-person formation classes, starting with Bible studies. In time, it is our intent that much that we were able to do before COVID will be able to re-start.

Please be patient, as COVID has taken a toll on our staff, which reminds me…, please, please, please as we get ready to re-open in two weeks, please do all that you can do, to keep current, or catch up with your pledge or other gift, to the work of the church. Because giving and pledging has taken a hit during COVID, we have had to furlough some staff members. We want to get our staff back and whole. It will take time to get things ramped-up. But this is a wonderful and exciting first step!

Finally, please, as always in this pandemic, refrain from coming to Church if you are sick, or think that you might be getting sick. And to those who have pre-existing or underlying medical conditions that might make you more likely to get sick with COVID, please consider not coming in person; we can attend to your spiritual needs in other ways.

The idea is for everyone to stay well and healthy, physically and spiritually. Remember that our guiding question, from the start of this pandemic, was… “What is the most loving thing to do?” We believe that, as long as everyone abides by these guidelines, the most loving thing that we can do now, is to resume in-person worship… carefully, with intention, step-by-step… but with joy, so that we can be together again.  I can hardly wait!

Yours in Christ –

Fr. Tom