We have taken a close look at the results of our parish survey and wanted to share them with you. Here is a summary:
Do you wish to return to the church as soon as possible despite all the imposed inconveniences and strict regulations involved? For example, more than likely everyone will be required to wear masks, sign up ahead of time for church and stay six feet apart? Moreover, wine and bread may not be administered at communion and there will be no singing.
Instead of returning to church as soon as possible, would you rather wait until the regulations can be eased up a bit because we know it is safer? Keep in mind, there will still be a risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, but the risk will not be as great as it currently is.
Would you rather wait to return to in person worship until there is either a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19?
Have you participated in the online church services?
The last couple questions were a little bit more open ended so we couldn’t simply quantify the answers. Here is a synopsis of common responses and themes.
Most folks who have been attending online services feel that they are well done, though some struggle with technical issues from time to time. The music is appreciated, and suggestions were made to have more piano, to use the organ in the main sanctuary or to even invite accompanying guest musicians. And it was asked that the services get posted on YouTube or GCTV.
As far as growing in faith as a community in the time of COVID-19, it appears that most of us feel that we are doing well under these circumstances. And some very interesting ideas were presented. Those include publishing sermons in the newsletter, marketing ourselves to the larger community, creating a telephone tree for people who do not have internet access, doing an outdoor worship service and creating breakout rooms on video chats for more intimate conversations with smaller groups.
Thanks to all who took the time to fill out the survey. Your answers were thoughtful and we very much value hearing from you! We will use this information to forge a path forward in a way that ensures we are staying connected, growing in faith, following the directives of our bishop while also being responsive to the wishes and needs of our local congregation.
The Church Chat Working Group
-Heather Blais, Karen Greene, Charlie Houghton, Rudy Renaud, & Molly Scherm
Dear People of Saints James and Andrew,
It is hard to believe we are now three months into a global pandemic. These new circumstances have required us to find new and meaningful ways to cultivate and nurture community through virtual worship and zoom gatherings, phone calls, emails, and sending cards in the mail. It is your faithful participation in these new avenues and our church’s full court press approach to our outreach ministries which have allowed us to thrive even under the most challenging of conditions. You are the very definition of resilience, and for that we are both full of pride and gratitude. Thank you.
We wanted to give you an update on the working groups progress in our process for moving forward, the closure of our buildings, clergy presence and worship this summer.
In late May the Vestry adopted a Process for Moving Forward, in which three working groups would make recommendations to the Vestry. While following the guidelines of the CDC, WHO, the Commonwealth, and our diocese we quickly realized an important difference in language. The Commonwealth refers to things in ‘phases’, while our diocese refers to ‘stages’, and outlines stricter requirements for moving from one to another. The diocese is working with an epidemiologist who will help determine what stage Franklin and Hampshire counties are in as we move forward. (Learn more about the public health indicators for diocesan stages here).
Here is what we know so far about what these groups will be recommending to the Vestry after completing our research and conversations about how to safely reopen. When the Vestry has approved a plan after hearing parish feedback, the plan will then need to be approved by the diocese.
Bishop Fisher, by pastoral directive, closed all diocesan buildings through July 1. As each congregation discusses how to safely reopen according to diocesan guidelines, it is up to each individual parish to extend the closure of their buildings. Based on the amount of work that still lay ahead before we can safely reopen, the Vestry voted that the buildings of Saints James and Andrew will remain closed until at least September 8. In the meantime, we will keep being the Church in both virtual and traditional ways for as long as necessary. Our love of God and neighbor comes before all else.
Clergy Presence this Summer
Vacation Time: Due to the pandemic, the two of us will be taking our vacation time in slightly different ways than we have in the past. Rev. Molly, who is ⅓ time and receives one Sunday off per month in addition to her vacation time, will be in Maine from June 24-August 26. During this time, she will not be leading virtual worship, but on her work weeks, will engage in virtual meetings and pastoral care. Rev. Heather, who is full time, will be taking Thursdays off throughout the summer and parts of the fall, along with three Sundays in June, August, and September. She’ll also be away for a week in November.
Medical Leave: Rev. Heather will be on medical leave for 4-6 weeks, starting July 13, for a non-emergency surgery that was postponed in the early days of the pandemic. For the first three weeks she will be disconnected from parish life, and then presuming she feels more like herself, plans to work a reduced schedule during the remainder of her leave. During her leave our licensed worship leaders will continue to lead virtual worship on Sunday mornings (for the first three Sundays), the Vestry will host virtual coffee hour, we have a team of folks ready to cover pastoral emergencies, and Rev. Molly will be working remotely during that time. Please note due to this shift, we will be taking a break from the weekly video updates we started offering in May.
Virtual Worship this Summer: While we have been offering Spiritual Communion and Morning Prayer a couple of times each month, during the summer things will shift depending on who is presiding at worship. For the next couple of weeks we will have Spiritual Communion. During Rev. Heather’s leave, we will have Morning Prayer, which we may continue when she first returns. By mid-August we plan to resume alternating between Morning Prayer and Spiritual Communion again.
If you have any questions or concerns about any of these updates, please do not hesitate to speak to us or a member of the Vestry.
Thank you for all that you do in your prayers and in your actions to support the mission and ministry of Saints James and Andrew. Your faithfulness inspires us, and we are beyond grateful for each and everyone of you. Please join us in praying for our world and our community as we take this one step at a time and navigate the path of reopening. May God bless you and keep you, this day, and everyday.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Heather & Rev. Molly
Dear People of Saints James and Andrew,
As we begin the process of opening our physical buildings, the Vestry wants very much to have your input. To that end, we are putting together a short survey to determine how best to get your feedback and to gauge how comfortable you are returning to worship. If you are not comfortable filling out an online survey, but have input to give, please call our Parish Administrator, Beau, at (413) 773-3925. We are also aware that some people might choose to give feedback anonymously. While we would love to know who you are in the event that we would want to follow up, we will offer you the choice of whether or not you self identify. The survey will be open through June 25.
The Church Chat Working Group
Rev. Heather Blais
Rev. Molly Scherm