Over the last sixteen months we have learned how to be the Church in new and exciting ways that we never would have dreamed possible had the Pandemic not forced us to adapt quickly. Our parish was able to be so nimble because of the faithfulness, trust, generosity, and care shown by every parishioner. We have learned a great deal during this season, and will continue to bring these learnings into our future.
Two weeks ago Bishop Fisher lifted all Covid-19 restrictions except one (read the letter here). The one guideline we are asked to follow is to continue to offer Holy Communion with bread only. In consultation with the clergy, wardens, and vestry we have decided to lift all Covid-19 restrictions in our parish, with the exception of continuing to offer Holy Communion with bread only, for the present, and a few other caveats listed below.
For the next two Sundays we will have worship at 8 a.m. in the Church. Starting August 1 we will transition to a service at 10 a.m. that will livestream our in-person worship. At this time, we will phase out our virtual coffee hour with the hope to resume in-person coffee hour later this fall.
You may be wondering why we will only be offering one service starting August 1 at 10 a.m. in the Church. With the ability to livestream our in-person service we will be able to worship as a whole community. Attendance at in-person worship has been low (15-25 people each week). When attendance demands a second service, we will resume with two services each week.
Thank you for your patience during these many months. We know some of you may have thoughts and questions during this phase of emerging out of the pandemic. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
Rev. Heather & Rev. Molly
We want to take this opportunity to provide an update on reopening of our buildings and on the sound/video system upgrade.
Guidance on Reopening
On Monday, Governor Baker’s office announced masks will no longer be required outdoors, and for those who are vaccinated, masks and social distancing will no longer be required indoors in most places. Also on Monday, the Department of Public Health updated their guidance for Houses of Worship, which remained almost the same as it has been throughout the pandemic. This contradictory information has led the clergy and vestry to decide to stay the course in our cautious and slow rollout of reopening, while also shifting some things which science suggests it would be safe to change. We also must continue to follow diocesan guidelines.
Masks & Social Distancing
Effective June 1, masks and social distancing will no longer be required outdoors on our campus. We want to acknowledge individual comfort levels vary widely. If you want to continue wearing a mask outdoors on campus, please feel welcomed to do so. Please note, masks and social distancing will continue to be required indoors across campus.
Resuming In-Person Worship- Next Steps
We are in our fifth week of resuming some limited in-person worship at 8 a.m. followed by a 10 a.m. live-streamed service. Services have been lightly attended by enthusiastic worshippers. This Sunday we will resume weekly Eucharist (bread only), and begin to send out Lay Eucharistic Visitors.
Up until this point, we allowed 20-24 households per Sunday, with worshippers seated every third row. Effective June 1, we will allow up to 50 households, by using only one pew between households. The space of one pew is just shy of six feet- 5ft 10in. This will eliminate the need to preregister for worship. Instead, Ushers will have a checklist of households from the directory, and can write in visitors for contact tracing. All other protocols, such as sitting by household will remain in effect.
As we’ve indicated previously, when the sound/video system upgrade is complete, we will transition to a single service at 10 a.m. that is also live-streamed. In the meantime, we will continue with our pattern of an 8 a.m. in-person service and 10 a.m. live streamed service.
New Office Hours
Effective June 1, we will resume some in-person office hours Tuesday-Thursday from 9-12, while on Monday & Friday we will offer virtual office hours from 9-12. During in-person office hours, the archway door will be unlocked, with a limited number of occupants in the office, as is posted on the office door.
We are excited to share that we will be resuming our hospitality ministry of opening the church sanctuary during the day for folks to pray- rest- be. We will put up a sign asking folks to wear a mask, social distance, and use hand sanitizer, which will be on a table in the church entry. We believe this will be a positive sign to the community that we are beginning to open our doors once more.
We will also begin to offer some outdoor seating to our Second Helpings and Sunday Sandwiches guests on the church lawn and picnic tables. We received a $10,000 Ministry Development Grant from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts to support that cause-- allowing us to purchase three new heavy duty picnic tables, hand sanitizer stations, increase our composting, etc. We are so grateful this grant will allow us to provide an opportunity for fellowship amongst our volunteers and guests.
We are exploring resuming property use to groups who rent our space on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis later this summer.
For the better part of a year there have been two Working Groups working tirelessly to get our application into the diocese last summer, and to helping us think through further aspects of reopening this Spring. A huge thank you to Kathryn Aubry-McAvoy, John Greene, Bill Hattendorf, Ella Ingraham, Alan Kurkulonis, Andy Levchuk, Elle Morgan, Maggie Sweeney, and Deacon Ann Wood for all of their time and hard work. The clergy and vestry decided that we will continue to follow the path outlined in our application, follow CDC and DPH guidelines, and common sense as we navigate reopening. At this time, transition questions and decision making about reopening will primarily be handled by staff. Yet should they be unsure or should a decision feel significant, they will bring it to our local Dean, reach back out to the working groups to get their advice, or bring it to the Vestry.
Sound/ Video System Update
The response to the special appeal has been incredible. A month into our campaign we have already raised over $11,000. This speaks to the remarkable generosity of our parishioners. The project is well underway, and we hope it will be complete by mid-summer. We are beginning to develop our Digital Ministry Team, and we hope you take the time to read that announcement below.
We realize this is a lot of information, and still many more decisions to be made this summer and fall. Our approach is slow and steady, trusting in God’s presence as we navigate this path. Thank you for your faithfulness these many months. You are an inspiration to us, and we continue to find such joy in this community we are privileged to serve.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Heather & Rev. Molly
Dear People of Saints James and Andrew,
We are overjoyed that in this Eastertide, as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, conditions will soon allow us to resume limited in-person worship. The last year has been hard in many ways, but despite the challenges we’ve faced, we have demonstrated resilience as a faith community. We have all learned much more than we ever thought we might need to about navigating technology in order to participate in virtual worship, coffee hour, and the like.
Many of you will remember having difficulty hearing when attending worship in the main sanctuary prior to the pandemic. Others will remember what difficulty we had with sound as we began to livestream our worship from the chapel and main sanctuary during the early days of the pandemic. The clergy and vestry have spent considerable time and energy trying to resolve these issues over the last year; our investigations have brought us to the conclusion that we must look to the future and invest in an entirely new and comprehensive sound and video system.
Vestry Members Andy Levchuk and Reynolds Whalen took on leadership of the project and met with two vendors as we explored our options, and we were immediately taken by the outstanding work Small Town Sound and Photo has done with other area churches, including St. Francis Episcopal Church in Holden, Massachusetts. (If you want to get an idea of what our new livestream worship will look and sound like, we encourage you to watch a service of St. Francis’ here.) The Vestry has voted to accept Small Town Sound’s proposal to install a new system costing $15,000; it’s our hope that the installation work will begin soon.
We feel called to undertake this large scale capital improvement in order to provide a quality livestream worship experience long after the pandemic fades away. We have come to understand live streaming to be an important way that we can include those who for various reasons are not able to worship with us in person: we see it as a tool for pastoral care and for spreading the good news of God’s love well beyond Franklin County.
This project will enhance the worship experience of both those who are gathered in person and those who are watching from home. We are drawing from our savings accounts to initially cover these expenses.
We invite parishioners and friends of the parish to prayerfully consider making a special one-time gift to this project, in thanksgiving for God’s blessing as we resume in-person worship. It is our goal to raise $15,000 and replenish our savings during this year in which we are already facing a deficit budget.
If you are moved to make a contribution, we encourage you to send donations earmarked for ‘sound/video’. We also can accept donations through our website.
You will find a video from Vestry member Reynolds Whalen on Facebook, who will help lead a new team of Digital Ministers, explaining this project in a bit more detail. We encourage you to watch it to learn more.
Thank you for your faithfulness throughout this past year, and for your generosity as we seek to invest in the future ministry and worship of our faith community.
Clergy & Vestry of Saints James and Andrew