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
As we watch the world around us beginning to re-open from the restrictions we have lived with since the COVID 19 pandemic began, we are all eager to know when and how we can begin moving forward into new ways of being a Saints James and Andrew that provides us the joy, comfort and inspiration we value, but which is a safe and responsible environment for everyone involved.
The Episcopal Church in Massachusetts has issued a set of guidelines to accompany the state’s guidelines for houses of worship; we will also receive a set of guidelines, in June, with further guidance for parishes in our Diocese. These documents make it clear that getting ready to move forward in compliance with diocesan and state requirements is not going to be quick or easy. Until such time as we have a world in which the coronavirus is no longer a serious threat to human wellbeing, it is not going to be safe for us to return to the ways of being that we’ve fondly thought of as “normal”. The conversations we’ve been part of and plans we’ve read from others have increased our awareness of how very complex the challenges before us are.
We have outlined a process for developing specific guidelines for our parish and making decisions about moving forward; primarily responsibility lies with the Vestry and other key lay leaders, but we have also provided for parish-wide input.
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.
Rev. Heather & Rev. Molly
on behalf of the Saints James and Andrew Vestry
A Process for Moving Forward
Saints James and Andrew, Greenfield
The Vestry met and adopted a Process for Moving Forward.
We reviewed Bishop Fisher’s latest Pastoral Directive, stating that our buildings will remain closed until at least July 1. The Directive states that diocesan guidelines for moving forward will be made available no later than July 1.
We identified three working groups who will be prepared to meet, discuss, and plan how we will implement these new diocesan guidelines:
July 1 or before
Diocesan Guidelines will become available.
Working groups will begin to meet approximately once a week to identify how we will live into these new guidelines.
To Be Determined
1. The Worship Working Group and the Property Use, Outreach, and
Events Working Group will each draft a document with instructions for implementing new diocesan guidelines at SsJA, while the Zoom Church Chats Working Group will draft a plan for church chats and/or other means through which parish members will be able to ask questions, share concerns, and provide feedback to the thinking of the Working Groups.
2. The Vestry will review the draft documents and make modifications as appropriate.
3. Relevant Ministry Team leaders will be consulted and provide feedback on the current drafts.
4. The working groups will make additional modifications.
5. The Vestry will review and finalize the documents.
6. The clergy will merge the documents into draft Parish Guidelines and use both Diocesan Guidelines and draft Parish Guidelines to create a FAQs document.
7. The parish will be sent a link to Diocesan Guidelines, the draft Parish Guidelines, and a series of scheduled Zoom church chats (and/or other means of joining the parish conversation) in the newsletter. This information will also be made available on our website and social media.
8. The parish will gather through Zoom church chats to share feelings and discuss concerns about moving forward and to offer feedback on the proposed Parish Guidelines.
9. The feedback from the church chats will then be used to modify and update the Parish Guidelines.
10. The Vestry will vote to approve the Parish Guidelines.
Based on the Diocesan and approved Parish Guidelines, along with government guidelines, we will begin to move forward in phases, as appropriate.