All Church gatherings and groups OnLine only!
From the letter from Fr. Mark and Bishop Sumner:
St. Nicholas members and friends,
My desire is to keep us all informed, encouraged and connected as much as possible! I have each of you in my prayers. I hope you are connecting with our Facebook Live worship, prayers and other videos. Today I want to pass to you the godly leadership of our bishop.
Our Bishop writes in a letter to us:
“In one way the pandemic is the ultimate outlier, indicative of nothing broader and higher. It is something which we survive, with as much outreach as we can muster under the circumstances. But crises do also reveal who we are, because we must respond under pressure. We must also act with an eye to what will come next, while at the same time we make sure that we do not deform or transgress our basic commitments and beliefs. Our attention in this first phase has been practical.
There will be a new day for the Church, though we carry the scars and the trauma, of what happened in-between. God can use these too! We cannot claim to know how this period will change the Church, though it surely will. The patience to which God is calling us is paired by God’s grace with hope in the resilience and endurance of the Church, against which the ‘gates of hell cannot prevail.’ (Matthew 16:18) This is a season, from which we can learn, in which we may suffer, from which we will pass, thanks be to God. Not only our people, but also our tradition of teaching, celebrating, and evangelizing, are being carried in the hands of the Lord. ‘But I trust in you, Lord,….my times are in your hands.’ Psalm 31:14-15. Amen.”
He then outlines 3 steps:
“Step A is only having Virtual Church online with the necessary clergy and people gathered to make the Virtual Church possible (10 people, 6 ft. apart)
Step B is a two-track approach that continues with Virtual Church and groups online while carefully allowing some small groups of 10 or less to gather in places that 10 people can be 6 ft apart from one another.
Step C involves permitting gatherings of however many people may be included in church space while all congregants are socially distanced by six feet apart, in masks (leaders may carefully remove their masks to be heard while preaching, reading, or celebrating, after which they should put them back on, during all of which they maintain their 6 feet of distance); no tactile Peace, no common cup, no shaking hands at the door, or coffee hour. This means every other row with 3-4 people per row. (St. Nicholas Church building could accommodate 50-60 people with congregants socially distanced).
All Churches stay in Step A as of May 11 until further notice.
Only Churches outside of Dallas, Denton, and Collin Counties may move to Step B as of May 17
Government advice at both the federal and local levels has said that two weeks of declining infection rates should precede re-opening to Steps B or C.
The elderly and vulnerable: Both epidemiological and governmental sources agree that these groups should remain sheltered in the reopening of society. We therefore earnestly advise that Episcopalians in these groups continue for the foreseeable future to remain at home even as they participate in our common life in alternative ways. We will therefore need to continue to offer online Sunday services throughout to serve those who cannot attend in person.”
Rector’s summary from our bishop’s directive: at St. Nicholas Church continue as we have been doing, Virtual church and Zoom groups until notified by our bishop to move to Step B.
In Step B we continue Virtual Church and Zoom Groups but add the face to face gathering of people in groups of 10 or less. I will be working with my staff to organize such groupings among us for when we move to Step B. Pray for us as we strive to be practical, creative and give opportunity for spiritual growth and outreach.
This is a stressful time for most if not all of us. But at the same time I have found great joy as I watch staff and members finding creative ways to stay connected to one another and with our Lord and to engage more with the community around them. I see lemonade being made from the lemons! What Satan intended for evil our Lord has used for good!
Thank you for your prayers for me, the staff and the church leadership! Call, text, email or send a note with your joys, frustrations or questions to me. I don’t always have the answers or cannot always make it better but I can listen.