On Monday, June 22nd, The Vestry met via ZOOM to discuss plans for Phase II of re-opening the church building for worship, community groups, small parish groups, and office administration during July and August. In August, they will consider plans for the fall. They considered 2 factors: the well-being of the congregation and faithfulness to our Mission Statement:
Sharing the Grace of God, the Light of Christ, and the Power of the Holy Spirit through worship, ministry, and fellowship.
1. Weekly in-person worship : Vestry members strongly agreed that neither indoor nor outdoor worship would be advisable at this time, and that it was not necessary in order for us to be faithful to our mission statement. The continuing risks posed by covid-19, the vulnerability of our congregation, the unpredictability of New England summer weather, and the ways we have been able to hold meaningful virtual worship all factored into the discussion. We will continue virtual worship through August. We agreed on two alternatives to weekly in-person worship:
A Vestry subcommittee will explore the possibility of a special service in August, one that will bring us together, meeting the necessary protocols and accounting for unpredictable weather, safe access, and adequate seating and protection from the heat.
We will arrange for the church to be open for private prayer at specified times every week. Someone from the parish will be present to be sure that visitors remain in the back of the church and follow safety protocols; we will provide face masks and will clean the visiting area after each visitor.
Vestry members will help anyone who has trouble participating in zoom.
The Vestry agreed that Mother Judith should make any decisions about holding funerals and weddings, in consultation with the Wardens.
2. Opening the Building for Community GroupsThere was strong consensus on two matters: First, a desire to be open and support community needs, especially given the importance of in-person meetings for support groups; and second, a concern about having adequate protections and accountability for visitors. We agreed to two things:
A subcommittee will do more research on what other community resources are available for meetings and on what other churches across the state are doing to accommodate meetings. They will present a proposal for meeting public health protocols while accommodating community organizations.
At their July 13th meeting, the Vestry will consider this research and review a new Building Use Agreement being developed by Ginny Starkis, Susan Edmondson, and Lucille Clinkman; at that time they will make a decision about when we feel we can responsibly open the building to community groups.
In August, the Vestry will re-visit the question of accommodating other community groups (including the Girl Scouts and the Community Dinners).
3. Opening the Building for Parish Small Groups Recognizing the importance of providing opportunities for in-person, non-virtual ways to share discussions about the preparations for the search, especially, the Vestry agreed to wait until after the current schedule of virtual meetings, phone conversations, and mail-in responses to the topics for discussion. After that, they will decide whether in-person small-group meetings are both necessary and safe. They agreed that the people who might seek the small-group meetings are the very people who most vulnerable in a room with other people
4. Opening the Office for a 4-day ScheduleThere was strong consensus that this should be determined by the amount of time needed for Magee to do the work that is required for current church operations. The Vestry agreed that having the office open does not necessarily mean the building will be open to the public. They agreed that this decision should be made by Mother Judith in consultation with the Wardens. Through July, Magee will be in the office on Mondays and Thursdays, 10am – 3 pm.
I know that you will find this news both disappointing and assuring. We will continue to gather on ZOOM for Morning Prayer at 9 am every Sunday, incorporating music beginning on July 12th. We continue to seek ways to strengthen the bonds that we have come to appreciate so deeply.
Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and comfort the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.