Thanks be to God for much good news regarding our experience with COVID-19! Infection rates and mortality are falling. Many of us are enjoying renewed our lives in community, post-vaccination. The clergy and all members of our music and program staff are vaccinated. More and more of our church members are as well. We see painful scenes in India and are aware of states like Michigan in which the news is not as good; we grieve with those who grieve around God’s world. Yet we have reason to hope that more normal times are here, if we will get vaccinated and be prudent until we are. I do encourage you to do both.
We would all like to be rid of masks and other restrictions as soon as possible. The City of Columbia’s mask mandate extends until at least the middle of May, and our bishop will likely prefer we wear them longer. An important consideration right now is the fact that none of our children are eligible for vaccination. Though serious illness for children from COVID is extremely rate, continuing to wear masks is care for the youngest among us until our situation becomes clearer. In the meantime, I can share some incremental improvements:
- We will begin singing a limited number of verses of hymns while masked, in our indoor services this Sunday.
- During the outdoor service, feel free to remove your mask while seated, replacing it for singing and moving around.
- The clergy will generally preach without masks, now that we are vaccinated and unlikely to spread the virus. This makes sermon communication much easier for all of us. We will be well-amplified to minimize the need for vocal projection and close the pews immediately in front of the pulpit.
- Take note of ForMAYtion, a first step in renewing an indoor ministry with children and the return of Gravatt Day, our first major parish life event in many months.
We are planning to offer our 9:30 outdoor service throughout May and June, likely ending it after that if our indoor seating capacity has been increased, temperatures rise, and as our confidence in widespread vaccination and its effect grows. I am aware how many of us have come to love that service. I think we like the time, the fresh air, light, trees, and birds, and other refreshing aspects of worshiping outdoors. Your staff has been considering how elements of the outdoor service experience can come indoors with us.
I’ll always remember St. John’s flexible and loving spirit during this pandemic and the hard work so many of us have done to keep the church lively during this time. I’ve thanked God to serve with you during this time. I hope we are in the first chapters of a season of renewal and growth in our ministry. If you have thoughts about any of the above, I’d be glad to hear from you.