Greetings my beloved St. Paul’s family! I am praying you are all well as we continue to learn to live each day in this new reality. I pray you are wearing your masks every time you are out in public and maintaining at least the 6 feet of social distance so that we may love our neighbors and love ourselves.
September 27th we will hold our first ‘hybrid’ worship service for our 10:30 am Sunday service. It is a ‘hybrid’ service in that we will continue to livestream and Facebook live just as we have been doing since March, but we will also have a limited number of the congregation in person on the floor of the sanctuary. Here are some important points for you to know as we prepare for the 27th:
- We are treating September 27th as a one-time-event in order to focus all our attention on ‘doing this well’ and keeping all safe. After the 27th, we will take 2 weeks to debrief, learn, and make any changes necessary before resuming in person worship. Therefore, October 4th, which is World Communion Sunday, will be online only with Holy Communion. If all goes according to plan, we will be holding hybrid services October 11th and going forward.
- The reservation site for securing your seat or seats for September 27th is open. The link is in the Friday email and on the church website. When you click the link and arrive at the site, please take a moment to watch the video Anne has prepared to guide you through the process. Thank you, Anne!
- We have wonderful and trained Hospitality Ministers to welcome you, ask the necessary health questions, and guide you in finding your seat and moving around the sanctuary as needed while maintaining social distances. Thank you, Hospitality Ministers!
- All who feel comfortable and able are welcome to reserve seats for September 27th. There are spaces set up to accommodate families and groups who live together. Children are welcome to attend, but they need to be able to remain with their families, wearing their masks (if they are over 2 years old) and maintaining social distance.
- There are some frequently asked questions to answer:
- Masks must be worn at all times in the building. The only time anyone will be unmasked in the building is when a speaker has arrived in the designated speaking areas, which are over 20 feet from the nearest member of the congregation. The speakers will be masked traveling to and from those designated spaces.
- Because we cannot remove our masks, please do not bring water or another beverage with you. If, for any reason, you develop a cough. Please exit the sanctuary and locate a Hospitality Minister. They can give you a bottle of water and let you sip it outside until the cough subsides.
- We can hum quietly but we cannot sing. Those in the sanctuary will not be able to see the song leader singing the hymns or sharing the anthem, but the music will broadcast over our sound system. You are free to hum quietly along, but singing is not a safe activity at this time, as hard as that is for us to hear as ‘singing Methodists.’
- Offering plates will be placed by the exits so you may leave your offering as you exit the space. Because of the pandemic we cannot pass the plates as we have traditionally done during the offertory. However, as you exit, guided by the Hospitality Ministers, you may place your offering in the marked plates near the exit.
- Because we are limiting the handling of items as a safety measure, we will not have printed bulletins, and hymnals and bibles have been removed from the sanctuary. You are welcome to print the bulletin from home (sent in Friday’s email and on the livestream website), and are free to bring your own bible.
- Time indoors with other people is a larger risk than time spent outdoors. Therefore, we will keep our time in the church building as limited as possible and restrict that time to the sanctuary, which is very safe due to the size of the space. Therefore we cannot gather in the Welcome Room before the service, nor have coffee time in the Memorial Room following the service. Spaces outside of the direct hallways to the sanctuary and the bathrooms will be roped off. Offices will be closed to protect the staff who use them. And, as much as we wish to, we cannot linger outside the entrances talking, especially as people are trying to enter or exit.
- Restrooms will be open if you have need of them, but are restricted to one person at a time, overseen by one of our Hospitality Ministers. The best practice is to use your bathroom at home before you come, and after the service once you are home.
- The Hospitality Ministry team will be putting together a “what to expect” video guiding us all through the new ways we enter, dwell within, and exit the building. It will be sent out in one of the weekly emails before the September 27th service. All of these safety protocols are designed using the materials sent to the church by the New York State government and in consultation with area experts on health safety and biohazard containment. A HUGE thank you to our building re0pening team, led by our Trustees chairperson, Cynthia Lunine, and a HUGE thank you to all our staff. The Planning team, reopening team and all our staff have been working very hard to make this hybrid worship service as safe and welcoming as possible given our new reality.
As we prepare for September 27, Paul’s words from Romans 8 keep sounding in my soul:
Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …
37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. 38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.
Whether we will worship from a pew in the sanctuary or from the comfort of our homes on September 27th, nothing separates us! We are connected to Christ and we are connected to one another. Thanks be to God!