An Update on our Church Community in a Time of Anxiety About COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Dear friends,

“In returning and rest we shall be saved,
in quietness and trust shall be our strength.”

This verse from the prophet Isaiah, which is a familiar part of our Book of Common Prayer services, has been a touchstone during our parish Lenten Sabbath, reminding me that God cares for us at all times. It seems even more important to keep in mind at this time of uncertainty and stress about the novel coronavirus. The spread of COVID-19 is causing a lot of anxiety in our community, but it is also an opportunity for us to show God’s love by taking care of each other and the most vulnerable.

The staff and wardens have been closely monitoring the recommendations of our Bishop and the Board of Health. We want to be good citizens of our Lexington community by participating in slowing down the spread of the virus and prepare for any future recommendations from local authorities. Our efforts fall into three categories: Worship, Pastoral Care, and caring for our building.

Worship

Worship is a vital part of our community life. We will continue to have corporate worship unless specifically asked not to by the Board of Health or Bishop. However, if you feel sick please stay home! (Stay home from work and school, too.) We WILL have our regular 8:00 AM and 9:30 AM services this Sunday.

However, the Massachusetts Board of Health has recommended that all people over 60 and those who have underlying health risks should minimize their social contacts. So that no one feels they have to compromise their health by coming to church, all people who have worship or formation duties or responsibilities are released from them. Similar to when we have a snowstorm, please only come to church if you feel it’s the right choice for you. We’ll make church happen with whoever is present. Therefore, we’re making the following adjustments to this Sunday’s schedule:

  • There will be no choir. Choir members don’t need to come early for rehearsal. Choir members who do choose to come should sit with the congregation.
  • There will be no children or youth formation.
  • We will have no coffee hour and no adult forum.
  • This Sunday’s healing service will take place at the 9:30 AM service, but there will be no laying-on-of-hands for healing. Instead, the clergy will be available in their offices immediately after the service for one-on-one prayers and pastoral care. This is so that people don’t have to lean close to whisper a prayer or concern but can say it privately in the clergy offices.
  • Liturgy Team members and Acolytes don’t need to find a substitute if you choose not to come to church – we will make do with a smaller number of worship leaders as needed.
  • Our Youth Group will be meeting online this Sunday, March 15, not in person. Youth and parents should stay tuned for details from our youth leaders.

In addition, following our Bishop’s new mandates for worship, we will be doing the following:

  • The Bishop has mandated that Communion will be distributed in one kind (bread only). The Common Cup (wine) will not be offered at all. Please know the Sacrament is spiritually complete in one kind.
  • We will be asking the Liturgy Team greeters not to hand out bulletins, but to let each person pick up their own. 
  • At the Peace, we will greet each other with a bow, wave, peace sign, or other appropriate gesture instead of shaking hands (get creative!).  The Bishop has mandated there be no physical contact during the Peace (no elbow bumping).
  • At the Offertory, we will not pass the collection plate but instead will place it at the entrance to the church so people can put their offering into it.
  • The Bishop has also mandated that when people come forward for a blessing at Communion, the clergy make the sign of the cross but not touch people directly.
  • Feel free to spread out in the pews, and utilize the balcony as well. Practice social distancing.

If the Board of Health asks us to cancel worship, we may need to move our worship and meetings online. Thank you for participating in the email survey about online participation. It seems that many people are interested in meeting online if we can’t meet in person. It’s possible we could videotape this Sunday’s service and share it on our web site – we’ll keep you posted.

I will share the full text of the Bishop’s letter in a separate email.

Pastoral Care

Your pastoral care team has developed a phone tree list for our elders who live alone so that we can stay in touch if they can’t get to church. Many people have also signed up, through the survey that was emailed, to be part of a phone-care tree in the event that worship is canceled. More details on that to come. Your ideas for caring for one another in this time are welcome!

Cleaning the Building

Our property chair, Christopher Huggins, is on top of making sure our building is clean. We have been coordinating with the Lex Eat Together meal leaders, Lexington Playcare, Lexington Interfaith Food Pantry, and other tenants to make sure we’re following good cleaning protocols and coordinating our plans. Roy McHoul, our dedicated sexton, has made sure his disinfecting products are on the list approved by the EPA for fighting COVID-19. He is wiping down all doorknobs, light switches, bathrooms, etc. at least four times each week. He has also thoroughly disinfected the pews and other high-touch surfaces in the sanctuary, including the sacristy and processional cross and torches. We will continue these cleaning protocols and update them as necessary and recommended by health authorities.

Conclusion

At this time no other church events have been canceled. Given our Lenten Sabbath, most meetings have been suspended for Lent in any case. The Bethany House Prayer Retreat, EfM and the Habitat Work Day are expected to proceed as scheduled at this time.

Lastly, if you are feeling anxious about all you are hearing in the news, you are not alone. Please reach out to Rev. Kate or Rev. Andrew if you’d like to talk. The clergy will be available in their offices after worship this Sunday for one-on-one prayers.

Thank you for participating in all these ways that we can care for each other at this time. It’s one way we can show our love for our elders and those who may have compromised immune systems – and for all vulnerable people.  If you have further ideas, please let me know.

Peace,
Kate

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