April 1, 2022
An Update on Regathering
Dear People of Redeemer,
We are delighted to share new, less restrictive requirements and guidelines for gathering for worship and other activities at Redeemer. Our new guidelines, summarized below, will be effective on Monday, April 4 – so the first Sunday that we’ll get to enjoy them together will be Palm Sunday. We hope that these new requirements offer a new sense of freedom and joy, particularly as they arrive during Holy Week.
You might wonder – why do our parish guidelines seem stricter than what we see in some other parts of life? Why do I have to wear a mask at church when I don’t have to wear one to the store or to the gym? Why are things back to normal at my child’s school and not at Our Redeemer?
The short answer is that church is meant to be different – our faith in Jesus should make us different than other institutions. First, church is one of the very few remaining spaces in our society that is genuinely intergenerational. Unlike a high school or a gym, we must find ways gather in ways that are safe for children who are not yet old enough to be vaccinated as well as for those whose age makes them more vulnerable. Second, while we require vaccination for many activities within the church, we do not require it for worship. Worship is different, sacred, and we do not want to create any barrier to welcoming those who come seeking God. So we must find ways to gather that take into account that some attendees might not be vaccinated, which heightens risk for all.
The best reason is best articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: “take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to the vulnerable.” Paul says that love is not about insisting on our freedoms – it’s about being willing not to exercise our right to do something if doing so would hurt someone else. As the Body of Christ, we do not wish to return to normal at the expense of those among us who are still at risk; we do not want to leave anyone behind.
We yearn for the pandemic to be over, and there is every reason to be hopeful. The Regathering Committee and clergy are open to your input and will review these decisions monthly in hope that continued progress allows us to relax further. In the meantime, we celebrate these changes. And we do so with gratitude for the love and patience you show one another every day, for the way you have carried one another through this painful time.
A reminder of how these decisions are made: taking into account CDC guidance and COVID-19 indicators throughout the diocese, the Bishops of the Diocese of Massachusetts offer requirements and guidelines. Parishes discern how to apply these guidelines to their own contexts; they always have the right to be stricter than what the Bishops allow but cannot be more lenient than what is permitted. Redeemer’s Regathering Committee, under the leadership of Dr. Erica Brotschi, works with great care to make a recommendation to the Vestry regarding guidelines for Redeemer. The Vestry votes on these guidelines; the Worship Committee is responsible for implementing them in the context of worship.
For Indoor Worship:
Distancing: All distancing requirements for worship are lifted for the left/pulpit side of the church; people may sit as close to each other as they like. The lectern/piano side will remain distanced and marked as it is, at 6-foot distances. The balcony will be a flexible space, either distanced or not, depending on need. There is no longer a limit on number of households attending services and no longer a need to sign up for services in advance.
Masking: Masks will still be required for indoor worship.
For Outdoor Worship: (scheduled to begin on Sunday, May 29):
Distancing: All distancing requirements will be lifted for outdoor worship. Those who need to remain distanced or cautious for their health are invited and encouraged to take the space they need at the service.
Masking: All masking requirements will be lifted for outdoor worship. We invite people to continue to wear masks if they would like.
For Non-Worship Events:
Distancing: All distancing requirements will be lifted for non-worship indoor events.
Masking: Masking continues to be required in common spaces (hallways, bathrooms) and in meeting rooms. However, if a group meets at or after 6PM and is the last group to use that room for the day (giving time for aerosols to settle and air to circulate before the room is next used), they may remove their masks in that smaller room only; they will need to use masks in the common areas. Church groups that meet after 6pm are asked to check with everyone in advance of the meeting to see what people are comfortable with before removing masks in a meeting.
Coffee Hour: Coffee hour can begin again. In warm weather, we will gather on the front steps. In rain (or snow, heaven forbid) we will use the Meeting Room in the basement. Masks inside the room will not be required.
Sharing the Chalice:
The Diocese, the Regathering Committee, and the Vestry have allowed the use of the shared chalice (the common cup) but forbid the practice of intincting (dipping the wafer into the wine). There will be no pressure or expectation that anyone will drink from the cup unless they want to, and the clergy will remind people that the Eucharist is full and valid in just the bread. The Worship Committee is not yet ready to implement this practice and hopes to do so after working through the logistics for the other changes proposed.