Updates on Covid-19
Dearest St. Stephen’s Family,
It has now been a full five months since we last met together in person for Sunday worship on March 15, when we gathered knowing it would be at least a few weeks until we met again and sent off the Schmidts as they moved west. For the last couple months, it has been our plan to return, in some form, on Sunday September 6. In consultation with the vestry, the wardens and I agree that we very much want to gather in order to worship, pray, and receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. With that in mind, we are preparing the space for a return as scheduled. We wanted to share with you this news, yes, but also the guidelines for how we, as St. Stephen’s, will return for the time being.
Service Time: Beginning on September 6, we will have one service at 9:30 am in the sanctuary. This allows for us to be in the space before it gets too hot, as we will not have use of fans. The service will be live-streamed to our Facebook page and remain there for viewing for those who cannot join in person.
Attendance: Due to social distancing regulations, we are currently able to have roughly 30 people, depending on families, etc., in attendance at the service. Attendance will be taken with phone numbers and emails in order to be in compliance with any contact tracing that needs to happen in the event of someone testing positive for COVID-19. If you are uncomfortable coming, please join us online. If you are experiencing any symptoms of any kind, please stay home for the safety of yourself and others and join us online. Temperatures may be taken upon entry. After “checking in” for the service, you will be invited to sit in an area that is marked off and distant from other persons/households. Once you are there, please remain in your space for the entire service. There will be special seating for the reader for the day and family in order to allow easy access to the Lectern.
Masks: In compliance with state and diocesan guidelines, all persons attending worship must be masked for the entirety of their time in the building. For persons under two years old, for whom masks are unadvised by medical professionals, please make sure that, if attending, your child’s face is either under a carrier hood or facing you upon entry, then remain in your pew during service. Any time you must leave and re-enter (as children remain children and are blessed and valued), please follow the same guidelines as initial entry. Even in your seat, masks MUSTremain on for everyone 2 and older. If you are unwilling to wear a mask, you are invited to join us for worship from home. In accordance with orders of the Bishop of New York, if there is anyone who refuses to wear a mask or exit, the service will not continue and all persons must leave the church.
Music: In compliance with our diocesan guidelines and recommendations from health professionals, music will be a part of our service, though only a soloist will be permitted to sing along with music from our Director of Music, Naseer Ashraf. We know it is difficult to gather and not sing, but this is a way we can ensure everyone’s safety and our ability to continue.
Peace: While the passing of the peace is very important to us as Christians, and at St. Stephen’s especially, this practice cannot take place with any touching or moving from your seats. At the peace, we will have a brief moment to look upon each other and pass a general peace to all in the space. You may also use the peace sign. We cannot shout out to each other, lean over pews to reach out, or leave our spaces, as these all increase the risk of spread.
Communion: It has now been five months since we last shared in the sacrament of the Table in person, and we know that there is a deep spiritual hunger for this. While we cannot resume the practice of receiving in both kinds, it is the theology of The Episcopal Church that the full presence of Jesus Christ rests in both the bread and the wine. After the Breaking of the Bread, we will continue with our prayer of Spiritual Communion that has sustained us through the summer, to mark our continued belief in its words and also our recognition that many are still unable to join in person for various reasons. Then, the Pastor Kyle will again sanitize his hands before bringing the bread around the sanctuary to each person who wishes to receive. All persons will remain in their pews, and Pastor Kyle will be the only one moving about the space.
Departure: Immediately following the dismissal, all are asked to depart the church, beginning with the back row in order to prevent congestion at the doors. We are gathering to return to worship, but our return to the ability to have face to face fellowship time still remains a future endeavor. You are then invited to join for our Zoom Coffee Hour, which will move to 11 am beginning on September 6.
Please contact Pastor Kyle or the Wardens with any questions.
The Rev. Kyle T. Martindale—Rector
Mrs. Jane Stormes—Senior Warden
Mr. Eric Foote—Junior Warden