May 21, 2021
Dear St. Mary’s community,
Your vestry and I would like to share some details about planning for a return to in-person worship. It has been a long time since we have been together in person, and we believe it is time to soon regather. This decision comes in consideration of new guidance from the CDC, the state of Minnesota, and the Episcopal Church of Minnesota (ECMN) that all suggest the time is right. We have set the date for our first in-person worship as June 13, 2021.
The vestry’s conversation on regathering focused on the values that we want to uphold during this transition. Safety will be a big emphasis; we recognize that we are a multi-generational congregation that includes kids who cannot be vaccinated yet, and we may have adults in the congregation who also cannot for medical reasons. The same values are a part of revised guidance being produced by ECMN that continues to require masking within church buildings, and maintaining 6-foot social distances.
Another important value that will be stressed is inclusivity. We recognize that some members of the congregation will not be ready to return to services right now, and for others that may always be the case. A hybrid model for services will allow us to continue to include people at home (or the cabin) in weekly services. We are looking at technology to make this a higher quality production. Though the hybrid services will likely be a different experience from our usual Zoom model for those at home, we are confident that we can continue to offer Zoom access to our services.
We have heard from many people that music is an important element of worship. A return to in-person worship will allow for more options for the number of musicians playing together, including at least some singing. That won’t include congregational singing right now, but attendees at services can certainly hum along.
Many people desire a return of the sacrament of communion. This will be allowed under ECMN’s guidance, although we may not be able to offer it every service. Our worship planning team has planned a mixture of clergy and lay-led services over the past several months as we await the hiring of our next rector, and that will continue through the summer.
Staying within our congregation’s capacity is another important value. We are humbled by how many of you have gifted your time and talents to our community. These gifts speak to the passion we all have for St. Mary’s, however all of our points of engagement have stretched our capacity to take on more. With that in mind, we have chosen to focus on the longer-term approach of planning indoor services rather than planning for outdoor services as an interim step.
It will take more volunteers than our pre-COVID services to fill roles like ushers, greeters and live-stream techies. With many people already busy on committees like Search, Worship Planning and Communications, more people to step up to take on a role on Sundays will be needed. Please consider answering the call for volunteers to fill these roles, which will be coming in the next week or two. If you would like to be a part of the Regathering Committee that is making some of these decisions on how to conduct services, we would also welcome your participation. Reach out to Cindi Brickson or Brian Nerbonne if you are interested.
We will approach this change knowing that we are building the road as we walk it. Things may not be perfect, especially at the start, but we will learn from each service and apply those lessons going forward. We appreciate the guidance that Susan is giving, and all of the efforts of volunteers and staff who are working to make our worship services happen
The vestry shares the excitement that many are feeling about once again being together. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.
Brian Nerbonne, warden
Caroline Kaker, outgoing warden
Jim Deluca, outgoing warden