Resuming In-Person Worship on July 19

Altar candle with blurred stained glass windows in background

Resuming In-person Worship: A Summary

  • Online services will continue indefinitely. Starting on July 19, the time of the broadcast will be 10:30 a.m.
  • Beginning July 19, you will also have the option to worship at the church. TIMES ARE 8:30 AND 10:30. The two services will be identical.
  • Until given permission by the Bishop to celebrate communion, we will continue with Morning Prayer. We will be using all the mitigating practices recommended by the CDC, the bishop and the state. See details in article below.
  • We are planning to continue with online coffee hour, more information to come!
  • Read the article from Fr. Joseph below.

Tiptoeing back together — while keeping our (social) distance

Dear Friends,

Thursday night I had my first dream about gathering for worship in person, which we haven’t done in over three months.

I overslept for the first service and people were still late. Because it was a dream I couldn’t read anything and could not find page numbers in my unset Prayer book. The second service had so many people that we had to use a civics center to fit everyone! It was also a rushed start, so no one was enforcing social distancing, we hadn’t prepared for contact information gathering, and there was no altar guild. The Crocco girls schooled everyone on Prayer Book Trivia while Sam and I tried to make sure there would be enough wine to serve the whole arena. I hoped the health department didn’t show up and shut us down.

Needless to say, I have some concerns about our getting back together…but we will start tiptoeing back to in-person worship on July 19. The Bishop’s Committee has reviewed safety precautions and a plan (portions of which are detailed below) for mitigating virus transmission, and offered feedback that has been incorporated. The bishop has also signed off on how I hope to manage our regathering. 

In-person, spoken Morning Prayer will start happening at St. Hilda St. Patrick on July 19 at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. The bishop is not allowing Eucharist until a county is in Phase III. Snohomish County is still in Phase II (and we may continue to trail the county with our precautions). The 10:30 a.m. service will be broadcast on YouTube, as we have done these last few months. No one who is uncomfortable returning for worship for any reason should feel compelled to return. At the same time, some of us need to start practicing resilience and ongoing mitigation in a new normal, a new normal where safety and love of neighbor are at the fore of our minds.

With the State of Washington’s plan and the governor’s modified orders for religious institutions we could have begun meeting again on May 31. We did not. Snohomish County entered Phase II on June 5. from May 5 to June 5, nearly 80 people took part in a survey about reopening. 30% wanted to wait a while before we could gather before we started (which we have done), and 41% said they would come back when they could — with precautions.

In order to meet the bishop’s and state’s requirements — as well as to help people feel and be as safe as possible — we will begin meeting on July 19. We will be taking a number of precautions. 

  • Offering two services (with 75% of survey respondents open to worshipping at a different time) will decrease the number of people present, which enables better social distancing. Our average Sunday attendance still falls within the acceptable range for body count relative to nave size, but not with necessary social distancing.
  • Masks will be required at all times.
  • Hand sanitizing will be required upon entry.
  • Weather permitting, exterior doors from the nave will be open to increase air circulation and exchanges.
  • Attendance will be recorded primarily using the parish directory, supplemented by taking information of visitors.
  • Contactless temperatures will be taken at the door.
  • Seating 6′ between family units and no touching. No handshakes or hugs.
  • No singing. 
  • No communion or coffee hour (per the bishop’s Phase II directions)
  • Disinfecting surfaces before and after services. 

As Valerie has said, “We will proceed as cautiously and thoughtfully as possible for people who would like to attend a service, while making sure we continue to proactively include those who are not comfortable attending. Our goal is to adopt procedures and policies that create as safe an environment as possible as we gradually adapt to our new reality.” 

This new reality, with new restrictions, will not be the same or feel the same as the before times. We’ve yet to see how meaningful it will be, particularly given the intentional decreased opportunities and time to socialize. At the same time, we have to build resilience and virus mitigation into our everyday lives. I don’t want to officiate any unnecessary funerals or make national headlines! So we’re gathering again, if your health and comfort level allow you to participate. We’ll look looking for ways to make this accessible for those who cannot join in person. 

I’m cautiously excited, particularly as I look at national trends. We will continue to follow diocesan and county health guidelines. If you’d like to sign up as a helper of some sort (disinfecter, temperature taker, roll checker, etc.)  please let me know! 

I look forward to seeing you soon (no touching!).

Fr. Joseph