May 3, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
As mentioned at worship on Sunday, we have been blessed with a more positive outlook on the COVID-19 pandemic in recent weeks and we have received adjusted guidelines from the CDC, the state of North Carolina, and our diocese. First of all, thank you for your diligence in doing your part to prevent the virus spreading. I encourage you to continue following the advice of experts, including to get vaccinated. Please check with your physician if you have questions about this inoculation and I am glad to chat with you about it if your concerns are non-medical.
With case numbers trending downward, we have a new phase in our common life that I wanted to communicate with you.
Keep 3 feet apart. For all of our gatherings, including worship, we can now reduce the physical distancing from 6 feet to 3 feet. We are going to continue to rope off every other pew at this point, but we will be able to fit a few more people where we can. This will also make coming forward for Communion less awkward, though we ask your help in keeping some distance from non-family members at the rail. The only exception to this rule is that we are still going to keep 6 feet between choir members at this point.
Singing is back. You may have noticed the guidelines in the bulletin for these weeks have asked for refrained singing. You may sing more typically now and if you have never been much of a singer, this is your big chance to make a joyful noise.
Masking up for worship. We will continue to wear masks for worship. This is especially important because so many cases early on in the pandemic were connected to occasions with singing. Yes, the masks are awkward and annoying at times, but let’s offer this sacrifice to one another for a bit longer and we will get through these times yet.
No Masks at smaller gatherings if everyone is vaccinated. If you are gathering with a ministry group with twenty people or less, then you may take off your masks if everyone is vaccinated and you’re 3 feet apart. Remember there is the option to meet outside without masks for these smaller groups, also.
These have been trying times in many ways, but I am pleased at the progress we are making. We have done much important work as a community over the last year or so, including gathering for worship and prayer in any way that is necessary at the time. These trials have also given us a chance to work on the spiritual fabric of our community in significant ways. We have practiced sacrificially loving one another. We have discovered new ways of praying, worshipping, and being filled with grace. And we have cared for one another in a time when disease and divisiveness are on the loose. If you would like to read Bishop José’s latest letter, you may find it here. Keep up the good work, St. John in the Wilderness! God isn’t done with us yet!
Fr. Josh Stephens