May 29, 2020
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:20b
Dear people of St. Margaret’s,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ. First, let me say how happy I am to greet you as your new rector! Serving as your priest-in-charge affirmed for me in every way that we have been called to ministry together for such a time as this.
I write today to share with you some decisions I have made regarding our worship life and the status of reopening our church building. The headline is this: St. Margaret’s will continue with a virtual-only Sunday worship service through at least the end of August.
The timing of the mayor’s phased reopening of the city and guidelines for regathering from our bishop notwithstanding, I believe it is in the best interests of the people of St. Margaret’s that we prioritize everyone’s health and safety by continuing Sunday services online in a way in which all can participate, and that we focus our energy and resources on connecting and caring for one another, including our neighbors experiencing homelessness. This approach values the safety of all; it’s more inclusive; and it’s far more practical given our current financial and human resources.
This decision is made with the full support of your Vestry and also after having prayerfully considered the following:
- More than a third of us are over the age of 60;
- Many of us have chronic conditions, or live with family members who are in a higher risk category;
- The required guidelines for regathering in person–including physical distancing, wearing masks, no congregational singing, and only the priest permitted to stand at the altar–stand to make the quality of the worship experience inferior to what we are able to achieve online via Zoom; and
- The cost involved (whether through volunteer or paid professionals) to clean the space regularly and make the equipment upgrades required for quality live webcasts is high.
Having been in conversation with many of you over the past couple of months, I know most will agree with this decision, while some will understandably wish things could be different. Among the most-cited reasons we long to regather is to resume our celebration of Holy Eucharist. This unanticipated, forced fast from the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood has left us feeling incomplete, even as we give thanks for the technology that allows us to worship in new ways online. While not a permanent solution, I’ve taken solace this season in reminding myself that Anglicans celebrate Christ’s presence equally in both Word and Sacrament. I’ve thus tried to view this time of praying Morning Prayer together as an opportunity to feast on the Word while we must fast from the Eucharistic Feast. While we all will have heard about churches that approach these matters differently, I stand on the side of our reformed theology, which holds that priests do not alone consecrate the bread and wine. It takes the prayers of all of us, gathered together in person, to make Eucharist, and I for one will not partake of the sacrament until we all can do so together.
While writing about our plans not to regather in person any time soon brings focus to what we are not able to do, let me conclude by reiterating what we are prioritizing in the here and now. We’re caring for one another. A team of lay leaders has been reaching out by phone to every person in our membership database. Financial assistance is being provided to those who need it because of your donations to my discretionary fund. Many more are making meals and running errands for sick parishioners. We also will continue to prioritize the improvement of our online worship experience. We are managing quite well, I must say, but I’d love for us to get even better at what we’re already able to offer. We are also forming disciples. Engagement in formation programming, including our Acts Bible study has been remarkable, and we are planning for small groups and learning opportunities to continue into the summer months.
Additionally, discerning the future of Charlie’s Place in a post-Covid world has required my focused attention and that of a number of lay leaders who we’ve commissioned as part of a Kitchen Cabinet examining short- and long-term strategies for how we will continue serving our vulnerable neighbors in safe and effective ways. While our church building remains closed to public worship, we are discerning if, when, and how we might be able to resume services indoors for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. The challenges are, at times, overwhelming, but we ask for your prayers for wisdom as we seek to discern how we can safely and effectively serve our clients in Christ’s name.
Finally, please know that I am here for you. I have personally been reaching out to as many of you as I can. If you’d like to meet, please email me to set up a phone or virtual appointment. I know our adjunct priests, the Rev. Dr. Anne Ritchie and the Rev. Rachelle Sam, would also welcome the opportunity to be in conversation with you. We want to hear from you, pray with and for you, and support one another throughout all of this. No one is alone–for Christ is ever present.
With thanks and in Christ,
The Rev. Richard Mosson Weinberg