September 4, 2020
Dear members of the St. Margaret’s community:
Today I write with important updates regarding our parish’s ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, including:
- Decisions regarding worship and the formation of a Regathering Committee
- Encouraging news about our readiness to reopen our facilities to our Charlie’s Place guests
Online Worship to Continue Indefinitely
Three months ago, I announced that we would continue worshiping online through at least the end of August. After much prayer, reflection, and consultation with the Vestry, I have decided that our live, online Sunday worship service (currently conducted via Zoom) will remain our principal worship experience for the foreseeable future.
It’s true that I could have named another hoped-for date by when we might be able to reopen our building for worship. But the reality is that too much uncertainty remains. Rather than announcing, and then changing, any one date, I wanted to assure all of you–and particularly those in higher risk categories–that online worship is here to stay.
Regathering Committee Called
Even while we continue worshiping online, there’s a growing consensus in the diocese that it’s appropriate for parishes to begin preparing to regather in our buildings. I am therefore pleased to announce the formation of a new Regathering Committee. Jenny Carson, our new junior warden, has agreed to chair this committee, and we are currently issuing invitations to those we hope will agree to serve on it. The committee will play an advisory role to me as rector, as together we explore two primary objectives:
- In the short-term: Exploring ways we can improve our online worship experience, while also discerning additional opportunities for the people of St. Margaret’s to gather safely. In my own prayer leading up to this decision, I felt the Spirit strongly calling us to explore creative ways to share the sacrament of Holy Eucharist with one another in this next season of life during the pandemic. Other options include socially distant outdoor fellowship; small group gatherings for sharing the Eucharist; or even moving forward with small, formal, weekday liturgies in our sanctuary, or opening the sanctuary for private prayer. Many models are emerging. The committee’s first season of work is to attend to the needs of the community while we remain largely dispersed.
- In the long-term: Preparing for the time when we will worship again all together in person. It’s hard to believe right now, but that time will come. Preparing for that day and identifying necessary resources will be the committee’s second season of work.
Rest assured whether through town hall meetings, focus group conversations, or a survey instrument, your feedback will be key in how we proceed. It’s also important to stress that in all our discernment, our top priority is to ensure everyone’s safety by following guidance from the CDC, the city, and the diocese.
Preparing to Reopen Charlie’s Place
Last, but by no means least, a tremendous amount of good work has been done to prepare to reopen our facilities to our neighbors experiencing homelessness. As I hope you know, Charlie’s Place has been able to continue to serve our guests by distributing meals outdoors; by collaborating with partners to distribute food supplies to those who need them; and by providing grocery bags from our food pantry and clothes to those still sleeping rough.
Several months ago we formed a new Charlie’s Place Reopening Committee to review recommendations from the CDC and DC Department of Human Services for how to resume our meal program safely. This group developed Charlie’s Place Covid-19 Response and Plan for a Phased Reopening, and we are pleased that following the Vestry’s approval in late July we have just this week received the bishop’s approval of our plan. The public health indicators are not yet where we need them to be to trigger our next phase of response (when we’ll first open the building for bathroom access), but having the plan approved now means that we stand ready to proceed when the state of the pandemic allows.
We are a people who seek connection and care. These values have never been more evident than in the creative ways we have gathered during this pandemic. Again and again, people have remarked over the past many months that while none of us would have chosen to be forced to worship online, many of us have found a new sense of intimacy in convening in the Zoom meeting room with the opportunity to see one another’s faces, and then to connect in smaller groups for fellowship. New relationships are being formed, and more people are feeling known and cared for in the St. Margaret’s community. If you haven’t yet given our online worship a try, I encourage you to do so!
Friends, I have every faith in our parish’s ability to continue weathering this coronavirus storm because I have faith that the Crucified and Risen One who calms storms and changes lives continues to walk alongside each of us every single day. For you and for that, I give abundant thanks.
The Rev. Richard Weinberg