Re-Opening Phase Plan

May 29, 2020

Sisters and Brothers,

Grace and Peace to you in Jesus Christ, our Risen and Ascended Redeemer!

These fifty days between Our Lord’s Resurrection and Pentecost have been times like none of us ever imagined. Who would have thought that we would experience Holy Week and Eastertide with Churches locked and Sacraments withheld. These have been challenging days, but the Lord Jesus has never abandoned us. His Risen presence gives us the strength and courage to continue as disciples and empowers us to “be Church” connecting us to Himself, each other, and our communities in new and life-giving ways.

With each passing day, we are moving closer to a return to in-person parish life but it will require some measure of patience and teamwork by all. I would like to share with you where we are heading over these next weeks and months.

On Friday May 22, the Diocese of Southern Ohio in consultation with the Diocese of Ohio released the latest guidelines and norms titled “Phased Return to Increasing In-Person Parish Life.” I would encourage you to read this document at www.diosohio.org. In this document, we find numerous requirements for re-opening parishes such as:
— No Eucharist: only Divine Office or “Ante-Communion”
— Social distancing
— Mandatory Facial coverings
— No singing
— Disinfection of all high-touch surfaces (including restrooms) after gatherings, and others

This past Sunday, May 24, the Vestry and clergy gathered to discuss the re-opening guidelines and requirements of the Diocese as well as our parish survey results, CDC norms, and directives from the State of Ohio. We have been working very hard to make sure that our efforts will prioritize the safety and wellbeing of all while maintaining due respect and reverence for the sacraments and liturgical norms of our faith. We will tackle this challenge slowly and in phases making sure that all the requirements and norms are met. This is also in line with the good feedback we heard from our parish survey. It is a lot to juggle, yet I believe that the Lord has given us grace to meet this challenge. Where are we headed?

Phase 2 target dates:
June 7 – Trinity Sunday
Live-stream worship will resume from the sanctuary. Fr. Jason, Fr. Rob, Deacon Coleen, Jenni, and Sam will be the only members in attendance. Worship will be “Ante-Communion” which is the Mass up to the sign of peace. It will conclude with a blessing and dismissal. More on that next week.

June 14 – Sunday of the most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
Live-stream worship, same as above, from the sanctuary with Clergy and ministers as well as a “soft-opening” with Vestry members to ascertain if all requirements for re-opening the building are met.

June 21 – Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7
– “Drive-In” Parking Lot Ante-Communion with Eucharistic procession (weather permitting).
– People may remain in their cars, this is especially encouraged for those of high-risk, or may join in lawn chairs or in car tail gates while retaining social distance, etc.
– Event will be live-streamed as well for those not wishing to attend.
– Vestry will gather after this Liturgy to discuss next steps.

I also want you to be aware of three things:
1) All Parish Zoom Rector Q & A on Wednesday, June 3 at 7pm – This will be a time for us to gather virtually, for those who wish, to chat about the plans outlined and ask questions.
I hope you can join us! Link will be provided soon.

2) Live-streaming Liturgy – One of the gifts of this time in quarantine has been the availability of live-streaming worship. We have seen a dramatic increase in “virtual attendance” since we began to move online. Weekday Morning Prayer which used to be 3-4 people now regularly has 20-30 folks praying along live. By the end of the day, close to 50-60 have prayed along with us! With all this being said, Live-stream will never cease at All Saints! Even long after COVID-19, we will live-stream Liturgies and the Vestry is discussing the technology that needs to be purchased to mount cameras, wiring, etc. to continue to make this available. On-line/virtual worship is NOT a substitute for our communal, incarnational worship. However, it is a great ministry for those who are unable to be in-person. Thus, it will continue.

3) Phased approach to Re-opening – To assist us in re-opening public parish life that prioritizes the safety of all as well as maintains the due respect for our liturgical and parochial life, we will tackle this challenge in phases. The Clergy and Vestry are working hard in developing phases 3 and 4 and so forth until we get to a point of full opening with reception of Holy Eucharist. We are quite a ways from that reality, but be assured we are working towards that goal in consultation with CDC norms, guidelines from the State of Ohio, and most importantly directives from our Bishop and Diocese.

I know this plan may both encourage some folks who want to see a light at the end of the tunnel or who may not be ready for re-opening anything and it may also disappoint others who are ready yesterday to return to a full parochial life. I understand your frustration on both sides of the discussion. I ACHE in the depths of my heart that I am unable to share the Sacraments with each and every one of you. I lament this plague and the loss of our in-person parish life. However, I have read the “end of the Book.” I know that the end is not separation or this plague, but the restoration of all things in Christ. I know that Love will have the final say and we will return again together around the altar at All Saints sharing in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb worshiping Christ our King in great joy. I will be the one wearing every gorgeous vestment I can find, surrounded by billowing clouds of incense, and singing so loud with our choir and all of you, amidst my tears of happiness, that the building will tremble with joy! It’s coming! Be of good cheer! Do not be afraid! Christ is risen!!!

In our Risen Lord Jesus,

Fr. Jason +