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St. John's Episcopal
Wednesday, May 27 2020

...As I write this, Thurston County has been approved to move to Phase 2 in the Safe Start Washington plan, which is certainly welcome news. It is a blessing that new cases of COVID-19 have been low enough that we are able to move toward recovering some semblance of normal life again, however incremental. It also puts us a significant step closer to resuming in-person ministries here at St. John’s; as I’m sure you all know, each phase must be at least 21 days (three weeks) long while also achieving specific milestones with testing and hospital capacity, so while this doesn’t guarantee a date when we might be able to resume meeting in person, it does get us closer to knowing the earliest that might happen. As of this writing, the earliest we could expect to begin Phase 3 is June 17, with Phase 4 beginning around July 8. 

For us at St. John’s, Phase 2 is indistinguishable from Phase 1. The building remains closed, and all worship continues online. Phase 3 is the earliest that we have choices to make in how we will go about resuming in-person ministries I’ve asked a working group consisting of staff, medical professionals, and lay leaders from around the parish to evaluate the guidelines from the Bishop’s Office and propose a plan for our process of resuming in-person ministries, and they began their work last week. That group consists of:

  • The Rev. Michael Beatòn Oakley (clergy)
  • Gerry Apple (Vestry)
  • Catherine Atwell (nurse)
  • Usrah Claar-Peck (Parish Nurse)
  • Andrea Castro (Hospitality at 6 PM Service)
  • Evie Fagergren (Communications Coordinator)
  • Columba Fernandez (State Department of Health & Liturgical leader, 6 PM Service)
  • James French (Director of Music)
  • Dan Kapsner (Sexton)
  • Fawn Hacker (Vestry)
  • The Rev. R.C. Laird (clergy)

It’s a large group, but the task before them is equally large: sorting out when and how we will resume in-person ministries, in order to keep everyone here safe.

We’ve met once already, and will be meeting again on Wednesday evening (May 27). As was said above, Phase 2 is identical to Phase 1 for our purposes. The question before us is what our worship and formation life will look like in Phases 3 & 4, and how we will adapt our customs and practices to ensure the safety of everyone who attends worship. 

I will say that we will continue to stream our liturgy for the foreseeable future. Even once we are in Phase 4, there will be those who, for any number of reasons, choose not to attend worship in person, and we will continue to make the liturgy available online so no one will have to miss worship. We will send out updates as the committee continues its work (through The Messenger).

If you’re like me, you’d prefer that we just skip to the end and have the plan already; after being home these last two months, I’m certainly eager for us to “be there” already. The health of our congregation, both physical and spiritual, requires that we take a slower and more methodical approach. I am grateful for the hours that each of the members of the working group are spending to find the best solutions for our congregation, and I am equally grateful for the patience of everyone else while this group completes its work. This is work worth doing well; our community deserves our best efforts.

I am looking forward to the day when my articles for The Chronicle don’t include phrases like “COVID-19” and “hospital capacity;” I’m quite sure I’m not alone in that! Until that time, I hope that you and your family continue to be safe and healthy, and I look forward to welcoming you back to worship and fellowship in our church space, hopefully sooner than later.

Posted by: The Rev. Robert C. Laird AT 12:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email