August 20, 2020
Greetings from St. Paul’s. I pray you are well and safe. This is a pastoral letter to update you on our COVID-19 response in the parish. We have three announcements to share: 1) worship, 2) preschool, and 3) online formation.
When will we have in-person worship?
Vestry is uncomfortable opening the church for in-person worship while Lucas County remains in a Level Three COVID-19 Emergency. Vestry would like to see Lucas County drop to level one or two. At that point vestry will assess what is happening at schools and in the community.
St. Paul’s is not open for in-person worship. To be clear, vestry does not have consensus about opening. Opinions on vestry vary widely. They all agree safety takes priority in making the decision to open. Vestry and I will communicate with parish-wide emails and announcements on the website when it is time to open.
Worship will look different than what we are used to. Some of the differences are:
Limited occupancy with safe distance guidelines in place
Attendance by online reservation only
Multiple services during the week, some possibly outdoors
The Eucharist will include bread only and exclude singing
We will continue the Sunday 10am livestream permanently
The Preschool will open with stringent safeguards
Our preschool is regulated by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. They have given us specific procedures for protecting the safety of our students. Online learning is not an effective tool for three and four year old children. Although, we did finish last Spring with online support during the governor’s shutdown.
There are many rules and safety protocols involved in the daily routine, including ratios, temperature checks, and sanitation procedures. ODJFS requires the preschool to comply with the Lucas County Health Department instructions for quarantine. In the event a child becomes sick or is suspected of illness, the health department will give us instructions how to respond. This could involve quarantining the class, the floor, or the entire school.
Why haven’t we closed the preschool?
Personally, I thought about closing the preschool. However, closing does not effectively serve the community. All preschools and daycares in Lucas County are open. Closing our school would force 140 families to scramble while laying off 15 employees. The health department is a better judge than I about how to proceed. Vestry supports the decision to open. If Covid cases appear in our school, the response and decisions are not ours, but belong to the health department. We must comply.
How can we be the church?
Outreach and Inreach does not stop just because we cannot attend Sunday Worship. For example, the Food Pantry has been operating at full capacity throughout the COVID-19 emergency.
I encourage you to honor the commandment from Jesus: Love your neighbor as yourself. This is a time when you should make extra effort to check-in on your friends and neighbors, especially the good people of St. Paul’s. I worry some of our members feel disconnected and “cut-off.” We can all address that problem.
Jennifer Vasquez is working hard to offer online opportunities and limited social distancing ministries to nurture your formation while the building is closed. Most of these announcements are detailed in the newsletter. Here is a synopsis:
*Youth group has resumed having programming. The kids have been kayaking and tie-dying. They meet weekly on Zoom Wednesdays at 6pm for meeting and book study.
*Families with children have had their homes visited by “St. Paul,” who has some advice for the house churches in “Corona” times. Pictures, videos, and letters from St. Paul are being added regularly to this website: https://sites.google.com/view/stpaulsepiscopalfamilyproject/home.
*Students, teachers, and staff are invited to a drive-through Back-to-School Blessing on August 23 at 11 AM.
*Adults are studying Bishop Curry’s course, “Crazy Christians,” on Wednesdays at 7 PM on Zoom.
*Book Club continues to meet on Tuesdays at 6:30 PM on Zoom. See Donna Dick or Sue Young to participate.
*Webinars are being held regularly by the Episcopal Church and Episcopal Migration Ministries on a variety of topics. Be sure to check out the Formation Corner on the weekly Sunday posts for updates on these programs.
Thank you for your patience
Vestry wishes to act responsibly and safely. I thank you for your patience as we navigate this trying time. I worry what will happen to the Church in the long term. I don’t worry about St. Paul’s much, except we have fallen out of our spiritual habits. I know we are “out of shape” in our spiritual disciplines. We must start exercising again and I pray it is soon.
May God Bless you and keep you.
In Christ, Paul+