Rector's Blog: Update On Regathering
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Friends, it’s been a while since we spoke about how our church is dealing with the pandemic, and I thought it might be time to catch up, and to provide as clear a picture as I can give you about our plans moving forward.
We are coming up on 11 months without being able to gather indoors for worship, and most of our ministries remain remote, while some remain on hold for the time being. Before I get into details, I want to acknowledge how tired we all are of being church like this. I have no doubt that God is with us, that we belong to one another, and that the Church continues to play a vital part in keeping so many of us connected to each other across the necessary physical barriers we’re currently experiencing. But this is all so tremendously difficult. We miss each other terribly. We miss the Eucharist. We miss our space. We miss trying to sit in the same place every time we show up. We miss singing together. We miss the warmth of the faces we see on Sundays and throughout the week at 2944 Erie Ave.
I want to name all this up front. Because I feel it too. Loneliness and grief are a natural part of all our lives right now.
I continue to marvel at the church leadership that works daily to continue Church of the Redeemer’s work in the world. I am particularly in awe of our staff. Last March, when we shut the doors of the building, they immediately got to work at transitioning every possible ministry online, and they created and developed other ministries that were specific to our current context and needs. The Church will forever be transformed by this pandemic time, but we will regather with great strength and purpose, and with abiding affection for one another. This is in large part because of the faithfulness of the Church of the Redeemer staff.
And still, we are restless and lonely and grieving because we want to be together. There’s no way around that.
We can see the light at the end of this tunnel. Many of you have already been vaccinated, and many more will be in the weeks to come. This is fantastic, and I hope every single one of us will get vaccinated when given the opportunity. After a devastating wave of new cases and deaths in recent months, we are seeing a downturn in those numbers. Of course, many people are still dying, and sadly many more will die before this prolonged tragedy reaches its endpoint. It will be years before we can begin to grasp the full impact COVID-19 has had on our lives. And yet, we are getting a clearer sense of life after all this. I won’t say it’s a return to normal, because I don’t see how that’s possible. But together we will create a new normal.
I pray our shared hardship will forge a fresh tenderness and sense of interdependence. I pray we will see each other with new eyes and take nothing about our belongingness for granted. I pray we will repent of our inability to face death and learn how to grieve in real and healthy ways. I pray we will have a clearer picture of God’s presence in this world, and a deeper conviction of our role as reconcilers, participating with Jesus in the holy work of loving the world into new life.
Last Summer, we published a Regathering Plan for our parish that followed Diocesan guidelines and was shaped by state, local, and parish experts so that we would have a clear understanding of what would be required for us to regather, and what being together in person would look like through the various stages of the pandemic. The pandemic has lasted longer than many of us thought it would, but the phases of the Regathering Plan were not guided by dates but by the state’s color system for each county. And as we know, the color system is guided by numbers – most obviously the number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
I ask that you please reacquaint yourself with our Plan. The science and reasoning behind the phases we created back in July have not changed, and so neither has our phased re-entry. I say this because I know it’s tempting to find ways to bend or break these rules when we miss each other so. If you are one of the people who has messaged or called me asking why we can’t be back together – especially when we see other organizations and churches doing just that – you’re not alone in your frustration. Please know that I hear you. Please also know that I will not seek to explain why other organizations are handling these things differently than we are. We will stay the course. And I will always welcome your comments, questions and concerns about these matters.
It is our expectation that infection rates, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths will continue to decrease with some consistency from this point forward. To that end, when Hamilton County is designated as Orange, it is our intention to be prepared for indoor worship – appropriately masked and distanced with safety measures in place, of course. While I cannot give you a firm date for that, I do not believe we are far off from that time. It is our hope (not guarantee, but hope) that once we reintroduce indoor worship, we will not have to close down the building again. As the weather becomes tolerable, we will be offering outdoor worship services in Ault Park again, and if you have not yet joined us for outdoor worship, I hope you will be able to this Spring.
We are not far off, dear friends. You are a great gift to Church of the Redeemer, and you are a great gift to me. Knowing we are in this together has helped me so much, as I know it has helped you along the way. Please remain steadfast in prayer for one another, for your church community, for our country, and for this world, as we seek God’s help in overcoming this time of great tribulation. I will see you soon.
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