More on In-Person Public Worship
Most of you will remember that on May 1st, the Bishop of the Diocese of New York, Andrew Dietsche, extended the suspension of in-person public worship until July 1st. As of right now, it appears likely that Bishop Dietsche will indeed lift this suspension on July 1st. However, those of you who were in worship yesterday heard me say that I, along with our leadership, have decided that All Angels specifically will not return to in-person public worship during the month of July.
As I said when I wrote to you on May 4th, we have unique challenges in returning to worship given how small our worship space is. As much as we love our building, it restricts what we are able to do if we want our community to be truly safe. Most of the options being considered by other churches are not open to us. For example, some churches have large outdoor spaces on their property in which they will attempt to resume worship. We do not. Other churches are attempting to increase the number of their services at a smaller capacity. However, given the restrictions that will still be in place in July, we would have to do more than ten services to accommodate our whole congregation. That would not only be unsustainable from a staff and volunteer perspective, but also deeply unsatisfying for much of our congregation. Still other churches are planning to resume worship but restrict attendance to disallow “at risk” members from attending worship. That is something we are unwilling to do. When we attempt to return to in-person public worship, everyone will be included.
There is also another issue. Moving worship fully online was hard and hectic for all of us. We have been inspired and grateful for the way in which you have embraced this change so energetically. We also know that many of you are tired. Many of our staff and key volunteers are tired, too. And, whenever it is that we begin to start moving back toward in-person public worship, there will be a lot of hard work involved then, too. Because of this, we think it wise to take some time to “throttle down” before we have to “throttle up.”
All the same, I know how hard this news will come to many of you. My wife Janna has known this news for weeks now, and confessed how hard it still was to hear when it was announced. We are going through a lot–not only with the pandemic, but also as we seek deeper societal transformation. We are grieving not only the loss of community, and the hard realities facing our world, but also, the inability even to grieve properly without our community of faith. After over a hundred days since the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in New York City, and almost a month of protests for deeper justice in our nation, many of us are asking: How long? How long, O Lord?
You are not alone. We are crying out with you. And in all of this, even as our suspension of in-person worship continues, we will be working hard to maintain our community. We will be attempting to create new and different ways for you to stay connected, and for all of us to grow deeper in our unity in Christ. That is my promise to you.
Lastly, a final word in closing. I believe there is a hopeful edge to our holding off from rushing back into in-person public worship before we’re ready. I believe that taking time will allow us time to adapt, and emerge from this time better and stronger than we were before.
One of my most strongly held convictions is that challenges like the ones we face can offer not only difficulties, but opportunities. I am convinced this is one of those moments for us as a church. I sincerely believe that on the other side of this, we will look back on this time not just as something we “got through.” but something we learned from; something that changed us, that made us a better version of ourselves; something that helped us live more deeply into our sense identity and calling as a parish; and something, most of all, that helped us imagine new and creative ways for us to live out our mission in this world.
As we slow down our programming for the summer, that’s something we’ll be hard at work on too. I will keep you informed on all of this as we move forward. And I ask that you pray for us, and one another, as we ask God to guard and guide us on the road ahead.
We love you, and are praying for you too.