E-Newsletter for Sunday, July 5, 2020

In-Person Worship Suspended, Risk Factors Changed, Transition into Phase Two and more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, July 5, 2020 – Available in full online here.

Haga clic aquí para ver el mensaje de esta semana en español de nuestro misionero latino, Luis Valencia. 

From the Rector
The Rev. Dr. Jared C. Cramer, SCP
Dear *|FNAME|*

As we have all discovered over these past several months, planning in the midst of a pandemic is tricky business!

This week, the risk grading for our region of the state was upgraded by the state government to "Medium-High." This was "due to the recent 2-week increase rising above 20 new daily cases per million, as well as the increase in percent positivity during a time of increased testing."

Our Director of Music, Nick Palmer, helpfully brought this to my attention. It triggered an excellent conversation among the Vestry, the Ministry Staff, and the Coronavirus Response Team (CRT). Our parish re-entry plan had made our objective standard by which we would determine moving forward or suspending in-person worship the county rating on COVID Act Now. However, most of us live regionally, traveling to Muskegon or Grand Rapids when we need something. Furthermore, we have a good number of members who attend our church and yet live in neighboring counties. 

We did a poll, and then another poll, and found that the consensus among the Vestry, the Ministry Staff and the CRT was that our standard should be nothing above a medium level of risk for our county on COVID Act Now and also nothing above a medium level of risk for our region on MI Start Now. As of the last time I checked, this change had the support of 86% of our parish leadership. 

This change means that effective immediately, we will not be having in-person worship on Sunday, July 5, or Sunday, July 12. We will also not begin our daily services of Holy Eucharist yet. I'm not going to do the daily noonday prayers for now, as my schedule is too much in flux for me to be available at the same time consistently. After July 12, we will then reassess the risk ratings to determine if it is wise to return to in-person worship on Sunday, July 19. The Parish Office is in the process of emailing those who signed up to worship, as well as those worship ministers who have scheduled.

However, this is not a return to stay at home. Instead, I will live-stream a simple service of Holy Eucharist at 10:00am in English and 12:45pm in Spanish. I will be assisted by one Musician who will also serve as the Reader, by our Director of Music Nick Palmer, and by my wife who will serve as Digital Evangelism Team member in order to limit the households present. 

I'm sure this is disappointing to those who were looking forward to attending in-person this Sunday. However, keeping our community safe is one of the highest goals of our parish leadership and is the fundamental mission of the Coronavirus Response Team. I'm grateful that I don't have to make these decisions alone, but that you, the members of St. John's, help us discern together the best course of action. 

And, even though watching a live-stream of Holy Eucharist is not the same as in-person participation, it still has deep spiritual benefits. Noted liturgical scholar and Lutheran, Maxwell E. Johnson, put it well in an article he wrote last May. He says, in part, 
Of course, the reception of communion is the culmination and goal of the liturgy and we cannot celebrate that without some form of community physically present, at least, the pastor as part of the dominical two or three gathered “in my name” (Matthew 18:20), the two at table with Jesus at Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), or more.  But, I would assert, we dare not lose sight of the fact that the Eucharist itself, as noted above, is not just “meal;” it is also proclamation, praise, thanksgiving, memorial, epiclesis, and intercession!  And it is not just aural, something heard, but it is something visible, something seen. 
So on Sunday's livestream, we will participate in that proclamation, praise, thanksgiving, memorial, epiclesis, and intercession. We will obey Christ's command, as articulated in the catechism of our prayer book, as we celebrate the continual remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection, until his coming again. The bulletin on Sunday also offers the traditional prayer of spiritual communion for you to say while those who are present are receiving the sacrament. This approach has deep roots in the traditions of the church and has been encouraged by many, including noted liturgical scholar Ruth Meyers

If you deeply desire to receive the sacrament from Sunday's liturgy, please contact me and I will see if a Eucharistic Visitor can bring the sacrament to you. The diocesan guidelines do permit Eucharistic Visitation to resume, so long as it is outdoors and at least six feet of distance is maintained at all times. Or, you can participate in Spiritual Communion now and then receive physically once the risk area for both our region and county are at medium or lower. 

Please know that I do not take the canceling of in-person attendance at worship this Sunday lightly. I'm grateful to know that this decision is supported by almost all of those in leadership at St. John's. And I do believe that when we transition this Sunday to restoring the sacrament to our Sunday worship, the benefits of spiritual communion for those who participate online will be real.

And by being careful and cautious now, by moving slowly instead of too quickly, we can safeguard the weakest among us and ensure that when we do come back together for worship, it will be when conditions are less risky and when our celebration can be even more confident. 

Through Grace,

Read more in the E-Newsletter for Sunday, July 5, 2020 online here

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