Rising COVID Rates Bring Worship Updates
November 18, 2020
With COVID rates rising in the City of Philadelphia and surrounding areas, the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel announces revised worship plans for this weekend forward. Key changes include reduced in-person attendance this Sunday and Thanksgiving morning and being live-streamed only for November 29 and December 6, including Advent Lessons & Carols.
Read the transcript below:
Hello to all members and friends of the Church of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields community. Thanks for listening. I'm Jarrett Kerbel and I'm the Rector of the Church of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields and today I'm going to talk about the adjustments we'll be making in the face of the recent surge of COVID-19.
We are all aware that there is a great upsurge of COVID cases sweeping through our area and, true to form, we're going to put ourselves on the side of safety and health for our members and neighbors. We played a role earlier this year in flattening the curve by going to virtual worship and shutting down many in-person activities and we're going to return to that policy in a modified way going forward, in hopes that we can ease the suffering and protect the health of our members and neighbors and all the citizens of our country.
For this coming Sunday, November 22nd we will continue in-person worship at a smaller number of people in attendance. We're going to drop our number from 40 people in the congregation to 25. We will continue to have an 8 a.m., a 9:15, and a 10:30 service. The 8 and the 10:30 will have 25 people in attendance. You must register and sign up; please don't take the risk of losing your spot by not registering. The 9:15 Family Worship will have 15 people in attendance. That's our first step. We will of course be streaming all of those services in fact, on our new streaming system, which is being installed this week. We're very excited to give that our first try this Sunday. Let us know how it goes.
For the Sundays after Thanksgiving we're going to do something different. For the Thanksgiving Day service we will have 25 in attendance and we will stream that service. However, for the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the first Sunday of Advent, and the Sunday after that, the second Sunday of Advent, we will return to all streaming worship with no in-person worship. Why are we doing that? Well, all the experts are telling us that Thanksgiving is going to accelerate the surge. People will mix with families and friends at Thanksgiving, even though we've been told not to, and that will accelerate the spread of COVID-19. Now, we have no ability to know who has socialized and mingled and who has not so, the safest course for us is to simply take two weeks in streaming worship only at 8:00, 9:15, and 10:30. One of those streaming worships on December 6th will be a wonderful Advent Lessons and Carols which I hope you will tune into on YouTube. Thank you for understanding as we make these changes.
After the first Sundays of Advent we will reevaluate. We will look at the statistics and how the COVID surge is going. We may continue in a streaming-only status through Christmas, but we will let you know later in December about that.
Now, I'd like to cover two other quick changes.
One of the things we are going to do going forward is have communion available to you after the Eucharist is over. This Sunday, the 22nd, we will celebrate the Eucharist. We will bring it to completion and I will place consecrated wafers on the table in front of the altar and then you can drive to the church and come in, say a prayer and receive communion. We ask that you watch the whole streaming service if you are going to choose to receive communion this way. The theology of the Episcopal Church has always been very clear that a communion service includes the proclamation of the Gospel, the prayers, and the celebration of the table altogether. This is a unified whole and how we enter the presence of God in the most full way. So please take the time to pray along with the streaming service and then if you choose just drive right up in the driveway, get out of your car, come into the church, say a prayer, take a minute to sit in a pew, receive the Body of Christ, and leave right after. This is a way to include more people in communion even when we have fewer people in the congregation, and in the future we will do this even when we're streaming only. Let's give it a try and see how it goes. I don't like the idea of people being away from communion too long.
Here's the other thing I want to invite you to experiment with. In your own experience of streaming worship, I want you to pray along with the Eucharistic prayer. I know some people have been dropping out of the streaming service after the sermon or the prayers. Now please try this: try staying in there for the Eucharistic prayer, pray along with the priest as we say the amazing prayer that summarizes all of salvation history and puts right at the center of that history the incarnation, life, teaching, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In good Episcopal teaching, and this is a reminder for some and new information for others, the whole congregation is always supposed to be praying that prayer with the priest. We're meant to be together in prayerful community with those words. Open to where those words take us. Open to God's presence in that story, in those words. And you can do that at home as well as you can do that at church. Just like in the prayers of the people one person leads the prayers and we all participate prayerfully, same with the Eucharistic prayer: one person leads and we all participate prayerfully. That's why at the end of the prayer we all say, AMEN. And I want to encourage you to say that AMEN out loud. Our church is universal and cosmic. There is no place that Christ does not reach and join us. So please pray along with the Eucharistic prayer and then come and retrieve your Holy Communion from church when it's over.
Thank you for listening. I'm always available to talk and reflect on how to worship in this very odd time. I'm very glad that you've stayed together as a worshipping community, even under the stress of separation and isolation. Let us pray together and maybe even imagine that the Body of Christ, though spread out, is including more people and more widely arrayed just like the Body of Christ always is, every day around the world. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.