To the people of St. Philip’s: Grace and peace to you.
As I mentioned in my sermon last week, the question of reopening is before us. That question exists at the national, state, local, and personal levels. It is a question that the vestry began to consider yesterday evening in light of Bishop Reed recently issuing Guidelines for the Phased Reopening of Churches in West Texas.
The question of St. Philip’s reopening has not yet been answered. It is a work in progress. The Diocese of West Texas remains under a suspension of in-person gatherings through May 15. In a recent webinar with diocesan clergy Bishop Reed cautioned us to not be surprised if that suspension is extended beyond May 15.
Only Bishop Reed has authority to say when congregations may begin a phased reopening of in-person worship. He has, however, asked that we begin planning for reopening. At this time it seems unlikely that we would resume some form of in-person worship before June.
For now we will continue our online gatherings for worship, Sunday School, and Compline. These will continue even after in-person worship has resumed.
Whenever we do resume in-person worship it will neither look nor feel like what we have done before. We may be in the building but we will not be able to go back to the way it used to be. We will be using social distancing and other protective measures including masks. This will likely be our new normal for quite some time.
As you know, the risk of infection cannot be eliminated, only managed and hopefully minimized. The vestry and I are developing a plan that provides for in-person gatherings that are meaningful in terms of worship and prayer, and implements practical and sustainable health and safety practices that minimize the risk of virus transmission.
As your priest my primary concern is your safety and well being. My default has been and will continue to be people first.
Just like you I have opinions and feelings about what has happened, what we’ve lost (and what we have gained), and what comes next. Those are not unimportant for any of us. I hope, however, we will set them aside for the common good and love of our neighbor.
I remember you daily in prayers with thanksgiving and love. I am grateful to be your priest, for your trust, and for your presence in my life.
Please let me know if you have questions, or if you need anything or know of someone who does.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, today and always.