The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote these words of hope even as he was lamenting devastating loss for the Hebrew people. We have been living in a long season of loss and isolation, some are describing this past year to one long Lent. I am writing you today about changes that I believe you will see as a sign of hope and the beginning of an end to this year long pandemic.
On Wednesday our Bishop and the Diocesan COVID Task Force issues new guidelines that will allow us to gather inside our buildings for worship. I imagine this is a next step among several that will take us to back to what was normal. In response to these updated guidelines (41 pages!) we will spend the next week remeasuring the nave and parish hall to ensure that we have the square footage to accommodate seventy people in each space. We will clean the building and prepare for our regathering inside.
At the moment our plans are to hold simultaneous services in the nave and parish hall beginning March 21, the fifth Sunday of Lent at 8:00 and 10:30. This will allow us to test our processes before the large services on Palm Sunday and Easter. For the short term we will hold identical services using Rite II and then in Eastertide shift back to an 8:00 Rite I liturgy. This will take some strain off of planning as we change all of our plans for Holy Week and Easter. We ask for your patience as we navigate our way forward.
We are grateful for the Regathering Task Force who worked through many of the logistics last May and June. We are grateful for our new Audio/Visual Team and their work that will allow us to live-stream our services and broadcast our sermons into the parish hall. Each week Tim or I will go into the parish hall and celebrate the liturgy of the table with whoever is in the parish hall, providing as rich a worship experience as we can. I hope this helps us feel like we are all together. I am sure there will be hiccups along the way, so again we ask for your patience.
These are first steps and in order to keep everyone as safe as possible we are still required to keep social distance, wear masks, and there will be no singing. But we are on our way.
Over the next two weeks we will open sign-ups for indoor worship for Lent 5, Palm Sunday, all Holy Week Services, and Easter. I ask that you consider signing up in the church for one service then choose to go to the parish hall for other services, giving other members of the Saint Anne’s family an opportunity to enjoy our beautiful space. In this way we will show mercy to one another.
For the time being formation will remain online as we plan to move these opportunities to in person gatherings.
You may have seen that we have a created a full calendar of Holy Week services. During the past year many of us have learned to work with greater flexibility. I hope that due to these new realities you might consider attending as many of the Holy Week services as you can. I promise you that it may be transformative for your spiritual lives. If you have never walked the Stations of the Cross there are four opportunities Monday – Wednesday and on Good Friday. If you have never attended a Maundy Thursday service, maybe because you are intimidated by foot washing which we cannot do this year, come and celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist. We will resurrect the vigil following the Maundy Thursday liturgy for three hours to watch with Jesus. On Good Friday we gather at noon and remember Christ’s journey to the cross. On Saturday evening we will kindle the new fire at the Easter Vigil, baptize two new members into the Saint Anne’s family, and celebrate the first Easter Eucharist with shouts of alleluia
Finally, if you are eligible to receive the COVID vaccine I urge you to take advantage of it as soon as you can. With each dose we move closer to creating “herd immunity” and increase our ability to do more together. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God has been with us throughout our year long Lent and will be with us as we return to love, worship, and serve the world through his mercy.
The Rev. Buddy Crawford
Friday, March 12, 2021