Dear Holy Cross Community:
During this time of unprecedented national response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, we have been blessed to be able to discover ways to continue to sustain our congregation and plan for its future, even while finding alternative forms for many of our most precious activities. This has been possible only because each of you has done your part to make this a journey of love, choosing to keep ourselves, our friends, family, and neighbors safe, and stay connected to others in our congregation through online worship and educational opportunities, and even old-fashion telephone networking.
We have listened not just to our city and state political leaders, as well as our diocesan and national church leaders, but also the wisdom and advice of the best medical specialists in our country. The result is that of the 632 confirmed deaths from of Covid-19 in North Carolina, only 3 deaths have occurred in New Hanover County, and none of them have occurred at Holy Cross. We are blessed to be safe and well at this point in a challenging journey together.
While some faith communities in our Diocese are choosing to begin some forms of worshiping publicly again immediately, now that Bishop Skirving has removed his two month long prohibition of public worship, we at Holy Cross are taking a measured and deliberate approach to restarting community gatherings and activities. This has been particularly important for our community because so many of us fall into the group most at risk from this virus – persons over 65 and with some underlying medical conditions. There are still 466 new cases of Covid-19 per day in North Carolina, and the more testing that is done, the more cases we realize had gone undetected. This is why Bishop Skirving currently advises that congregations must encourage all high-risk individuals to stay home rather than risk the chance of infection.
The Holy Cross Vestry will be discussing our ongoing efforts to keep all of you, and all with whom you come into contact, safe and healthy. The state regulations for Phase I of reopening facilities in the state will be in effect until at least May 22. They allow indoor worship of up to 10 people, which means that many congregations will need to hold multiple Sunday services. In Bishop Skirving’s words: “Before resuming public worship, a congregation must develop a detailed plan for public worship and must follow this plan each week. This plan must respect and incorporate all/any requirements of state and local leaders of government.”
All participants’ need to
· Maintain at least six feet of physical distancing, whether indoors or outdoors
· Wear a cloth face covering indoors, and also outdoors when physical distance of six feet cannot be maintained.
· Carry and regularly use hand sanitizer.
· Frequently wash hands using soap and water (singing Jesus loves me is a good washing length.
· Regularly clean all high touch surfaces.
· Stay at home if sick.
Bishop Skirving admits, “An argument may be made that there is no method of sharing communion that is without at least some risk.” He continues, “In everything that we do, we ought to look beyond our own needs as individuals and as congregations. How will the decisions we make and the actions that we take contribute to the prevention of further spread of COVID-19? How will the decisions we make and the actions that we take demonstrate our love for all who suffer in body, mind or spirit? How will the decisions we make and the actions that we take support us in striving for justice and peace among all people, and in respecting the dignity of every human being?”
In practical terms, this means “Worship must be modified in order to prevent unnecessary physical contact during the liturgy. Worship leaders must model physical distancing, wear cloth face coverings, wash hands with soap and water before worship and use hand sanitizer during worship, before and after touching anything that others would touch.” Prayer Books and Hymnals and Song Books should be handled as little as possible. It also means “At this time, there must be no congregational or choral singing in public worship, as
singing has been identified as a particularly risky behavior for the spread of COVID-19.” “There must be no physical contact during the Exchange of the Peace.” “At this time, congregations must not offer coffee gatherings or other forms of reception following worship.”
Given the risks still involved, the difficulties in observing all these continuing restrictions, and the fact that the health and lives of each of you is not up for negotiation, we must not let ourselves be pushed to get back to “the way it used to be.” I will be working with your Wardens and Vestry to chart our path forward. We will let you know our recommendations as soon as possible.
Faithfully, Nancy +