A holiday season like never before
A holiday season like never before
On Monday evening, the Vestry passed a resolution to resume virtual worship only, and to postpone any further in-person worship until early January. This was influenced by the state and county officials imposing new restrictions on both outdoor and indoor gatherings and a further pastoral directive from Bishop Daniel. As the number of new Coronavirus cases rises across the world and country, the Vestry is wise to make this difficult decision as many of us readjust our holiday plans. The care and safety of our parishioners is our primary care and responsibility followed by modelling good practice, informed by science and good public health. We knew a second wave would come this Fall and would be further complicated by the annual flu season. It is important that we act responsibly and minimize public gatherings and practice social distancing, wearing masks, frequent handwashing and the use of sanitizers when we have been out in public, in the market or in contact with people or items that may unwittingly transmit both viruses.
Thankful for the journey we have been on this year
We enjoyed having a remarkable window of opportunity where 60-70 of us could gather in person in our beloved sanctuary each Sunday and share our worship and music to the glory of God for the past 5-6 months. So many of you engaged in the adult education, worship opportunities and variety worship that fed the soul and gave us strength for this difficult journey. We discovered new ways of relating, having business meetings and coffee hour, how to conduct the beginnings of a search process an having socially distanced Halloween and chorister practice outdoors for our children. We finished a wonderful confirmation class by Zoom and Dan is working with the bishop and other parishes to figure out how to confirm these wonderful young people in December. Staff and committees have been discussing how we build upon what we have learnt since March about worshipping together over the internet.
Safety, modelling social responsibility and learning to communicate deeply and differently, are all values in this new reality for the good people of St. Paul’s. New members are still coming to our community and drawn by the worship and thoughtful educational opportunities as well as pastoral care. Our volunteers and clergy recently delivered 30 flower arrangements and plants to members of our community who are either on our prayer list or homebound. The work and witness to God’s love and action in the world goes on. Shop and Drop and the upcoming Thanksgiving Dinner/Turkey drive will show how Christians share Thanksgiving with windows onto the world. The physical windows of our homes that help us look out to the world are now augmented with computer windows where we see each other close up and engage in our lives and challenges in a whole new way. This is not something we want or expect, but we should be very proud of the flexibility and ingenuity of our community in meeting these challenges TOGETHER. Thankfully, we may have some significant medical breakthroughs with vaccines in a few months. Someone recently said, if we can protect our parents and vulnerable loved ones for the next couple of months, chances are, we can beat this pandemic. This is the prayerful hope of the bishop and Vestry as we now enter a new form of being in this TOGETHER!
What the holiday season will look like for our church
Offices and church will remain open as usual (Tuesday thru Friday). We will be closed for Thanksgiving from Wednesday noon until the following Tuesday.
Our plan is to offer both in person and virtual worship this coming Sunday 22nd November Three morning services and a special evensong in celebration of St. Cecelia’s Day will be offered. We close the official church year with a BANG and will enter the Advent and Christmas seasons with a virtual journey through Thanksgiving to Christmas and Epiphany. There will be a regular Advent service on Sundays at 9, followed by ZOOM coffee hour and an 11 a.m. Adult Education program with stimulating speakers.
In place of the annual Pageant
On Saturday 12th December, we will join with four other local churches for a socially distanced pilgrimage to honor the Holy Family in search of safety and shelter. It is called A Walk for the Holy Family. Funds and support will be raised for the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network. Small groups of families and friends will be invited to share in this outdoor walk (staged from 4.30-5.30) so there is no significant crowd issue to deal with in violation of the city’s restrictions. Pilgrims can dress in traditional pageant costumes and be shepherded up Germantown Avenue to St Paul’s. We will open the columbarium doors so pilgrims can enter through the church, continue to walk down the aisle to the Chestnut Hill Ave. doors to end up at a shrine and creche in front of St. Paul’s. No-one will be seated in church and we hope a limited Christmas decoration of the church and wonderful organ music will cheer our pilgrims as they make their way down the center aisle and outside. Candles can be placed outdoors and people can go home with a little lighter and hope as we celebrate the holidays differently this year. People can choose to watch this and participate virtually or come in person respecting all of the social distancing and safety restrictions. Pre-registration for the event can be found here.
We will have virtual services in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and I am exploring a new custom practiced by our neighbor church, OMC, where the mass is broadcast on Sunday morning and those wishing to receive communion can come to the church for a few minutes, simply to receive the sacrament. With outdoor heaters and some form of covering, I think we can accommodate those few members who would like to personally receive the eucharist on Christmas Day morning. It would all be outside, if we do it at all. This is still being discussed and I am open to ideas. I realize not everyone will want or need this, but your clergy are here to serve and to feed this congregation through these challenging days.
Thanks to everyone who is helping to make the holiday season as inspirational as it can be. The Thanksgiving Day service will be virtual at 9 a.m. with Dan celebrating and I am preaching. We will have a ZOOM coffee hour following to wish each other a Happy Thanksgiving. Open hearts, open windows, and open minds to create innovative ways of relating. Welcome to the new holiday season as we give thanks for this journey together!
Rev. Canon Albert Ogle