Dear Friends and Family of St George’s,
I am delighted to announce that the Diocese has given its approval for us to return to church on June 7th.
Out of love for the people of the diocese and concern for everyone’s health and safety, our bishop decided that we would suspend public worship in March, and he has now decided that, with proper safeguards, parishes may ask to resume worship in church. This “regathering” is particular to each individual parish. In some areas, it is far too soon; in others like ours, it seems safe enough now. Very similar decisions were made by the leaders of the Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist churches in Maryland.
As a first step toward returning to worship together, we began posting our Sunday service on our Facebook page (https://facebook.com/stgeorgesmtsavage) on May 3rd. We will continue to do that every Sunday, so please feel free to worship from your home if necessary. NOTE: You do not need to have a Facebook account or log in to watch the service. Just click on Videos on our Facebook page, and you should have full access to view them.
The approval to regather comes with guidelines that we agree to follow—which our bishop has sent under the title of Covenant for Regathering, and it is attached to this newsletter. A covenant is a solemn promise that we make to each other, similar to our Baptismal Promises and wedding vows. We enter into it freely, out of love, and we do all in our power to be faithful to it.
In my mind, the entire Covenant is an expression of our obedience to Jesus’ Great Commandment: “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… and love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:37-39] These are Acts of Love for God and neighbor, and they guide our behavior and relations.
We share our love for God, which is why we come together to worship, pray, praise, and thank God. We show our love for God and our neighbor by observing the Acts of Love that are intended to keep all of us safe and healthy. While nothing can guarantee absolute safety in this time of pandemic, we feel that reasonable and thoughtful actions will do much to help us feel and be safe.
Here, then are the Acts of Love that we will observe at St George’s.
- First and foremost, please do not feel that you have to attend the service. You have other options, including watching from home on Facebook. If you are uncomfortable about being in a group, if your personal health situation makes it inadvisable for you, if you are uncomfortable wearing your mask for the entire service, or for any other reason, simply don’t come to church. We will miss you, we will understand, and we will pray with you as if you were with us.
- If you have a fever (temperature of 99°F or higher), or if you feel ill, please stay at home and worship with us on Facebook.
- If you have been to a grocery store, post office, or many other places during the first phase of safety measures, then you already have a mask or scarf to cover your nose and mouth. When you come to church, bring masks (or scarves) for every member of your family who will be attending. Put your masks on before you enter the buildings, and keep them on at all times while you are indoors.
- If you are not comfortable wearing a mask or have any reason not to do so, we ask that you stay home and worship with us on Facebook.
- If you do not use the offering envelopes provided by the church, please put your contribution into an ordinary envelope at home. Do not seal or lick the envelope. If at all possible, please do not use cash. You may also contribute online or by mailing your offering to the church. When you arrive at church, place your envelope in the offering plate in the center of the aisle.
- If you have your own personal copy of the Book of Common Prayer, please bring it with you. If not, you may use the books in the church. It is important that you use the same Prayer Book and Hymnal every time you attend. To make that easy, we are supplying large zip-lock bags and a permanent marker. The first time you attend, please write your name on the bag. At the end of the service, please put “your” books in your bag and seal it. That way, it will be waiting for you the next time you attend.
- Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer as you leave your home and as often as necessary after that.
- Included with your bulletins will be a copy of our Covenant for Regathering. We will be reminded of it as often as necessary.
- Wear your mask at all times. You may need to adjust it from time to time, but if you need to remove it for any reason, please step outside before doing so. The service will pause if anyone takes off their mask.
- Place your offering envelope in the plate on the table. Extra envelopes will be provided for those who need them. Do not seal or lick them. Again, please avoid using cash, which is very hard to sanitize, in order to protect your neighbors who have to count it.
- The ushers (wearing gloves) will place your copy of the day’s bulletin and scripture lessons on the table next to the offering plate. Be careful to only touch your own copy.
- We are required to maintain social distancing of six feet in every direction while in church. Please sit only in designated seats, and sit in the same place every time you come. Members of a family or people who live in the same household may sit together if they wish. Everyone else must keep social distancing by sitting only where indicated. The first time you attend a service, please ask an usher to indicate where there is an available seat.
- I am aware that people may have a seat that they consider “theirs.” Perhaps they have sat there for years, perhaps their parents sat there at one time. We will do our best to help you sit where you prefer, but please be flexible if that is not possible.
- If you find it necessary to leave your seat, walk as far away from others as you can and move quickly. Return to your seat the same way.
- Be careful if you need to move in the vicinity of the camera that is live-streaming the service, as well as any extension cords or other equipment associated with it. Avoid crossing in front of the camera.
- It is estimated that the virus can be projected up to ten feet or more when people sing or speak loudly, so we ask you not to sing, and when you speak, to do so softly. The organist and ministers at the altar will sing as needed. You are encouraged to listen, or to follow the words in your hymnal.
- The sign of peace is best offered with a smile and a nod of the head. Members of a family or people who live in the same household may make contact with each other if they wish.
- At this time, only the priest will receive Holy Communion. The priest will receive on behalf of all present. During the priest’s communion, please join in the Prayer of Spiritual Communion printed in your bulletin.
- If you need to use the restroom while you are at St George’s, be aware that only the ones on the upper floor of the Parish Hall will be available. When you finish, please take a sanitizing wipe and clean everything you touched (doorknobs, faucets, toilet handle, etc.) as a courtesy to your neighbor and out of concern for everyone’s health and safety. Drop the used wipe in the waste basket outside the door as you leave. If you notice that we are out of wipes, please notify an usher right away.
- In order to protect your neighbors who clean the church, as you leave, take your bulletin home with you or drop it in the waste basket provided.
- Please leave all Prayer Books and Hymnals in your sealed zip bags on the seat of the pew (do not place them in the rack).
- We are carefully considering ways to have fellowship with one another after the service, but we have not solved that particular problem yet, so we recommend that you go directly to your vehicle or begin your walk home.
I am well aware that the above is not the “normal” way to have a church service. We are still in a time of danger, especially for those in vulnerable health situations. The disease is not gone, and no cure or vaccine is available yet. Approval to continue to worship together relies on the cooperation of all of us.
There has been some discussion about the possibility of a “rebound” of the virus during summer or fall, forcing us to downgrade back to Phase One (RED). If that happens, we expect we will be asked to suspend public worship again for everyone’s safety. Let us pray that does not happen and do all we can to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy.
We will make any necessary adjustments, out of love for God and our neighbor, and we can rejoice together at the opportunity to worship in our historic and beautiful building.
If you have any questions or concerns, please email me at [email protected] or phone me at 301-264-3524.
Once again, it is my pleasure and privilege to serve as your minister, and I look forward to meeting many of you in person for the first time, as we resume our Sunday services.
May God bless and keep you, and all those you love.