Dear Friends in Christ,

As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reminds us, “If it is not about Love, it is not about God.” The question for St. James, as we continue our journey together, is “What is Love calling us to do? There are no easy answers, and yet we must stay awake and alert to the opportunities we are being given to “welcome all, love all, and serve all.”

We are now able to gather for worship in small numbers inside and outside of St. James. At present we are limited to 25 (including the ministry team) inside the church and when we schedule services in the courtyard. Reservations are required for you to be able to attend. The service times that are available for reservations are 5:00 pm Saturday (inside or outside); 7:30 am Sunday (inside only); and 10:00 am Sunday (inside or outside). Sign ups are found at the following link. Sign up button  If you need help making reservations, please call the church and we will make a reservation for you.

Each of us has to decide what level of risk we can reasonably take, given our own circumstances and those of the people closest to us. Not all of us will wish to return to church at this time, but for those who do, and are able to participate safely in our services, Love bids us to provide in-person worship and the opportunity to receive Holy Communion as part of that worship.

If you are comfortable with outdoor worship, we have two service times available (5:00 pm Saturday and 10:00 am Sunday). If you are comfortable with indoor worship, we have three service times available (5:00 pm Saturday, 7:30 am Sunday, 10:00 am Sunday). If you wish to worship from home, we have two service times available (5:00 pm Saturday and 10:00 am Sunday). All services will be Rite 2.

Those who sign up for reservations will be sent an instruction sheet with our safety protocols. If you do not feel well on the day you have a reservation, or if you have a household member who is not well or in quarantine, please do not come to church. We will be taking temperatures and asking you some screening questions when you get here. If you have a temperature of 100 degrees or more, or have any symptoms or exposure to someone with CV-19 or its symptoms, we will not be able to admit you to the service, but will encourage you to tune in to one of our live-stream services.

We will continue to live-stream our 5:00 pm and 10:00 am services and provide monthly drive-through communion after the 10:00 am service on October 18, November 1, November 26 (Thanksgiving), November 29 (Advent 1), and Christmas Day.

Because seating is limited, I am asking you to wait at least two weeks before you make a second reservation.

There will be some changes in our liturgy that will affect your experience of worship. I want to share a few of them with you here. We will be keeping physical distance of six feet, and asking you to do the same with everyone you encounter when you are at St. James. Six feet is much farther apart than most of us realize. Love bids us to step back when someone enters our own 6’ “bubble.”

Because we will be wearing masks, we might not be able to hear one another very well. Standing six feet apart only seems to make it worse! Instead of stepping forward, we are going to have to ask the other to please repeat what they have said. Love bids us to speak more slowly and to be patient with one another when we have trouble communicating.

Our services will be shorter. You won’t be saying “and also with you” as often. There will be fewer hymns at the 10:00 am service. Love tells us we can’t have congregational singing at this time—it isn’t safe, even with masks. Only the cantor will sing. (We are looking for ways for us to “join” some of our music without singing. Stay tuned!)

At the Peace, we will bow or wave to one another. For Holy Communion outdoors, the priest will walk TO you, where you are seated, to give you an envelope with your host. When you are in church, you will come up the center aisle to a table where we have set out communion envelops. When you receive the consecrated bread, you receive a full communion. Extra care is being taken at every step to ensure that only sanitized hands have touched the host and the envelope before you receive it.

Finally, we must remember that, as with everything else right now, things may change. At this point, the numbers for Henderson county look favorable for us to offer in-person worship. If that changes, or if our directives from the bishop and governor become more restrictive, as may happen in the coming months, we will adjust accordingly. My thinking on this is that we have an opportunity to gather again right now, even if only for a brief interlude, so let’s try. If we do have to suspend these offerings at some later point in time, we will have learned a lot about what we need to do to re-gather again.

I am so grateful to the administrative and ministry staff, the ministry teams that are re-assembling and getting trained in our new procedures, and to the Vestry for helping to lead us through this first, initial phase of re-gathering. This is holy work for us all, and it is anchored in Love.

God’s peace,