On Thursday evening, June 4, I participated in the Bishop’s Zoom meeting concerning reopening of parishes. Here are my key takeaways –
- The Diocese will remain locked down until restrictions are relieved by the Governor’s Office
- The Diocese has developed a checklist/survey that we will have to complete. It has not been released yet. Once it is, we will review and complete it.
- We will have to develop a reopening plan that has to be approved by the Bishop. Once submitted and approved, this is how we will conduct our business
- If the pandemic re-emerges, the Diocese may suspend parish operations again
- Social distancing and wearing of masks will be the norm. Part of the plan is that we need to establish how social distancing (6 feet separation among individuals except those who co-habitate) will be enforced
- The Bishop stated that parishes need to continue with their online streaming process for services since our membership may not be comfortable sitting in church. This online presence may continue as part of our normal operations
- If you are sick, stay home
- There will be no temperature check stations to enter the church
- We will have to identify who had attended services to aid in contact tracing if there is a positive CoViD result later. I think a simple sign-in log may suffice and we will have to keep the record for a certain period of time.
- The plan right now follows a “come to church, stay for the service, leave” program. No other ministries including the after church sacrament of coffee hour.
- Those providing communion will have to wear personal protective equipment. I am waiting on further clarification on this.
- Flexible parish staffing schedules will more than likely remain (how many people in the building, “work from home”/alternate locations, masks, etc.) for the time being
Earlier, I sent the parish a note saying that we did not know what “church” will look like as we begin to recover and restore our community. We have some direction, but it has not been formally provided to us yet. Once we have it and a chance to review it, we can discuss it intelligently and rationally. Many of us are looking forward to the day we are able to get together. As Mother Susan states, “All are welcome…” when we begin Communion. I think it would be appropriate, once we have the planning documents, to host a parish-wide online presentation and discussion to identify where we are, what are the parish and individual concerns, and gather ideas to aid in our planning process.
Throughout the Bishop’s presentation and discussion, I keep hearing these words in my head, “the church is a building, the parish is the people.” Although our church has been closed, our parish has remained viable and vibrant. And for that, I am thankful.