St. John’s Anglican Church
Plans and Procedures for Regathering
Bp. Grant LeMarquand and the Standing Committee of the ADGL have instructed all churches in the diocese to take the following steps before resuming gathered worship:
- Make a detailed plan for why and how we intend to re-gather.
- Discuss this plan as a mission council
- Share the plan with area Dean Mark Engel+
In light of the above request, Fr. Bryan Hollon and the Mission Council of St. John’s Anglican Church in North Canton, Ohio met on Thursday evening, May 21st of 2020 in order to clarify our rationale and develop the following procedures, which will be put in place before resuming physical, gathered worship in our sanctuary at 1115 S. Main Street in North Canton, Ohio.
Rationale: Why do we intend to resume gathered worship?
From the beginning of this pandemic, the people of St. John’s have gathered virtually on Zoom in order to encourage one another, share prayer requests, pray for each other and for the world, and worship using the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer. These virtual gatherings have taken place on Sunday mornings at 10:30 am and on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm. We’ve also remained connected and involved in each other’s lives via telephone, text, and email.
Virtual attendance has been excellent, fellowship has flourished, and giving has remained consistent throughout this pandemic. All in all, St. John’s has remained healthy and may be stronger now than we were when this crisis began. Thus, we certainly agree that our church never “closed its doors” and therefore has no need to “reopen.” We have functioned well through this crisis, and we’ve adopted some practices, like Wednesday evening prayer and Mission Council meetings via Zoom, which will continue after this pandemic ends.
That said, our people are ready to gather physically and worship in the same space on Sunday mornings. We believe there is good reason to resume this gathering. Namely, following the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, Christianity necessarily remains an embodied faith, and whatever spiritual communion we are able to enjoy virtually, it lacks the fullness of a physical gathering centered around an embodied celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
Importantly, the eternal Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1). Now, having ascended to the right hand of God victorious over sin and death, our Lord has poured out his Spirit (Acts 1:8) so that we might grow up into His fullness as members of his own body (Ephesians 4:11-16). Virtual gatherings would have been inconceivable to the apostles, so we are clearly encouraged in Scripture to gather together physically in order to enjoy the presence of Christ (Matthew 18:20), to fellowship in the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16) and to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near,” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Although we have enjoyed a degree of Spiritual Communion through online worship, this communion has only kindled our desire for the physical gathering of God’s people, which is the clear biblical model. We have practiced an extreme form of social distancing for nearly three months in order to promote the common good, but we believe that we can gather safely now and that doing so is necessary for the health and vitality of Christ’s body, which is always for the good of the world.
In order to gather safely, we propose the following recommendations and procedures outlined below for the foreseeable future, at least until we have good reason to believe that social distancing practices are no longer necessary:
Who Should and Should Not Attend?
- We will communicate with all members of our church, making sure that everyone understands the following:
- Gathered worship is entirely voluntary and optional. We understand that some may be uncomfortable with a physical gathering, so a livestream option will be made available, as we will explain at the end of this document.
- Anyone who feels ill at all, for example with a fever or a cough or even a headache, must not attend church.
- Anyone who believes themselves to be immunocompromised or part of a high-risk group, is encouraged to stay home and worship with us via livestream.
How Might We Emphasize Safety in our Arrangement of the Facilities?
- We will have hand sanitizer available at each entrance and encourage everyone to use it.
- We will have greeters at the church entrance giving instructions about social distancing and ensuring that doors are held open for all who enter.
- Face masks will be made optional, and everyone in attendance will be encouraged to respect each other’s decision to either wear a mask or not to.
- Seating in the sanctuary will be arranged so that family groups and individuals are able to remain at least six feet apart, maintaining social distancing guidelines.
- We will have no printed bulletins. Instead, regular members will be provided and encouraged to use a personal printed copy of the Book of Common Prayer, and the liturgy will be available digitally so that it is easily accessible for download prior to the service or for those, including visitors, who wish to use their mobile device during the service.
- People will be encouraged to avoid the use of restrooms if possible. Parents will be required to accompany their children in the restrooms, and restrooms will be sanitized frequently.
- Hand sanitizer will be placed in easily accessible locations throughout our small sanctuary.
How Might We Conduct the Service Itself Safely?
- There will be no singing for the time being. Instead, we will have a piano prelude, piano music as the table is set and during the eucharist. Readings from Canticles, Psalms, and Christian poems will be used to add beauty to the service.
- Microphones will be wiped with a disinfectant wipe before each use.
- Books and liturgical materials used by leaders of worship will not be shared.
- There will be no processional or recessional.
- There will be no passing of the peace.
- There will be no passing of the offering plate. Instead, we will encourage online giving, mailing in checks, and we will place a basket in a central location to collect offerings during the service.
- The duration of the service will be kept as brief as possible encouraging people to arrive immediately before, and depart immediately following the service, to limit possible exposure.
- No adult or children’s catechesis will be offered for the time being.
During the Eucharist:
- For the time being, we will continue to practice Communion in one kind.
- We will also continue to consume bread consecrated the week before. In other words, bread will be laid out in baggies as it is now. When people come into the they will pick up their Eucharistic bread and consume that bread during the liturgy.
- The priest will consecrate bread during the Eucharistic liturgy, place that bread in baggies after the service, and that bread will be available for the next week. This will eliminate the possibility of the priest infecting everyone during the administration of the bread.
- The person setting the table will avoid touching the Eucharistic bread if possible.
- The celebrant will thoroughly wash his hands immediately before the consecration.
- The Eucharistic bread will remain covered by a purificator while the priest says the Eucharistic prayer.
- Communion will be distributed in one kind. The priest presiding will take a small amount of wine in the chalice, but wine will not be shared.
After the service
- We will encourage people to exercise social distancing while exiting the building.
- The congregation will be reminded not to shake hands or hug one another.
- Sharing of coffee and food will be suspended.
- The sanctuary will be disinfected prior to each use by a professional cleaning crew.
For those Who Are Not Able to Attend
- We will livestream our service
- We will reserve some of the sacrament each week (safely in plastic baggies) and continue to make it available so that those watching online may partake at home.