As the two Dioceses in our Commonwealth continue to respond as the spread COVID-19 affects in-person worship and other church activities, on May 18th our Bishops issued a document titled “A Journey By Stages: Gathering, Serving, and Growing as The Episcopal Church in Massachusetts During and Beyond a Time of Pandemic.” This document compiles directives, guidelines, and resources to help Episcopal congregations and organizations traveling the path beyond COVID-19 restrictions toward a “new normal” for common life.
In introducing the document, the Dioceses encouraged parishes to appoint a COVID-19 Advisory Group to consider the implications for eventually regathering in our buildings based on our local situation. The St. Paul’s group has now been named. The members of the Group in alphabetic order:
Katie Ahearn - Senior Warden
Rob Bacon - Rector
Sheila Callaghan - Worship Committee, Vestry & Director of Children's Ministry
Jonna Casey - Clerk (and former Senior Warden)
Gretchen Garlow, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC - Chair of our Pastoral Care Team
Tom Hubbard - Junior Warden
Priscilla March - Chair of the Worship Committee
Karen McAlmon, MD (and former Senior Warden)
Abbe Moore - Assistant Treasurer (and former Senior Warden)
Julia Nelson - Parish Administrator
Carmelina Padovani - Director, The Bethlehem School
Gail Purtz - Directress of the Altar Guild
Andrew Shenton, Ph.D. - Music Director
At its first meeting on May 24th, the Advisory Group reviewed action steps suggested by the Bishops’ “Journey” document and set up sub-teams to address specific areas as we consider decisions about regathering in church. Those teams include 1) a space team to assess our building situation and determine how it would be safely used with physical distancing restrictions, 2) a cleaning/sanitation team to ensure the space will be freshly cleaned before any activity takes place inside it, 3) an audio-visual team to evaluate and implement ongoing/additional technology for remote or distance worship, even as in-person gatherings may commence, and 4) a communications team to explain activities, decisions, restrictions, and actions to the parish.
The Bishops’ directive is that no Massachusetts parishes open prior to July 1st at the earliest. Whether St. Paul’s opens our building at that time (and under what restrictions) depends on many current unknowns, including updated restrictions by our Bishops (who are informed by civil and public health representatives), our local COVID-19 situation, the broader trend of COVID-19 spread, any effective treatments or vaccines, and our parish community’s needs, health, and safety. As the Advisory Group continues to meet, it will work to lay out specific next steps based on updated knowledge.
As Fr. Rob said, “We want to do everything we can to ensure the long-term health, welfare, and vitality of St. Paul's Church, and we want to build up this Body of Christ in such a way that the glowing and loving embrace of God may be felt throughout the region for generations to come. To this end, we are examining the directives from our Bishop's Office, the reports coming from reputable health agencies, and the input of our local St. Paul's medical professionals as we seek for great ways to worship, study, reach and grow together in the weeks and months to come.”
If you have feedback or comments regarding the church’s response and activities in light of the COVID-10 pandemic, you are encouraged to reach out to Fr. Rob and/or any member of the Advisory Group.