From the Interim Rector - March 2021
I imagine we would all agree that even with a third Covid-19 vaccine nearing approval for emergency use, and even with over 25,000,000 people now vaccinated in the United States, we cannot say that we have turned the corner on this pandemic. We are still very much in the midst of it. And so we must each continue to follow the safety protocols as we have over these last long and wearying months. I imagine we would also agree that emerging from this pandemic will not be like walking from one room to the next and closing the door behind us. The leading scientists seem to agree that the best we can expect is that Covid will wax and wane through the years ahead, however we will continue to find better and better treatment options to reduce its severity and limit the number of deaths it causes. However, even though we cannot, and may never be able to completely close the door on Covid-19, we can open the door to begin reclaiming so much of what we had to set aside during this pandemic. One of the things I think we can prudently begin reclaiming as the Church of the Epiphany is in-person corporate worship. There are a few important reasons why I think this a step we are ready to take. First, our track record since last fall. In September 2020 CEDS restarted in-person learning. In the months the school has been in operation only one child tested positive for Covid. CEDS followed the protocols we had set in place and that child and their classmates and teacher quarantined for the recommended two weeks. No one else in their classroom, or their teacher, or the school and parish staff contracted the virus. Our safety protocols worked and continue to work. Second, as a church with a licensed school, our entire staff of teachers, sextons and office staff are eligible to be vaccinated. The majority of us have already received our second doses. Those who haven’t are actively working to find open appointments so they may be vaccinated. And, third, last year under Janette Gautier’s leadership we were able to restart the Wednesday Night Dinner program as a freshly cooked grab-and-go meal. Some nights nearly 100 of our neighbors who are food insecure come to Epiphany and find not only a hot meal for them to take with them, but generous volunteers who offer them a few minutes of community, friendship, and a caring presence. We have not had a single case of Covid amongst our volunteers nor, as best we know, amongst our guests. Given these encouraging examples of how we have continued to engage in our hallmark ministries as a parish I believe we can take the next step and begin offering in-person worship. As with all things pandemic related, we will take this in small steps and then evaluate each step before moving on to the next. Here is how we will do that.
Sunday, March 28th is Palm Sunday. The Palm Sunday liturgy consists of two rites. The Liturgy of the Palms and the Liturgy of the Word. For those desiring to do so we will gather at 9:00 AM at the church for the Liturgy of the Palms and then begin our traditional Palm Sunday procession through the neighborhood, stopping at 351 E. 74th Street along the way to offer prayers of thanksgiving for the work God has entrusted to our stewardship, and the vision God has planted in our hearts to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a new home and in new ways. Leading the way, as is also our tradition, will be a bagpiper filling our hearts with the joy the day offers. After we have completed our procession through the neighborhood folks will have time to return home for the 10:30 Zoom service. There will be no services in the church.
In addition, on Good Friday the church will be open from noon to 3 pm for individual prayer, meditation and reflection. At 12:30 p.m. Jeremy Jelinek, our Interim Organist/Choir Director, will offer a half hour organ recital. No services will be held in the church that day. Services will be held on Zoom.
And, on Easter, the principle service of the day will also be held on Zoom at 10:30 a.m. In addition to that service we will also offer in-person worship at 8:30 a.m. Again, following the tradition of this parish, the service will be a spoken Rite One liturgy without music. The Eucharist will be celebrated and to ensure proper social distancing this service will be help in the main church and not in the Chapel as has been the case in years past. As we draw closer to Easter you will receive information about reservations and health protocols. It is my sincere hope that these first small steps will show us that we can safely continue to offer a weekly 8:30 Eucharist throughout the Great Fifty Days of Easter.
I look forward to reopening the doors of our church for worship. However, each of us must make the decision for ourselves as to when it is right for us to return to congregate worship. There is no pressure. The doors will be open for all who may wish to come. And, the Zoom service at 10:30 will continue to be the principle liturgy of the day for the time being. As I said earlier, these are small steps. But small steps can often lead us to take bigger steps, all by God’s grace.
May this Lenten Season continue to enrich your journey as we clear away some of the clutter of our lives so that we may more fully experience the abundant love, mercy and grace God has for each of us.