Dearly Beloved,

Our present COVID-19 protocols for in-person worship have been in effect since Pentecost Sunday of last year. We have been attempting to follow guidelines issued by the CDC and Governor Cooper’s Office as they may apply to a church setting. The recent relaxing of some of the government-imposed restrictions in our state and our country, as well as the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines into our population, have caused us to re-evaluate what we have been doing. Much has been learned over the past year about this disease and it is clear it is primarily an airborne phenomenon. Also, a significant number of our parishioners, including those at-risk for serious outcomes, have already been vaccinated. With all these considerations in mind, the following is how we will move forward, beginning on Easter Sunday.

Protocol Changes as of Easter Sunday

Bulletins & Offering Plate

We will begin, once again, to distribute bulletins on Sunday mornings. Ushers will be in place to assist us and, of course, welcome any visitors we may have. We will return to “passing the plate” at Offertory time during the Holy Communion and those offerings will be presented at the altar by the ushers to the clergy and altar servers.

Seating in the Church and Social Distancing

We have, from the beginning of the pandemic, been following the restaurant capacity rules here in North Carolina. Last Friday in his latest Executive Order, Gov. Cooper increased the capacity number to 75%.

Beginning Easter Sunday, at the 11:00 a.m. Holy Communion, we will remove the drapes blocking pews on the Gospel side of the church. For those who have been immunized and/or feel comfortable seated closer to others, please sit on that side. The Epistle side of the church will remain draped, with every other pew blocked, allowing those who still wish to maintain distance from others may do so. If you choose to sit on the Epistle side on Easter Day, the ushers will seat you on a “first come, first served basis.” Should we exceed our seating capacity in the church, the excess attendees will be dispersed to the parish hall, where the large screen television will show our worship celebration.

At the 8:30 a.m. Holy Communion, all the drapes blocking the pews will remain in place, as they have been for the past year.

This seating arrangement at both Sunday services will remain in effect throughout the Easter season and we will re-evaluate this before Pentecost.

Wearing of Masks

We have never required the wearing of masks inside the church building. If the wearing of masks makes you feel more comfortable inside the building, please feel free to do so. If you forget your mask, but wish to wear one, disposable masks are available on the bulletin table just inside the main entryway of the church.

Fresh Air

The introduction of fresh air into an enclosed environment is considered a “best practice” by the CDC. As a consequence of that, our windows will be open during worship times on Sunday mornings.

Limited Seating Holy Communion Ends

The limited seating option of Holy Communion we have been celebrating on Tuesdays every week is no longer needed and has been discontinued.

Live-Stream Change

The mid-week Holy Communion, which is celebrated every Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m, will no longer be live-streamed beginning next week. Sunday mornings and Holy Days will continue as we have been doing.

On Receiving Holy Communion

We will continue to distribute Holy Communion as we have been over the past year. Our method of receiving Holy Communion is as follows.

When you join us for Holy Communion, the host (the Body of our Savior) will be placed in your open palm by the priest. Please consume the host immediately. Then another minister will deliver to you the Common Cup (the Blood of Christ), also known as the chalice. Merely grab the bottom lip of the chalice and tilt it toward you, guiding it to your lips. Please do not grab the upper cup of the chalice when guiding the chalice to your lips. This ensures that you do not touch the chalice bearer’s hands.

The other way to receive Holy Communion during this time, if you cannot settle your conscience about partaking of the Common Cup, is to receive only the host. The Church teaches that the fullness of the Sacrament abides in either the consecrated bread or the consecrated wine, the Body or the Blood, so if you do this, you will still be fully participating in the Messianic banquet of the Holy Communion. If you decide to do this, please bow your head and cross your arms across your chest after you receive the Body. This will signal the chalice bearer to pass you by.

We do not allow the practice of intinction (when the chalice bearer picks up the host from your hand, dips it in the chalice, and places it on your tongue). When this is done, the chalice bearer’s fingers touch every hand, and whatever everyone has touched gets transferred to his hands and, hence, to you. This makes it impossible to keep the distribution of Communion as sanitary as possible. If you forget and leave the host on your hand, the chalice bearer will not stop in front of you.

If you have any questions about any of this, please feel free to contact the church office at 828-891-7216. We are more than happy to answer any of your questions or concerns.

Blessings,

Fr. Erich

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