Dearly Beloved,

Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 138, effective on May 8, placed certain restrictions on religious services, including no “mass gatherings” of more than 10 people indoors. Several clergy and churches throughout the state sued Mr. Cooper in the Federal District Court in Eastern North Carolina charging that the Executive Order infringed upon the Constitutional right to free exercise of religion.

This past Saturday, May 16, U.S. District Court Judge James C. Dever III issued an order to halt Mr. Cooper’s order. This was a temporary injunction for 14 days, with a hearing to be held on the matter on May 29. Later that day a press release from the Governor’s office stated, “While our office disagrees with the decision, we will not appeal, but instead urge houses of worship and their leaders to voluntarily follow public health guidance to keep their members safe.

The fact that our Governor will not appeal the ruling means that the temporary injunction becomes permanent, allowing churches to open as they see fit. And we too here at All Saints will do so this coming Sunday, May 24.

Please note the last half of the sentence I quoted above from Mr. Cooper’s office regarding following public health guidance. Judge Dever, in the same vein, wrote, “The court trusts worshipers and their leaders to look after one another and society while exercising their free exercise rights…” We will do these things too.

So How Do We Do This?

First of all, both of our Sunday worship times, 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., will occur as they did before the lockdown. We will, however, configure the nave of the church following social distancing advice. Our pews are installed 3 feet, 4 inches apart. We will block off every other pew. This will ensure that everyone is at least 6 feet, 8 inches apart when seated, standing, or kneeling. The blocked off pews will be staggered on the Epistle and Gospel sides of the nave which will keep everyone at least 7 feet apart across the center aisle. I realize many of you are visual and this description might be a bit difficult to understand but it will make sense once you see it. Also, each pew is 14 feet long and will be marked to show a 6 feet separation when people are seated at each end of the pew.

Our capacity in the church itself is 140 souls. The 50% of capacity rule in Executive Order 138 would allow us to have 70 people in the church. It is highly unlikely that we would come close to that number. It is my belief that we will not exceed 50 people at 11:00 a.m., since many people will continue to stay home or would feel uncomfortable in a group that large. Our normal attendance at 8:30 a.m. on Sundays was in the range if 25-30 people, so that should not be an issue for us.

We will not “pass the plate” at offertory time for obvious sanitary reasons. The offering plate will be at the back of the nave where you walk in and you may drop your check or cash in it. I will bless the offerings at the end of each service.

Bulletins will not be passed out but you may pick one up in the entryway as you come in.

All commonly touched areas on the pews, altar rail, door handles, etc. will be sanitized after each service.

When coming to the altar to receive Holy Communion, please spread out to distance yourselves from one another. This will certainly add a little time to receiving Communion but it is well worth the time as we care for one another in this way.

This coming Sunday (May 24), we will still distribute Communion by the intinction method, which ensures that only Deacon Louis and I are touching the Blessed Sacrament. The following Sunday, which is Pentecost (May 31), we will return the Common Cup to the congregation. My email next week will explain that in more detail.

What If I Am Not Ready To Come Into A Larger Gathering?

No worries. I will still continue to provide Holy Communion to groups of less than 10 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Please call the office or send an email to Deaconess Cynthia to schedule a time just as you have done in the last few weeks. The times for this will be 11:00 a.m. all three days.

I Still Need To Stay Away From Groups

Again, no problem. From the beginning of this COVID-19 crisis, I have tried to be clear that I trust you better than anyone else as to what is best for you and your family. We will continue to live-stream the 11:00 a.m. Sunday Communion for the foreseeable future, as well as the Wednesday evening one at 6:00 p.m.

Our Website

Please make use of our website on a regular basis. All the latest news, videos of services, and other information are all there for your perusal. This is the one place to stay completely up-to-date on what is happening in our parish. If you are reading this here, you are already on our website. The home page address is

Education Classes

Our Christian education classes will remain suspended for now. Deaconess Cynthia is looking at bringing together our young people for Sunday School, so look forward to that possibility in the near future.

Fellowship Lunches and Dinners

Also, our lunches and dinners will remain suspended for a time as we watch what occurs as our society slowly begins to reopen.

I would like to thank all of you for your patience and understanding through all of this. It certainly has stretched my ministry “muscles” to the extreme. But I would like to give a major shout-out to Deaconess Cynthia and your vestry members who have helped me tremendously in shepherding our congregation in this time of crisis. It is exciting that we are now in the position to be able to gather once more to worship the Lord, so that we, in turn, can live the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

God bless each and every one of you and I look forward to seeing you all in church—literally!

Yours ever in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Erich

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