Dear Apostles Family,
Grace to you and peace from our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In our risen Lord Jesus we always have hope, regardless of the trials we endure. We have endured many days and weeks of this pandemic and quarantine, yet I have heard many stories of God’s faithfulness and goodness among our people. And now we have a hopeful expectation for worshiping together again at Apostles. Thanks be to God!
Over the past week, I have participated in several discussions to prayerfully discern the phased reopening of public worship services at Apostles. I’ve been able to listen and speak with our bishops, our staff, our vestry and parishioners about this topic. Our vestry met last night to develop a plan for the remaining days and weeks of May.
Because conditions and circumstances may change very quickly in May, we will publish our plan for worship services in June at a later time. The plan below applies to resuming worship services in the month of May.
Please read the following sections carefully as we share our plan for resuming worship services and the values that have informed our discernment.
Caring for the Whole Person and the Whole Congregation
In all of our conversations, we emphasized the importance of caring for the whole person. God made and formed within each of us a body, mind, soul, and spirit. Our decisions for resuming public worship services must care for the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of our parishioners. We want to protect our bodily health by taking safe measures which reduce the risk of virus transmission. We want a plan to gather for worship so our minds, souls, and spirits can be encouraged and strengthened in these difficult times.
Diocesan and State Guidelines for Resuming Worship
To care for our parishioners’ health, our church will uphold and implement the safety measures given by our diocese, the State of Tennessee, and the CDC when we resume public worship services. These guidelines mean numerous changes and limitations, both for our facility and for parishioners attending worship.
All parishioners planning to attend May worship services need to prepare and observe the following guidelines:
- Persons experiencing any symptoms related to COVID-19 should stay home
- Parishioners age 65+ should consider staying home, but are still permitted to attend if they are in good health.
- Attendance will not exceed 50% capacity of Nave
- No childcare or nursery care offered
- Facemasks will be worn at all time
- 6 ft. physical distancing will be observed at all times
- Pews will be marked to observe physical distancing
- Avoid gathering in high traffic areas such as narthex
- Gather for fellowship and conversation outdoors
- Hand sanitizer will be used before entering the church
- One designated entrance (blue doors) and one designated exit (glass doors beside the office) will be used.
- Bread only communion will be offered
- Coffee stations will be closed
- Facility surfaces will undergo thorough disinfectant plan before and after worship services in accordance with CDC guidelines
Target Dates for Reopening Worship Services
With the number of items in the guidelines above, our staff, clergy, and volunteers need time to prepare for all the logistics involved with resuming worship services. We also believe there is wisdom in waiting a few more weeks during Phase I of Knoxville’s reopening.
Our vestry has approved a few target dates in the latter weeks of May for resuming public worship services at Apostles. We voted on target dates because this schedule is subject to change should we receive new guidance from our diocese or governmental authorities related to increased COVID transmission in our area.
These are the target dates:
- Evening Prayer: Wednesday May 20th and 27th, 6.30pm
- Service of Holy Eucharist: Saturday, May 30th; service start time to be determined
Our plan begins with a midweek Evening Prayer Service because a simpler service requires less logistics and adjustments than a Eucharistic service. Evening Prayer is a principle worship service in Anglican tradition and gives us an opportunity to worship together and reconnect with one another.
We’re targeting Saturday, May 30th to resume the Service of Holy Eucharist because we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost this weekend. Many churches in our diocese and the city of Knoxville have targeted this same weekend to resume public worship services.
Why A Saturday Eucharist Service Instead of Sunday?
When Apostles resumes public worship services, parishioners will attend a Saturday service that will also be recorded on video for our website. Our clergy and worship leaders have been recording our Eucharistic services on Saturdays because recording and preparing these videos for online viewing takes many hours. Recording on Saturday ensures we can publish our worship services online by Sunday morning.
During this phased reopening, many Apostles members will be unable to attend worship in May and June due to precautions or health concerns. Our church needs to continue posting videos of our worship services online to keep our whole parish connected during this phased reopening.
Unity During the Phased Reopening
I fully support this plan as rector and our vestry is fully united on this plan. We developed this plan together to care for our parishioners’ physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. We will continue to uphold these values as we implement this plan for May and ensuing months. I’m so grateful for the spirit of unity our vestry shares.
We all desire to gather at Apostles for worship again and that day is drawing nearer. I know that I’m ready to lead liturgy and preach the Gospel among familiar faces, not just a camera lens!
As that day draws nearer, let us continue steadfast in prayer, depending on our Lord Jesus for our every need in these trying days. Let us continue praying for one another, interceding for our brothers and sisters in Christ according to their various needs. Let us pray that God will “grant our heart’s desire and fulfill all our plans,” (Psalm 20.4) so that we may gather for the Feast of Pentecost and “together with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15.5)