" A Letter from Our Priest about How We Will Worship
with the Coronavirus Situation."
Dearest St. Thomas Family and Friends,
I ‘m sending this Saturday afternoon (March 14) to share my thoughts about how we will worship at our church tomorrow morning. Michelle and I talked it through earlier this afternoon in order to honor our commitment to worship Jesus Christ on behalf of our community AND respect as much as possible the precautions for social distancing.
First of all, please, please stay home if you have any signs of a cold or other illness, if you feel uncomfortable being around other people, if you are in a higher-risk category, if you have a known or higher likelihood of having contact someone with this illness, or for any other rational reason. Know that God’s love for you remains constant and is not dependent on your ability to come to church. Pray and worship at home – from the comfort of your bed or sitting around the breakfast table with your family.
Second, we are going to try to live-stream the service on Facebook using one of our cellphones. I’ve got some simple instructions for this and we are going to give it a try. It might not work (depending on our wifi connection) or may be of very poor quality. It’s a holy experiment in these unprecedented times.
So, if you’ve decided to come out to church at 10 a.m. tomorrow, here’s what will be different:
Someone will greet you at the door with a bulletin and ask you to take a seat at least 6 feet away from anyone outside your family grouping. The greeter will not hug or touch you in any way and will use hand sanitizer frequently.
Canon Cathy will start the service from the front of the church. There will be no procession or recession and no other servers (acolyte or chalice bearer) working with her. This allows her to keep her contact minimized with others.2)
We will likely sing just 1 or 2 verses of most hymns to help shorten the service as we attempt to live stream it. Also, with many staying home, anyone watching is not likely to benefit from hearing those of us who don’t sing all that well belting out the hymns. Shortening the hymns will also shorten the service and our time with each other.
There will be one lesson read by a lay person (Canon Cathy will decide with one on Sunday). And then the Psalm will be read by all. The bulletin is attached to this email so that you can see the order of service and look up Psalm 95 in your Books of Common Prayer at home. If you have a Hymnal, please feel free to sing along as well with the hymns.
After the lessons, there will be a brief homily and then the Creed, Prayers of the People, and Confession as per normal.
The sharing of the Peace will be very different. Everyone will stay in their pews and we will as a group give a greeting or extend a blessing to each person as directed by Canon Cathy. This is the best compromise for us to try safe yet still honor one of the traditions that makes worship at St. Thomas so special.
There will be no collection of an offering. An offering plate will be at the back of the church for anyone to put in their envelope or contribution if they so desire. You can do this on the way in or the way out. The plate will be collected after the service.
The elements for Holy Communion will be on the side table near the altar. After giving the Offertory sentence, Canon Cathy will go to the Sacristy to wash her hands with soap and water before going to the Altar by herself to set the Table. She will also use the Purell hand sanitizer before touching any of the elements. The Altar Guild members will also be taking extra washing precautions in setting up everything before church to minimize sharing germs.
Once the elements have been consecrated, Canon Cathy will commune herself with the Bread and Wine, use the Purell towel to sanitize her hands before coming down to give everyone communion (Bread (wafers) as the Body of Christ) only and in their pews. This way we will avoid standing in line or being too close to each other at the railing and reaching out our hands to one another in our efforts to getup and down. Please remember that you receive the entire spiritual benefit (all of Christ in the Eucharist) with receiving only one of the elements (either Bread or Wine). If you would rather decline to receive Communion, you can wave Cathy+ away.
The service will conclude with the Post-Communion Prayer and Blessing as per usual and a verse or two of the Recessional Hymn as Canon Cathy goes to the back for the Dismissal.
After the dismissal, people will be asked to leave their pews and exit the church one person/family group at time to maintain the 6 foot recommended distance. Coffee hour is suspended starting tomorrow until it will be safe to resume.
Throughout the service, people will be asked and encouraged to interrupt and let everyone know if something happens that they think may be a problem for spreading contamination.
One of the wonderful blessings of our smaller faith community is that the number of you who are likely to come to church tomorrow will be small enough that we can maintain the required distance. Some have already texted to let me or Michelle know that they won’t be coming.
In the next few days, the Vestry and I will be working on plans to communicate regularly with all of you so that we can maintain our close fellowship, love and prayers for each other. If the situation becomes more critical or Canon Cathy+ gets sick, Sunday worship will be suspended. We may also try to use our Facebook page and website to do some creative things to stay in touch and support one another. Stay tuned and feel free to email Canon Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or Michelle Lucarelli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blessings, love and hugs to all of you!
Habits of Grace, April 6, 2020: An invitation for you, from Presiding
[April 6, 2020] As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted on Mondays through May.
April 6, 2020: His Eye is on the Sparrow
There is a prayer that begins the Good Friday liturgy that may be perfect for this time. It's found on page 276 in the prayer book and it prays, "Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this, your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given into the hands of sinners and to suffer death upon the cross. Who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen." That may well be a prayer for us this Holy Week.
"Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this, your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed." Over the years that I've prayed that prayer, almost some 40 years now as a priest, I've often asked myself the question, who's the family? Who's the family we are asking God to behold? Is it the family of faith? Those who have been baptized and accepted and follow Jesus as savior and Lord? I think that's true. But is it bigger than that? And during this Holy Week, in the midst of COVID-19, I believe we must pray it, praying it bigger than praying for ourselves. I have a feeling this prayer is for the entire human family of God.
John 3:16, speaking of Jesus giving his life as an act of love on the cross, says, "God so loved the world." Not just the church, not just his faithful followers, not just any particular nation or any particular race or any particular ideology or religion. No, no, no. "God so loved the world that he gave his only son." The family in the prayer, let it be the human family of God. Let it be all of us. Asking God to behold us now. To behold us in these moments. To behold those who are sick, who suffer, who die. To behold their families and loved ones. Behold all who care for them. Behold us all.
When I hear that word behold, praying God behold this your family, particularly during this Holy Week, which may be one of the toughest times during this pandemic, I remember that old song that says this, "Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home when Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is he? His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me." And then the next verse says, "Let not your hearts be troubled. His tender word I hear. And resting on his goodness, I lose my doubts and fears. Though by the path he leadeth, but one step I may see, his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me. Oh, I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me."
God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all, the entire human family of God, in those almighty hands of love.
SERVICES AND OFFERINGS
Sunday Communion Services begin at 10:00am followed by a welcoming coffee hour in our undercroft
Every first and third Monday beginning at 6:30 pm in our undercroft
WELCOMING YOU HOME
OUR STORIED HISTORY
St. Thomas' Episcopal Church has been a proud member of the Canonsburg community for over 150 years. Read more about our history of service.
THE MISSION OF ST. THOMAS
In addition to our Sunday morning services, we have special Easter and Holy Week services as well as a beautiful festive Christmas Eve service.