In line with the criteria set forth by our Governor, and in conjunction with direction from our Bishop, St. Peter's will begin to re-open our worship over a period of several weeks. As we unwind our isolation over the weeks ahead, we will be doing so in a way that stresses safety for those worshipping and the clergy serving. We will also continue to live-stream our services for those who are unable or uncomfortable returning to in-person worship. During these stages, we recommend in the strongest possible terms that those with complicating health conditions, and those at higher risk, continue to stay at home. Age alone can put people at higher risk, however, in our discussions within the Diocese, there has been various age levels that were attributed to this higher risk. In deciding to return to worship based on age alone, if there are no other complicating conditions, we recommend that you still consider age as a risk factor to be weighed seriously.
The schedule of returning to worship is dependent upon us continuing to see a decline in cases within Montana and Lewis and Clark County. If, as we re-engage, we see that cases start to rebound, we will reconsider our plan by reversing or slowing our progress.
This is the plan for the weeks to come.
April 26th: Live stream worship in line with what we have been doing within the Stay-at-Home order.
May 3rd: We will start to have two services on Sunday again. They will be live-streamed and will include the celebration of the Eucharist. There will not be in-person worship on this Sunday. The distribution of Communion will be on a drive-up basis and require that the driver (or the person receiving the Body for those in the vehicle), who is in direct contact with clergy, have facemasks on at the time of receiving.
Sundays in May: We will re-open for in-person worship, taking appropriate precautions for safety. The worshipping space will be kept clean and disinfected. All attendees and clergy MUST have a face mask on during the totality of the worship service. Family groups must maintain a minimum distance from each other of six feet at all times. This will require that we set a maximum number of worshippers in the worship space at any one time in order to accommodate appropriate distancing. This number will be communicated once staff is able to review the worship space and determine these attendance maximums. If, and when, this maximum is met, additional worshippers will be moved to the Undercroft where appropriate distancing can be maintained. Communion will be distributed in one kind (bread only). It will be distributed inside of a napkin, and, in order to avoid removing the masks within the worship space, it should be held until the service is completed and taken outside before the mask is removed so it can be consumed. This is done for an abundance of caution, in order to keep all people, both worshippers and clergy, as safe as possible.
Beyond May: We will assess and make appropriate plans, as we move forward into June and beyond. We will continue to utilize our expanded electronic options, so that everyone can embrace their reconnection to church on a schedule that is appropriate for them.
Other meetings, during these first phases of re-engagement, will continue to be via electronic means. Zoom Coffee Hour will continue after each service and Zoom Bible Study will continue each Monday. I encourage us all to take advantage of these fellowship and study opportunities.
We understand that some of these restrictions will impact our worship experience, but we must take measures in order to provide a safe environment. These restrictions will be adjusted in accordance with the infection rates within the state and county.
The members of the Cathedral have been amazingly faithful during this time of disruption, and haven't succumbed to a spirit of fear. Thank you all for your faithfulness, as we safely move towards getting back to a more normal church life.
TVR Scott Anderson
St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral