- Trinity Voices
A Letter from the Rector: Important Regathering Updates
Dear Trinity Church and friends,
Grace and Peace! I hope you and yours enjoyed the holiday and are now looking forward to fall’s fuller arrival.
As the Regathering Task Force, parish leadership, and I wrote to you in summer, we have conceived our staged return to in-person, indoor ministry in three blocks: from the start of the Program Year through Halloween; Halloween through Thanksgiving; and Thanksgiving through Christmas. Just as each of these blocks will bring its own weather, so, too, will each bring different pandemic conditions. Despite these variables, we have sought ministry strategies that minimize week-to-week changes and the confusion those changes prompt. Therefore, along with keeping all well – always our first concern – consistency and continuity remain priorities in our planning.
In the – exciting, if lengthy! – message that follows, I reflect on our Program Year’s successful launch and look ahead to our next “blocks” together.
Numbers From the Program Year So Far
Building on the momentum of our in-person "Worship from the West Porch" we launched in late spring, and taking advantage of the mild, early-fall weather, our 9 am outdoor worship has averaged 221 participants since September. Among other signals, we receive these strong numbers as an indicator of our congregation’s continued preference for services with maximum pandemic precautions, especially during the surge of the Delta variant.
Our 10 am Formation hour has emphasized intergenerational, outdoor ministry. While these programs have been high-spirited, our numbers reflect the several competing opportunities (the Square, coffee, and choir rehearsal, among others) at the same hour.
Our 11 am, pre-registered indoor worship has filled (or come very close to “selling out”) its available 125 spots each week, usually with a last bump of registrations on Sunday mornings. Including worship ministers (and a small allowance for walk-ups) these services have averaged 142. We receive this pattern as an indicator that our available number of registrations has satisfied the congregation’s desire for indoor worship at this hour and in our current arrangements.
Finally, our 5 pm service has averaged about 35 pre-registrations. In combination with worship ministers, this hour has averaged a total of 58. The opportunities for Formation and fellowship hosted after this service have been modestly attended. We receive this pattern as an indicator that our evening, in-person programming after worship has exceeded current interest.
In total, we are averaging about 420 for in-person worship each Sunday. Between 60 and 65% of our pre-pandemic Average Sunday Attendance (ASA), these numbers track very favorably with peer Episcopal congregations across the country.
Understandably, the number of those worshiping from home has declined as our focus has shifted to these in-person opportunities. Even so, we have averaged 246 unique “screens” joining us online for our Sunday prayers, along with the many who engage our sermons and services during the week. As our capacity allows, we will continue offering our “From Home” worship.
Grateful for the declining case numbers and the growing percentage of vaccinated persons, the plans that follow lean into our prayers for these optimistic trends to continue.
Through October 31
This Sunday, October 17, we will welcome guest-director Dr. Brandon Boyd to our 11 a.m. worship. Dr. Boyd, who will have led a retreat with our Choir the day before, will also join us for a 2 p.m. outdoor concert, themed, “Every Time I Feel The Spirit: Celebrating African-American Choral Music.”
On Sunday, October 24, we will formally launch our 2022 Stewardship program, and host our first outdoor baptism during Worship from the West Porch.
On Sunday, October 31, we will celebrate Halloween during our 9 am service outdoors, and we invite all attendees to wear a costume to worship! Shifting from merriment to solemnity, at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. the choirs will then lead our praying of Faure’s Requiem in commemoration of “All Souls,” the Feast of All Faithful Departed.
At this time, we plan for Halloween’s festive 9 am service to be our last Worship from the West Porch until spring. Our outdoor coffee and refreshments following all services will also conclude that day.
To accommodate these three weeks of exciting worship – and to ready for November 7 when all our services will move indoors – we will increase our available pre-registrations at 11 am and 5 pm from 125 to 150, and we will increase our choir capacity from 20 to 30.
During the next two weeks, our 10 a.m. Children’s Church School will convene (masked) in the Forum, where we will open the windows, increase exterior air intake through our HVAC system, and supplement with HEPA air purifiers. At the same hour, our Youth ministry (also masked) will likewise convene in the Rectory Living Room with open windows and with HEPA air purifiers in place.
Adult Formation for these Sundays will include a variety of small-group opportunities: coming indoors to encounter our “Come and See” exhibit, which explores Trinity’s complicated history with the slave economy and its racist legacies; remaining outdoors and joining a walking tour of our church’s exterior; or adding to our time capsule and Prayer Wall.
At 10 am on Halloween, we will host pumpkin-decorating and offer other intergenerational activities in the outdoor breezeways.
Beginning with All Saints Sunday, November 7, our 9 am service will move indoors and require pre-registration. Along with the 11 am and 5 pm continuing with their pre-registrations, on November 7 we will also endeavor Communion around the Altar Rail (at this time, still in only one kind, the bread, as recommended by the Diocese) during all services. More details about the change in Communion pattern will be published as that date approaches.
Fortified by the increases noted above, we will approach 400 available seats for the two morning services – numbers that accommodate the demonstrated interest to date. Should we find that interest demands more seats, we will happily address that fortunate challenge.
At this time, we plan to continue in-person Children’s Church School and Youth programming at 10 am, through at least Thanksgiving. To support families’ participation, we also intend to offer an in-person version of the very successful “Parents Coffee” program we launched during the pandemic. Beginning November 7, this klatch will meet in-person while their children and youth convene in their respective cohorts.
Come November, Formation for all adults will begin a shift back to the well-attended, evening Zoom model we offered during the pandemic. We will host the first of these sessions – an hour-and-a-half program focused on Stewardship and the details of our financial life (expenses and revenues, including our endowments) – at 6:30 p.m. on November 7.
Mark your calendar for Sunday, November 14, at 10 am, and join what will become an Annual Parish Photograph! As we celebrate the parish-wide ingathering of 2022 Stewardship pledges, we invite you to make your commitment and join the photo from the West Porch steps. Leaning into our Life in the World to Come, we will take two pictures: one with masks, and one without. These images will become the cover of the time capsule we will stow a week later, and we will look forward to this year’s beginning a collection of framed, Annual Parish Photograph prints in the Parish House. (Please note that, because of the early darkness outside, we will not be able to repeat this effort later in the day. Therefore, we hope those who customarily worship in the evening will join this once-a-year opportunity in the morning).
In the same celebratory spirit, members of our Stewardship Committee will host our final Neighborhood Gathering this day, convening both between the morning services (following the Photograph) and after the 11 am with light refreshments and good cheer.
Sunday, November 21, will serve as a rain date for the Annual Parish Photograph, and, on that day, we will stow the time capsule we have been assembling since September.
Save the date for Sunday, November 28, when we invite Trinitarians of every age to snuggle into their winter wear and, warmed by hot chocolate, cider, or coffee, to gather for an outdoor Advent wreath-making event.
Appreciating the loss of in-person community that accompanies the seasonal retirement of our post-worship refreshment and Formation’s shift to Zoom, in November we plan to begin the staged return of in-person, indoor, weekday small-group gatherings. Limited to groups of twelve, we are now at work on identifying these programs, spaces, and protocols.
At this time, we plan to host our annual Messiah concert (on Sunday, December 5) and Candlelight Carols services (on Saturday, December 18, and Sunday, December 19). Given the more public character of these events, seating will be limited, and we may require proof of vaccination and a negative test. We expect ticketing to commence in the next several weeks once those details have been sorted.
Finally, we remain mindful of Morning Prayer’s place in the life of our parish. Given that we worshipped in that mode for most of the pandemic’s first year-and-a-half, we have prioritized Communion for the last five months. As we streamline worship preparation across all services – that is, keeping all services as close to the same as possible in order that we can negotiate the additional complexities the pandemic has demanded – that priority will continue through the end of this calendar year.
Please look forward to more information and details about our Advent-Christmas plans in a November Regathering Update.
While all the above necessarily remains written in our best, pandemic-gnawed #2 pencils, we believe these plans – made in consultation with our Regathering Task Force – remain safe, sensible, and manageable. Even so, we will continue to track closely both our experience and the COVID conditions, adjusting as our shared safety requires.
While, as many have noted, this long and hard pandemic season has shortened tempers and sharpened dispositions, we continue to covet your prayers and participation, as well as your grace and understanding. We at Trinity Church have so much for which we are grateful, and we remain enthusiastic about what promises to be a deeply meaningful and moving season of ministry continuing through this fall and into winter.
See you Sunday,
The Rev. Morgan S. Allen