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Important COVID-19 and Christmas Worship Updates
Dear Trinity Church and friends,
Grace and Peace and Advent greetings. We pray this message finds you and yours warm and well.
Your parish leadership has continued to track pandemic conditions as we ready our Christmas Season worship. With our Regathering Task Force Co-Chair, Dr. Niven Narain, we have monitored the rise of the Omicron variant, and we have watched with concern as hospitals congest; COVID-19 cases increase among the unvaccinated and vaccinated; and academic, cultural, seasonal, and sporting events cancel around the country.
The health of our congregation and community remains our priority, a fitness we recognize includes our physical, social-emotional, and spiritual wellness. Therefore, mindful of our diocesan bishops’ guidance (the most recent diocesan update, published last night, may be found below this message), we have taken immediate steps in our shared care for one another:
- we will require day-of, onsite rapid-testing for our Christmas Eve choirs, clergy, lay ministers, and staff who will be present for multiple services or who will have direct contact with large groups of worshippers;
- we have cordoned pews in a checkerboard pattern to reinforce social-distancing best-practices;
- we have limited our choir to 20 singers, and we have cancelled all parishioner-involved rehearsals this week; and
- we have moved the administration of Communion to the West Doors. Similar to our practice during September’s Delta-variant surge, we will administer the bread on the West Porch before praying the Post-Communion prayer, pronouncing the blessing, singing our closing hymn, and offering the dismissal, all outdoors.
As cases quickened late last week, we closed registration for the highest subscribed Christmas Eve worship and further constrained all other festival services to a maximum of 300 attendees, approximately 25% our building’s seating capacity. Since that time, all these services have filled to the following numbers: 2pm, 300; 4:30pm, 319; 8pm, 347; 11pm, 300.
In order that we can achieve a standard of no more than two persons per half-pew, (unless comprising a single party), we hope to lower these numbers to a total of 200 at each Christmas service. To do this, we ask any registrants who have already reconsidered their attendance – as well as those who would be willing to do so – to make this known to us by cancelling your registration in the EventBrite system.
We have now closed Christmas Day registrations (at 141), and we will set a cap of 100 for Sunday, December 26 registrations. This will allow us to maintain the greater social-distances of Christmas Eve, without opening the galleries.
To provide as many persons as possible the opportunity to attend one service over the course of the Christmas weekend, we ask that anyone who is already committed to attend on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day not register to attend on Sunday.
Should you have any trouble with this process, please contact Alison Poor, Director of the Rector’s Office, at email@example.com.
This season’s call of “Emmanuel” voices the promise of our God to be with us – whoever we are, wherever we are – and, in support of those who will not gather in person at this time, we take heart that everyone can join our Worship From Home via the livestream of Christmas Eve’s 4:30 celebration of the Holy Eucharist. That service will be available on our parish website and as a Facebook Premier, and, along with last weekend’s Candlelight Carols, will remain accessible through the Christmas season.
For all who will attend in-person, we remind:
- if you have any hint of symptoms, you must stay home;
- if you have reason to believe that you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 during the last 7 days, you must stay home;
- masks – surgical or better, with KN95 preferred – are required at all times, and bandanas or gaiters will not be allowed;
- we ask all to arrive early for the service for which you have registered so that our entry procedures can be completed.
While the scientific data remains incomplete, the Omicron variant’s transmissibility clearly exceeds that of its predecessors, and these precautions – carefully, lovingly, and faithfully conceived as they are – cannot eliminate all the inherent risks to which we are subject. For all who bear the burden of underlying conditions, as well as those who have chosen to forego vaccination, we urge you to consider our Worship From Home option.
As circumstances evolve – even as late as tomorrow – please know that these plans may require further emendation.
Finally, let us continue praying God’s presence and healing mercy for those who are sick and those who are afraid; praying God’s courage and care for doctors and nurses, and for medical staff and scientists; and praying God’s wisdom and grace for our civic leaders and for us at Trinity Church – that we would find strength and comfort in the one who is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace.
The Rev. Morgan S. Allen
December 22, 2021
Dear Colleagues in the Diocese of Massachusetts,
As we enter the final 48 hours before Christmas Eve, we are all watching with grave concern the Omicron surge. We know that everyone holds the safety of our congregants and visitors as our highest priority.
In response to numerous queries we have received, we want to add the following clarifications:
While not issuing a blanket prohibition of limited in-person worship at this time, your bishops strongly support any clergy or re-gathering team who conclude that in their local context, in the interest of safety, worship services should be moved entirely to a virtual platform.
As noted in our prior communique, any event with food or drink must maintain physical distancing requirements. Only in small groups can this be accomplished. Thus, in practical terms there should be no receptions at in-person Christmas worship.
We emphasize again that any in-person worship must be characterized by strict adherence to the most recent COVID guidelines, issued on November 15. These include mandatory masks for everyone; adjustments to the administration of holy communion; and physical distancing between individuals and family units, which by necessity will result in dramatically-reduced overall seating capacity.
Finally, we urge you to reiterate to your congregants that those who are not fully vaccinated, or who have underlying medical conditions which put them at higher risk for severe complications from COVID infection, should participate in Christmas worship through a virtual offering.
We recognize and share the deep cost of energy required by these decisions, and extend to you our gratitude and blessings for your faithful commitment.
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris