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Important Pandemic Updates
Dear Trinity Church and friends,
Epiphany greetings and happy new year! I hope this message finds you and yours staying warm and well.
Two weeks after the pandemic declared itself in March of 2020, Adeeb Joudeh stood before the locked doors of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Asked when the site had last been closed to the public, Joudeh replied with impressive specificity: “1349, [during] the Black Plague.”[i] The Washington Post article written at the time noted Joudeh held in his hand the key he had used to lock the church’s doors that morning – the very same key that had been used to lock the entrance 671 years earlier.[ii]
Lord, have mercy: this pandemic continues to challenge us in frightening, frustrating ways, yet – thanks be to God – we are not in either those testing weeks of March 2020 or the deadly years of the Plague. While the current variant has proven extraordinarily transmissible, we now have more mitigation strategies available to slow the disease’s spread; we now have more effective tools to care for those enduring infection; and we now have the measured reassurance that those who have been vaccinated and boosted typically experience a milder form of the disease.
Therefore, we at Trinity Church can both endeavor our part to keep the medical system and essential services from overwhelm and nurture a reasonable hope that the greater constraints now necessary will be required for only a short while. Likewise, we can – with the same love, care, and science that has led our decision-making from the pandemic’s outset – continue in-person worship and the day-by-day grace of our Visitor Services ministries.
By these focused priorities, we recognize the world’s need of the Church’s open doors in symbol, spirit, and substance, and we express our readiness as people of faith to embody hope during an anxious time. Indeed, our faithful offerings of hospitality and public prayer support the wellness of the congregation and the city we serve, sharing our own essential service across the pandemic’s ebbs and flows.
As is true of so many families, organizations, and churches, we have learned that members of our Trinity community who recently worshiped with us have since tested positive for COVID-19. At this time, we encourage all to monitor symptoms, testing as advisable. As a congregation, the fact of these positive cases redoubles both our prayers for the sick and our practical efforts to slow the spread.
With ongoing guidance from our Regathering Task Force Co-Chair, Dr. Niven Narain, we share the two most important steps we can take in our loving care for one another when together at Trinity Church:
- if you have any symptoms – even with a negative test or three – do not come to campus. The Omicron variant is proving shy to both rapid-antigen and PCR testing, and negative tests may offer false reassurance. Given the accruing evidence of latent positivity, we ask that you wait a full week after your symptoms end – seven days, counting your first symptom-free day as “Day Zero” – before returning to worship, and we urge you to consider either PCR testing or serial rapid-antigen testing (meaning 3-5 tests over the 4-7 days) in advance of arriving to campus;
- and wear at least a three-layer, surgical-grade mask at all times, indoors and outdoors. Please expect that our ushers and clergy will ask you to replace or add an additional layer of protection to your cloth mask before we invite you to enter the church. Urging all to wear KN94 or better masks, we will have appropriate surgical-grade coverings available at the West Doors.
We will also continue to uphold other established standards, including:
- the pre-registration limit of 100 at each of our three Sunday services;
- the checkerboard pattern of cordoning every-other-pew to ensure best-practice social distancing;
- all Lectors and Intercessors remaining masked, allowing only the far-distanced preacher to unmask;
- a maximum of 12 singers in each service’s choir, and, given the varied vaccination eligibilities of our youngest singers, foregoing the Choristers in-person participation at this time;
- the administration of Communion outdoors, praying the Post-Communion Prayer, pronouncing the Blessing, singing the Closing Hymn, and offering the Dismissal from the West Porch or on the Square, as the weather allows.
While all these steps remain meaningful and consequential, no protections can entirely ameliorate the inherent risks of gathering in a group of fellow humans. The constancy of our in-person Sunday worship intends to empower parishioners to make decisions in the best interest of themselves, their household, and our congregation. Therefore, we will continue to provide the high-quality livestream of our 9am worship, and post recordings and texts of all Sunday and festival sermons.
Effective this Saturday afternoon, we will not schedule any in-person, indoor funeral for a date before Sunday, February 27. The memorial for Billie Behrents (set for Saturday, January 8, 11am) will continue as planned, the last funeral before this time of sabbath begins. At the families’ request, postponements will include previously scheduled services for the Rev. Helen Moore (previously scheduled for Saturday, January 8) and Karen Griffin (previously scheduled for Friday, January 14).
We are also postponing all non-urgent, in-person pastoral visits through at least the end of January. We urge you to continue sharing with us word of illnesses, surgeries, hospitalizations, and urgent-care needs, and we will meet those needs as is safe for all.
To support the priority of our worship and hospitality ministries, we are postponing all other in-person, indoor programming through at least Sunday, February 27. This standard will include all choir rehearsals; Sunday-morning Young Children’s Playtime; formation for all ages; and the small-group ministries – including our outreach and feeding ministries – we had hoped to restart this month.
In the shortest term, we will continue with our plans for this Sunday, January 9, to celebrate with our retiring Vicar, Bill Rich. Though we had hoped to have no limit on worship registrations, we will remain at the pre-registration standard noted above for all services (9 am, 11 am, and 5 pm). We invite all who are not ready or able to join an indoor congregation to arrive on the Square at 9:45 am. About that time, we will distribute Communion to those leaving the church (and to all who would like to receive), before reconvening on the Square, immediately in front of the West Porch steps.
After the Post-Communion Prayer, we will begin the formal program of thanksgiving for Bill. Concluding that bittersweet time with the final Blessing and Dismissal, we will spill out to the West Porch and a heated tent for the reception. For the safety of all and at Bill’s request, we invite attendees to greet him and one another with a fond and heart-filled bow, rather than a handshake or hug.
Between now and the end of February, we have scheduled exciting, “From Home” programs for all ages to stay engaged with one another and our shared faith:
In the Spirit of Desmond Tutu: A Visit with the Very Rev. Michael Battle, Ph.D.
Tuesday, January 25, 7 - 8:30 pm (Via Zoom)
Few Americans knew Archbishop Desmond Tutu better than General Theological Seminary’s Michael Battle. Last with us at Trinity Church on March 8, 2020 – the final Sunday before COVID transformed our common life – Dr. Battle has since published Desmond Tutu: A Spiritual Biography of South Africa’s Confessor. Join us for an evening of learning, remembrance, and celebration of an Anglican leader whose joyful witness reshaped our understanding of faith’s power to change the world.
The Great Trinity Candlemas Crepe-Off
Friday, January 28, 5:30 and 7 pm (Via Zoom)
In a number of traditions, the Christmas season extends beyond the Feast of the Epiphany to Candlemas Day, when we remember the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. And one of the traditional foods eaten at Candlemas is crepes! This year Candlemas falls on Wednesday, February 2. Dust off (or go find) your favorite crepe recipe and join us for an intergenerational celebration and friendly contest in the Great Trinity Candlemas Crepe-off the prior Friday evening, January 28. (Psst: rumor has it that you can buy crepes ready-made at the grocery story. This is Zoom, so who’s to know?).
We will gather briefly at 5:30 pm for introductions and instructions. All will then be off to our kitchens to create our most delicious, creative crepe dishes. We’re back at 7 pm with our panel of Crepe Judges. Be ready to share about your crepe dish’s taste, presentation, ingredients, recipe history, etc. Categories for judging might include: sweet, savory, best-looking, most unusual, and best use of “local” ingredients.
As Never Before: Vulnerability, Sustainability, and the World to Come with Dr. Stephen Young
Tuesday, February 15, 7 - 8:30 pm (Via Zoom)
New England is warming faster than the rest of the world, according to a study recently published by Dr. Stephen Young of Salem State University’s Department of Geography and Sustainability – research that has received intense local and national media coverage. Join us as we welcome Dr. Young to share his research, his spiritual journey, and images from his gallery exhibitions, including, The Earth Exposed and Macro or Micro.
Children’s Ministry: Game Day
Sunday, January 23; 3 pm (Via Zoom)
We invite all elementary-aged children, their parents and siblings, to join us for a time of Zoom-based fun and fellowship.
Youth Ministry: Feasting, Fasting and World Faith
Sunday, January 16, 3 pm (Via Zoom)
We invite our middle-school and high-school youth to join us for an exploration of feasting and fasting in three different religions: our own Christian tradition, as well as the traditions of our Jewish and Muslim neighbors in faith. For the program, we will welcome clergy from these faith traditions to share perspectives from their respective experiences.
Children’s Ministry: Why Should I Feast and Why Should I Fast?
Sunday, February 6; 3 pm (Via Zoom)
Join us for a time of learning and engaging activities exploring the ideas of feasting and fasting. As Epiphany begins to shift towards Lent, we will ask: what can families do together to learn about the place of food in the life of the Spirit? We encourage all elementary-aged children (and their parents) to attend!
Friends, you and all of us at Trinity Church have confronted this pandemic with constancy, courage, and creativity. As testimony to our more hopeful circumstance in even this trying moment, take heart that we – carefully, faithfully, and as safely as possible – hosted nearly 3,000 worshipers across the weekends of Candlelight Carols and Christmas, an inspiring achievement. As we now celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany and follow this season’s star, we look forward to more Sundays of meaningful, moving worship – in-person and “From Home.” For while the challenges of the pandemic and this surge persist, so, too, does the grace, goodwill, and companionship of Trinity Church and the enduring Love of our faithful Creator – the one we celebrate as Prince of Peace! Wonderful Counselor! and Mighty God!
See you Sunday,
The Rev. Morgan S. Allen
i. Hendrix, Steve. “Not Since The Black Plague Have Jerusalem’s Holy Alleys Fallen So Still.” The Washington Post. March 27, 2020.