Sometimes it is hard to believe that 15 months have passed since our former Bishop, Jeff Lee, suspended in-person worship and other gatherings in our churches. During this time, we have discovered new ways to maintain community virtually. We have prayed, laughed, cried, and sung together on Facebook. And we gradually gathered in-person with limited capacity from July through November last year and again, beginning this past March. The guidelines issued by the Diocese informed our actions and decision-making.
This past Wednesday, June 16, the Diocese of Chicago released congregations from the expectation of restrictions imposed by diocesan guidelines and invited leaders to prayerfully and thoughtfully discern guidelines for their own communities, based on their particular context. Beginning this Sunday, June 20, the following guidelines and practices will be in place for our All Saints’ community:
- There will still be three ways to participate in the Sunday worship life of All Saints’.
- The 9:00 am service will continue to take place on Facebook. When the 9:00 am service resumes in-person later in July, one or more of our services will be live-streamed. We want everyone to have options to participate in whatever feels safest and most comfortable for them.
- Our 8:00 am and 11:00 am in-person services will continue. Pre-registration is not required, and there will be no capacity limits in place. The northwest quadrant of the sanctuary will be reserved for those who prefer to maintain physical distance. These pews will still have pictures placed on them to denote where to sit and where not to sit. Ushers will be happy to direct you to one of the seats in this area if desired.
- For those who are fully vaccinated, wearing masks and distancing is optional. Anyone who feels more comfortable wearing a mask, even if fully vaccinated, is welcome to do so.
- For those who are not fully vaccinated, wearing masks and social distancing is still required. Unvaccinated people who do not wear masks do so at their own risk. Unvaccinated children older than two years old are expected to wear masks while indoors.
- Congregational singing will resume at the 11:00 service, and we look forward to singing together again. The 8:00 am service will remain, as is our practice, a spoken service.
- No one should feel obligated to pass the Peace by shaking hands. The recent practice of passing the Peace with a bow, hand wave, or a “peace sign” is entirely acceptable.
- For the time being, we will continue to have only bread in the form of wafers for communion and no consecrated wine.
- The collection plate will not be passed in the pews or brought to the altar. Please place contributions in the collection plates located at the entrance or rear of the church.
- Childcare is available in the nursery. Children over the age of 2 need to wear a mask.
We are keenly aware that people will have numerous feelings – from jubilation to anxiety – about moving into this new phase. While there are some people who are ready to sit close, hug, sing, and “get back to normal,” others are approaching this return to “normal” with trepidation and concern. And many of us will be somewhere in the middle. Our approach considers the mixed vaccination status of our congregation, and we know that there are many people in our community who cannot or may not be vaccinated, especially children younger than age 12 and immunocompromised people. While many of the practices that have been necessary to keep people safe during the pandemic will end, some will remain. And throughout the summer, we will create opportunities for conversation after church or on some occasional Wednesday evenings to talk specifically about the ways we can both re-engage more fully in-person and maintain an environment that feels welcoming to all.
As we get used to re-gathering in larger numbers and resuming activities that have been on-hold for over a year, I invite us to extend an abundance of grace to one another. What feels comfortable one week may not the next. What may have seemed like a good idea, may need to be reconsidered. To that end, please know that you may share your ideas or concerns with our wardens, vestry, or staff. We will continue to review our plans, review guidance from the City of Chicago, and make adjustments as needed. We know that this time of re-gathering will be gradual as we all make our way back to practices that seemed like second nature. And just like RCS’s beloved Ravenswood Run, we will all move forward at a different pace, and we will leave no one behind.