Dear Friends in Christ,
Butler County is going “green,” and First English is opening its physical doors for in-person worship. Our first Sunday worshiping again in the building will be June 14, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.
All services will also be streamed online via ZOOM. We know that there are many folks in our congregation who wish to worship while remaining safe at home. We want to do everything that we can to support our congregation in its ongoing relationship with God through this pandemic.
As with many aspects of our life during this time, return to in-person worship will ask some changes of us. While the burden of COVID in our region is low enough to make it worship gatherings reasonable, the virus still poses a threat to our health. Churches throughout the country have become hotspots for the outbreaks, and some congregations have opened up only to close again quickly. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in American and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod have worked with public health experts to make good recommendations to us about how to proceed. Our congregation’s leaders have reviewed these recommendations. Included with this letter is the re-opening plan drafted by our health and safety team and approved by our council.
Here are some things to expect when you return to in person worship:
- Please enter through the office door (off the municipal parking lot) in order to be greeted and seated by our usher team.
- Please wear a mask and keep physical distance in the sanctuary. If you don’t have a mask, we will provide one for you. If health issues prevent you from wearing a mask but you want to be in worship in person, please let me know.
- Singing is apparently one of the worst activities for viral spread, so our approach to music will need to change and our focus on other forms of liturgical art will need to expand. Over time, we will have soloists, instrumental ensembles, organ music, and some pre-recorded singing, but not the congregational singing to which we are accustomed. We will be working on other ways (visual art, processions, banners, drama etc.) to make worship beautiful and dynamic, and to engage the historic liturgy of our church. If you are interested in serving on a liturgical arts team, please let me know! We need you.
- Holy Communion will be celebrated each week with some modifications. It is probably easier to explain those in worship itself than to try to detail them here. Communion will be sent to those who wish to avoid group gatherings for health reasons but who still wish to receive. Please contact Caitlyn in the church office if you wish to be on the communion distribution list.
- At the end of worship, the procession will lead outside. As worshipers are dismissed—again, see the attached safety plan–we’ll share a time of (still physically distanced) greeting outside where fresh air is a friend to public health.
One final note: I know that all of this may seem like a lot to process. It certainly has been for me! Not everything will be smooth at times and there will be a lot to work through, but I believe that we will do so faithfully and well. God has given this congregation the creativity and patience and has brought us thus far through the last few months, and we can always trust God to remain faithful! I have been grateful to God for your prayers, patience, and resilience during this time. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Your sister in Christ,
Pr. Kimberly van Driel