Starting on Sunday, May 24, we have a blessing from Bishop Daniel to offer the Holy Gifts to the community and begin gradual re-opening of the church.
Please check our website again soon regarding additional partial re-opening plans for Sunday, June 7, 2020
Dearly beloved in the Lord,
Christ is risen!
Last week Deacon John, Subdeacon Paul, and I spent several hours reviewing & meeting to understand precisely what requirements we would need to fulfill in order to "reopen" the church. Our findings were presented to council for review, and this past Sunday, May 17, council met for over 3 hours to discuss those findings and suggest a path forward. The proposal, detailed below, was submitted to His Grace, Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa, chancellor of the Diocese of the West, for review and blessing, who blessed the proposal and provided encouragement to take additional steps to allow more people in church, while also providing a reminder of the precautions we are expected to take to attempt to protect our parish family from COVID-19.
The council's proposal submitted to and blessed by Bishop Daniel was essentially as follows:
- due to the small size of our physical space we do not expect being able to have many more than 10 souls in church while maintaining the requisite 6 foot distancing
- for this reason, for the rest of May the council proposed maintaining the existing 3 family "skeleton crew," and adding Deacon John, at services, but lifting the 3 person maximum of who can present, which would allow as many as the 9 members of those families to attend at a time
- to facilitate Holy Communion to the entire community, we would offer the Gifts at the front door of the church for 30m after the conclusion of the service to allow folks who are participating in the live stream to journey to the church to receive
The above will be the case for 2 Divine Liturgies scheduled this week:
- Sunday, May 24 at usual time, 9:30 AM, preceded by the Hours at 9:10
- Thursday, May 28 (Holy Ascension) at 8:30 AM, preceded by the Hours at 8:10
Although we had considered having Liturgy on Wednesday as well for the Leavetaking of Pascha, due to maintaining the self-imposted restrictions we will NOT be serving Liturgy on the 27th.
The above times & streaming information, as always, can be found on our online calendar: https://sttikhonparker.org/calendar2
The council is planning to assess and re-evaluate our approach later this week to consider additional possibilities for Sunday, May 31, and beyond.
Please let me or any/all of them know if you have strong feelings in the matter.
For anyone what would like to receive Holy Communion at either/both of the Divine Liturgies mentioned above, we urge everyone to observe the following:
- In the spirit of preparation for Holy Communion, as is always the ideal, we should prepare ahead of time. Certainly the usual fasting & prayers in preparation, but I also encourage, in the spirit of attending the services related to the Eucharist, planning to attend, via livestream, Vespers the evening before and Divine Liturgy the day of receiving Holy Communion.
- To allow sufficient time for travel, plan to leave your home at the time of clergy Communion, after "Holy Things are for the holy",
- I suggest letting me know ahead of time, via e-mail or text, that you plan on coming for Communion. I will wait for you in case you get delayed, but also ask if you had planned to come and are no longer able to, please let me know.
- Communion will be offered for no more than 30m after the conclusion of the service, only exception being someone who has notified me ahead of time being delayed.
- No one outside the "skeleton crew" will be permitted inside the church proper. I will stand with the Chalice at the front door, and Communicants need to stay outside the doorway.
- I have included specific directives from His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, below. *
- Per His Eminence's directives, everyone is encouraged to observe the directives of the health department regarding distancing, masks, and factors that would inspire self-quarantine.
- We will be using separate spoons for each Communicant, which will be sanitized in boiling water after each use.
- The Slavic practice of kissing the Chalice after receiving the Gifts should be avoided.
- The Communion cloth will be held only to prevent the spilling of the Holy Gifts. Communicants are to wipe their own lips with paper napkins which will be provided at the side tables. These napkins will be placed in a basket or paper bag for eventual burning.
- After-Communion zapivka and/or antidoron will not to be distributed.
This level of detail may be difficult and frustrating for many of us. It certainly has been trying for me, a sinner! Nevertheless, I offer the following reflection that I shared with the council earlier this week:
It is not only my duty/responsibility as an Orthodox Christian, not to mention as clergy, to respect and be obedient to my hierarch(s); it is even more so my great privilege to not bear responsibility in the eyes of God for the decision itself, but rather for how well I adhere to the direction I have received, for which I will be held to account. The voluntary submission of my will, that I may decrease so that He can increase (John 3:30), so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me (Gal 2:20), is a fundamental teaching of our faith and Church. Given the recent examples of the Paralytic & Christ Himself with the Samaritan Woman that I have cited in recent sermons as examples of adjusting their "standard operating procedure" in light of the circumstances with which they were presented, we all have an opportunity to humble ourselves and do the same. Even if we live in and are a product of a country founded on and rooted in personal liberty and freedom, may we transfigure ourselves with the humility that Christ both taught and exemplified Himself, to be "all things to all men" (1 Cor 9:22).
With love in the risen Christ,
* Directives from His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, "Toward the Gradual Opening of Parishes in the Diocese of the West":
- Those who are symptomatic or ill should not attend.
- Those who are compromised with regard to their health or elderly should be encouraged to stay home.
- Those coming to church should take their temperature at home that day. Those with a temperature of 100.4 or above should not enter. If it is not possible for one to take one’s temperature at home, using a no contact infrared thermometer, one should have his or her temperature taken at church before entering.
- Sign-in Sheet – the date and type of service and a list of persons attending (including children) shall be provided and kept on file in the parish office each time your temple is opened for services. Each household shall provide a telephone number to facilitate contact tracing if necessary.
- Collection plate – a plate for offerings shall not be passed, but one placed by the doors of the temple or candle stand.
- Candles shall not be handled by worshippers. Instead, someone may light candles for those present in the temple and online to prevent contamination.