May 20, 2020
Brothers and Sisters,
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Our Parish Council met last evening via conference call and discussed the various protocols, guidelines, regulations, etc., that relate to the reopening of our parish church for Divine Services. These include the directives of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, the guidelines “Toward the Gradual Opening of Parishes in the Diocese of the West” blessed by His Eminence Archbishop BENJAMIN, and Arizona State Governor Doug Ducey’s “Guidance for Places of Worship,” issued May 12, 2020. As I mentioned in an email last week, it has been my hope to resume services before the end of this month. I am grateful that I can now inform you that we will begin to hold services with parishioners present this coming weekend, May 23 and 24.
As I have already advised you, we are still not be able to return to what we have always considered to be our normal way of doing things. And this will be true for the foreseeable future. Indeed, the experience will look or seem very different when you next come to church
In order for us to resume services, the following protocols and guidelines will be observed. These are provided to ensure that good health practices are followed and to help everyone feel as comfortable as possible as they return to church after several weeks of isolation. While to some these practices might seem to be overly cautious or intrusive, we must work together to implement them for the good and well-being of every individual member of our community and for our community as a whole. Please remember that patience, care, and loving concern for all are at the root of everything we are being asked and required to do.
DIVINE LITURGIES- Beginning this weekend, we will celebrate three Divine Liturgies per week (one each day): on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays. Saturday and Sunday Liturgies will be celebrated at the usual 9:00 a.m. hour. Wednesday Liturgies will be celebrate at 10:00 a.m. For the present time, any of these days will be considered fulfilling one’s spiritual need and duty to normally attend the Divine Liturgy on Sundays.
I ask that we reserve Wednesdays for persons 65 years of age or older, those who accompany them, and anyone who otherwise feels uncomfortable being at the Saturday or Sunday Liturgy.
CAPACITY- For the present, we are restricted to permitting only the number that social distancing may allow (the “6 feet rule”). In consultation with the Parish Council, we have determined that this is fifty (50) persons allowed per service.
MAKING SURE THE ALLOWABLE NUMBERS in ATTENDANCE ARE MAINTAINED- If you wish to come to a service, please make a reservation at this SignUpGenius link: (https://www.signupgenius.com/go/stspeterpaulsspeterpaulaz). A “how to sign up” will be emailed separately. If you are unable to link on to that site, simply email Deacon John (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will then notify you if there is a space for you. Please do not presume to come unless you have signed up online or have received a confirmation of your email. It would be horrible to have to ask someone not to enter the church due to lack of communication. If you know of someone who doesn’t have access to the internet, kindly assist them in saving a place at Liturgy.
MANNER OF COMMUNION- For the foreseeable future, we are blessed to distribute Holy Communion in the following manner:
Individuals are to observe social distancing when approaching the Chalice, though families may come forward as a family group. Individual metal spoons will be used to give the Holy Gifts, i.e. one spoon per person. The spoons will be sanitized in alcohol and then with boiling water between each Divine Liturgy. Masks, as noted below, will necessarily be removed at the Chalice. The Chalice will not be kissed. The communion cloth will be held only to prevent the spilling of the Holy Gifts: you are to wipe your lips with paper napkins which will be provided at the side table(s); these napkins will be placed in a basket for eventual burning. (Please note that the communion spoons will not be the “liturgical spoons” with which you are accustomed, but rather metal spoons of the long-handled variety.) After-Communion bread and wine (zapivka) and antidoron (bread) will not be distributed for the foreseeable future.
COMMON-SENSE PROCEDURES TO BE OBSERVED BY ALL-
- If you are sick, in a high risk group, have underlying conditions which put you at greater risk, or are uncomfortable about coming to church at this point, please shown concern for yourself and for others and remain at home. The Governor has recommended the following in this regard: “If you are at higher risk for severe illness, you should avoid places of worship. People at higher risk for severe illness include adults 65 or older and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.”
- Everyone is asked to take their temperature before coming to church. Epidemiologists have advised us that if your temperature is above 100.4 you should please remain at home.
- Everyone, except clergy, choir, and servers, is asked to wear a protective mask upon entering the church and throughout the Divine Liturgy, except while receiving Holy Communion. (Priests will wear masks when they distribute Communion; choir members will wear masks when entering or leaving the church and when in line for Communion.) We cannot presently guarantee having a sufficient number of masks available for those who attend the Liturgy. Therefore, our current expectation is that you will provide your own. If you do not have your own mask(s) and if none are available at church, you will not be permitted to enter the church building. Children two (2) and younger are exempted from this requirement.
- Everyone must observe social distancing and stay six feet apart at all times, including while visiting outdoors in the church parking lot. Children must be under parental control at all times and not allowed to run freely (This is particularly important in regard to child/senior interaction). The pews that will need to remain unoccupied will be marked off by a ribbon. PLEASE REMEMBER- social distancing means placing six feet between you and your neighbor: six feet to your left, six feet to your right, six feet in front and six feet behind you. Households and family members who have maintained regular contact may stand together.
- For the time being, the choir will be limited to five (5) singers. Choir members will be contacted by the choir director to confirm they are able to sing on a given day. This will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to take their turn and will also guarantee that social distancing can be maintained in the choir loft. There will be no need for the designated choir members to sign up to be at the Liturgy at which they are singing. Five spots are automatically reserved for the choir.
- The parish hall will remain closed before, during, and after services. Restrooms on the west side of the church will remain opened and will be regularly serviced and cleaned.
- You are asked to bow in reverence before the Holy Icons, the Holy Cross or anything else you might normally honor with a kiss. For the present time, the hands of the bishop or of the priest are not to be kissed when receiving a blessing.
- Please use hand sanitizer upon entering and leaving the church. Dispensers will be available in the vestibule.
- Do not light candles. If you wish to have a candle lit, inform the greeter who will light them for you.
- A collection box will be available as you enter the nave of the church and will be monitored by a member of the Parish Council for security purposes. As always, you may continue your stewardship by mailing your checks to the church or by donating online on our parish website.
- If you cough or sneeze, use common sense and please use a handkerchief or direct your sneeze or cough to the inside of your elbow.
CHURCH CLEANING- The church and restrooms will be sanitized between each service. This will involve the use of approved anti-bacterial and anti-COVID-19 sanitizers. Volunteers will be asked to assist with cleaning after the Saturday and Wednesday Liturgies. The church is cleaned on Mondays by our regular cleaning staff.
VESPERS- Saturday evening and festal Vespers services will remain suspended until further notice.
MEETINGS AND GATHERINGS- For the present, all parish educational, organizational, and social gatherings or meetings are suspended, unless conducted virtually.
OTHER SACRAMENTAL NEEDS- Confession, Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals will be scheduled and conducted in keeping with the current restrictions until the Holy Synod provides new directives at the end of the month.
COMMON SENSE and ATTENTIVE CONCERN- While we are to strictly adhere to clearly given guidelines and procedures, common sense, concern for the wellbeing of others, patience, and mutual respect are the key to their success.
These procedures and protocols are being instituted in order to protect the physical health of ourselves and our brothers and sisters and the community at large to ensure that we can return to fuller and more normal Church life sooner than later. What is presented here is really a matter of the common-sense procedures and protocols that we’ve all become aware of in the past several weeks and have adapted for church life.
I look forward to seeing everyone at Liturgy in the near future. If you still feel uncomfortable in gathering with others or if you feel the need to “wait and see,” you can still be present with us in prayer.
As I’ve already mentioned, it will be different than that to which we’re accustomed. But it will also be the same it has always been throughout the history of the Orthodox Church: Christ will be present. His Church will be gathered. And we will be united with Christ and with one another in offering the Divine Liturgy, the highest form of prayer and praise.
With love in the Risen Lord,