There are two very important things to read in this e-mail. The first item is the information for Bishop Hughes’ visit with us on Sunday – using a different Zoom link than we usually have!
The second item is information about our worship here at All Saints’ – where we have been, where we are now, and what we are aiming for in the near future. This will be a little involved, so please do read it carefully. The chart shows the level of COVID cases in Morris County since the start of the pandemic.
Other announcements will come after these two items.
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BISHOP’S VISITATION THIS SUNDAY
This Sunday: please join the Zoom at 9:55 am. It is hosted by the diocese, so there will be a “waiting room” when you sign on and someone will let you in. The service will be live-streamed to the diocesan website, but only those speaking will have their pictures appear on the public video. Bishop Hughes will preside and preach.
Following the service there will be a brief 5-minute break and then the Bishop will host a guided conversation with parishioners about our experiences over the last year. Bishop Hughes is really looking forward to hearing from you. Everyone who wants to will have a chance to speak, but no one must speak! The coffee hour portion will not be livestreamed or recorded, just as with our regular coffee hour. After that, Bishop Hughes and the Vestry and Clergy will meet for a separate conversation.
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WORSHIP AT ALL SAINTS’
As you all know, this last fourteen months have been very challenging on many different levels. While none of us wanted to deal with a pandemic, we have come this far by God’s grace and mercy. We have all been affected in different ways and to different degrees, and many of us are now feeling very depleted and diminished – emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, financially – even as we may have also grown in our faith and trust in Christ.
Guiding Principals have informed our decisions since last March and will continue to do so. They are:
- To keep our parishioners and staff as safe and healthy as possible in light of the best scientific and medical information at the time, including the current CDC guidance.
- To follow the Journey Forward guidelines for worship and gathering published by our Diocese of Newark (here: https://dioceseofnewark.org/covid-19/journey-forward ) and tied to the COVID case levels in our region as found on the COVID Act Now website (here: https://covidactnow.org/us/new_jersey-nj/?s=1774695 ).
- To continue our worship of God and be a Christian community of worship, learning, praise, and service as best we can in these circumstances.
- March-June 2020: all worship was on Facebook Live or pre-recorded video, and print resources emailed to you. Nightly Compline on Facebook was added. All meetings and fellowship, choirs and adult formation were on Zoom. Over this period a number of different people “found” us on-line and joined us in a variety of ways.
- July 2020: we shifted Sunday worship to Zoom. This gave us greater interactivity and the ability for parishioners to exercise their ministries as readers, intercessors, preachers, singers, and instrumentalists.
- August-November 2020: we added in-person outdoor Evening Prayer at 5 pm and Morning Prayer at 8 am. We held the Blessing of the Animals and All Saints’ Day Eucharist out in the parking lot.
- In the summer the virus levels were low and spreading slowly. On average in Morris County there were 1 or 2 new cases daily per 100,000 people. Cases began to rise steadily in October from medium to high levels (35 cases per 100,000).
- November 2020: we installed ultra-violet sanitizing lights in the air-conditioning system of the church to improve the safety of our ventilation. We met with Diocesan Property Manager Jim Caputo to evaluate our general safety protocols. We also measured the seating distance in the church. Our pews are small and our aisles are narrow. To create the CDC required 6 feet of distance between unrelated people/households we can only use 11 pews.
- December 2020: Bishop Hughes restricted any in-person gatherings (indoors or outside) due to high and rising COVID case levels in the diocese.
- Winter 2020: Case levels in Morris County hit a high of 65 daily cases per 100,000 residents. That came down some in February and spiked again in mid-March. Today's graph for Morris County for the COVID Act Now tracker is at the top of this e-letter. All counties in New Jersey are still “red” in the five-level scale.
- 38% of eligible people in the county have been fully vaccinated as of today.
- All Saints’ Staff is not yet fully vaccinated. Even with full vaccination status we know that two people in the parish have had breakthrough infections – one of them was Fr. Shawn and his was asymptomatic, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t contagious when he was live-streaming services with us in the church.
- April 2021: Holy Week services were held via Zoom and Facebook Live, and our joyous Easter Day service was a fully-produced video. Bishop Hughes’ visitation with us was scheduled for April 25; all of her visitations are currently conducted on Zoom. It made no sense to change anything until after April.
- Different faith traditions and congregations have made different choices about when and how to worship in person. Some of those choices have been governed by the size of their worship space and the availability of staff and volunteers. For example, St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church in Stirling has a very large space, but they have limited their attendance to 150 people per service. First Presbyterian Church of Stirling (right across the street) has been doing combined pre-recorded services with Meyersville Presbyterian; they held their first outdoor service this past Sunday. St Mark’s in Basking Ridge has been worshipping in-person on a limited basis for months. St. Bernard’s in Bernardsville is just now starting very limited in-person worship twice a month. Both of these churches are in the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey which has different guidelines from us.
- Bishop Hughes has issued revised guidelines which allow parish Vestries to decide if they are ready to move ahead in the safest manner possible – outdoors currently being the best way to gather because we are still in the critical red zone with infection levels.
- At the Vestry meeting this week we made the decision to start the weekly 8:00am service of Holy Eucharist in the Memorial Garden on Sunday, May 2nd. You will need to sign up in advance, wear a mask, and bring your own chair. Details will be sent early next week. There is no music or livestreaming at this service and limited set-up required.
- At the Vestry meeting we also made the decision to hold our Pentecost celebration of Holy Eucharist at 10:00 am in the parking lot on Sunday, May 24th. You will need to sign up in advance, wear a mask, and bring your own chair. There will be music and livestreaming at this service and the set-up needs lots of volunteers. The first three Sundays in May the 10:00 am service will be on Zoom, and I will preside from the Church (not from home).
- Looking towards a regular schedule of 10:00 am outdoor services during the summer months – but not yet defining what that schedule is.
- Recruiting Teams of volunteers to set up and take down the worship, sound system, and music equipment, and run the livestreaming.
- Continue all appropriate COVID protocols.
- Continue to allow those who can’t come in person for whatever reason to be part of worship through livestreaming.
- Continue to have parishioners exercise their liturgical ministries.
- Take steps to plan and practice our ability to gather safely indoors, developing services that work both for in-person and livestreamed experience. We hope and pray that September will bring both low virus levels and relaxed CDC guidance about distancing indoors.
I know this is hard, and we are all so weary and fed-up. But please rely on God for patience, wisdom, and understanding. Please participate to the extent you are able, even if it is not exactly what you want. And please continue to keep one another and the parish in prayer.
On Sunday: At the Bishop's request, the loose plate offering will be directed to the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund. During the food emergency caused by the pandemic, the funds collected will be given to the food ministries profiled in The VOICE Online newsletter.
In addition, those interested in donating online in support of diocesan food ministries may click on the DONATE button at the top of the diocesan website home page (http://dioceseofnewark.org) and choose Area of Greatest Need: Food Pantries.
For more about the increased need our parish food ministries are meeting, please see issues of The VOICE Online https://dioceseofnewark.org/publications/voice-online-archive.
Narnia Book Group: The Silver Chair, Chapters 15 & 16 - will take a break this week and continue next Sunday, May 2. This group meets on Zoom Sunday afternoons at 4:00 pm. To join, please email Mother Vicki at email@example.com.
Bible Study is on Wednesdays at 10:15am. During Easter season we are reading and discussing Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” - Matthew 5-7. This week’s passage is Matthew 5: 21-48. To participate in this Zoom class, or if you have questions, please e-mail Mother Vicki.
Office Angels - drop in for conversation and fellowship with our office staff and clergy from the comfort of your own home on Zoom, Thursdays at 11:00 am. Please email Parish Administrator Susie Harris for the log in: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Parish Schedule this Week
Sunday Worship & Bishop’s Visitation – 10:00 am; Zoom, posted later to YouTube and our website
Narnia Book Group - will not meet this week
Compline - daily, 9:30 pm; Facebook Live
Bible Study - Wed, 10:15 pm; Zoom
Office Angels - Thu, 11:00 am; Zoom
Junior Choir – Thu, 5:30 pm; Zoom
Adult Choir - Thu, 7:30 pm; Zoom
Parish Office - Mon & Thu, 10:00 am-5:00 pm (usual hours). Please call before you come.
Two prayers for this current season
Holy God, whose presence is known in the structures we build, and also in their collapse; establish in us a community of hope, not to contain your mystery, but to be led beyond security into your sacred space, through Jesus Christ. Amen. (by Janet Morley)
O Almighty God, we have come to seek the Living among the living and to follow Christ as he goes before us to Galilee and into joys eternal. Let the hope of his Resurrection shine in our praises, as it leads us into more faithful witness and more joyful service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns in glory everlasting. Amen.