With vaccinations underway and case numbers declining, we seem to have turned the corner on the COVID pandemic. Longer days and warmer weather are adding to the relief. I hope your spirits are lifting! It feels so good to be moving beyond these dark days. We are all anxious to get off our Zoom screens and reconnect in-person with family, friends, and colleagues. We are all looking forward to in-person worship and programming.
Many of you may have seen the letter that came out last week from Bishop Hollingsworth, in which he explains that beginning the 5th Sunday in Lent, March 21, he is returning to parish leadership decision-making around in-person gatherings. However, he points out in the letter, “…a number of epidemiologists are expressing caution about a potential surge at the end of March from the variant strains currently being diagnosed across the country.” While he values parochial decision-making, Bishop Hollingsworth is urging us to be cautious about returning too quickly and opening ourselves up to setbacks. He is clear: “The parochial responsibility for making this decision in no way implies that in-person gathering is necessarily appropriate. To every extent possible, all vehicles for virtual participation should be continued and enhanced.”
I stay in close contact with my clergy colleagues, both Episcopal and ecumenical, of similar-sized parishes. They have no immediate plans to return to in-person worship. Our Regathering Task Force continues to meet to assess the timing on when we can regather safely. We are watching the Advisory Levels in Cuyahoga and neighboring counties and heeding the advice of epidemiologists. Right now, I believe we will be able to gather for in-person worship in May or June. The clergy are hopeful that we might be together for a celebratory Pentecost on May 23. Just a reminder that in-person worship will feel different for a while. We will need to adhere to safety protocols for some length of time, including registration, social distancing, masks, no singing, and limited capacity. Thank you for your flexibility and understanding.
This past year has been difficult for all of us in so many ways. Please know I hold you in my heart and prayers. I know we are all anxious to return to in-person gatherings. Let us keep safety our priority, erring on the side of caution versus regret. I am so grateful for how you have nurtured our community over the past year. You have served and inspired so many. What a blessing!