Are We There Yet?!?

On Tuesday evening most of the church council and I met along with our fearless and faithful church president to walk through the worship service for Sunday morning and to brainstorm and troubleshoot.  We were on the lookout for any problems or concerns that Rod and I might have missed in our earlier stages of planning.

Once a greeter and usher always a greeter and usher! She looks right at home.

It was amazingly awesome to see this many Lutherans in the same place at the same time.  It felt like a family reunion!  We briefly considered wearing nametags – but happily we remembered each others’ names.  We spent a few minutes checking in and catching up with one another and then Rod quickly got us on task.

We walked through the worship service.  We sat in the chairs in the sanctuary.  We discussed the liturgy.  We moved things around a bit.  We moved ourselves around a bit.  (Some of us talked about how much we “love” wearing masks!)  We talked about where Lutherans would sit = the back of the sanctuary.  We opened and closed doors.  We talked about talking.  We counted.  We imagined and pretended and made what we hope are informed guesses! 

Showing the church council what our new Communion and attendance cards look like.

We think we are ready.  We really – really hope we are ready to gather together for worship on Sunday, June 7, 2020 at 10:00 am in the sanctuary.  We have worked very hard to get ready for this.

If you decide to join us you will notice changes – lots and lots of changes.  You may even be annoyed by some of these changes.  Change is hard.  I know this.  I understand.  I am a cradle Lutheran so frankly change doesn’t come naturally to me either.  But I also believe that all of these changes are absolutely – positively necessary for us to gather together to safely worship our Lord in the Saint Stephen sanctuary. 

There will be glitches as we work out a new system.  There always are glitches whenever radical changes have to be made.  Glitches are just are part of life we will all need to accept.

Nice spacing = good social distancing! Although both Marilyn and Marcia were caught touching their masks . . .busted.

We are all going to need to be patient and incredibly gracious with one another and with the process.

We are going to need to bring attitudes of forgiveness and love and grace into this.  We need to remember why we are gathering together in the first place. 

We should remember that we are sisters and brothers in Christ. (Of course maybe that is a really – really bad example . . . as I write this Jack and Will are on our trampoline throwing balls at each other – hard!  But they are laughing even harder!)

I long to see you and I long to worship our Lord with you.  We will gather together in the sanctuary at 10:00 am Sunday, June 7, 2020 for in person worship and Holy Communion.

Again – we have clearly got this social distancing thing figured out. Lutherans are such bright people!

If you plan on joining us in the sanctuary for worship please come early and bring your patience and your loving kindness along with your mask and your favorite hand sanitizer!

Also don’t forget your donations for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries.  They really need our donations of food and toiletries.

I also know that the time is not right for many of you to join us for in person worship.  Jack will be recording our Sunday morning worship services and Jason will be posting them on my blog each Sunday afternoon.

You are all in my heart, thoughts, and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Plan for Worship at Saint Stephen Lutheran Church During COVID-19

We ask that folks stagger their arrival times when arriving at Saint Stephen for worship.  We ask that people please don’t wait to arrive for worship until the last few minutes as so many of us have done in the past.  If everyone waits until 9:55 am to arrive for worship – worship will not begin on time!

Folks will have to be very careful to maintain safe social distancing in the narthex as they arrive for worship.  Everyone will be asked to wear masks the entire time they are in the church (except when they are taking Holy Communion).  The governor recommends everyone over the age of 2 wear a mask when out in public and that is the policy Saint Stephen will be following until our governor advises differently.

When parking we ask that you park every other space in the parking lot too.  This will allow for safer social distancing outside (unless you are from the same household.)

As folks arrive for worship each person will need to collect their own worship attendance card and prepackaged Holy Communion from the table in the narthex where they will be placed each week in nice prepared, safe zip lock bags.  After collecting these items they will be encouraged to place their offerings in the offering plate and to proceed to their seats in the sanctuary so that the next people can do the same. Our narthex just isn’t big enough for us to linger safely en masse like we used to do.

We just can’t safely social distance in our narthex – well not very many of us can anyway.

We will be projecting the spoken liturgy onto a screen in the sanctuary each Sunday. We will also provide limited paper copies of the liturgy.

We will prop open the doors to the narthex and to the sanctuary so that people are not touching the doors as they arrive for worship and as they exit from worship.  We will also prop open the door to the hall.

We can’t really prop open our bathroom doors, but we can place paper towels and hand sanitizer beside each door.  We will encourage people to use those when entering and exiting the bathrooms. 

Ask people to NOT go into the rest of the church.  We just don’t need to be in the offices or the classrooms or the fellowship hall or kitchen for the time being.  We will definitely have to close off the nursery.  We will not be able to provide nursery care for the foreseeable future.

The deacon will process in from the fellowship hall.  The deacon will serve as the acolyte and the reader for the foreseeable future to limit the amount of people in the chancel area.  The deacon will NOT be vesting.  We cannot share clothing during a pandemic!

Pastor Kerri will also process in from the fellowship hall.

There will be no singing of any kind or any chanting.  Pastor Kerri will rework our liturgy so that it is all spoken.

The deacon will serve as reader and will do the readings from the lectern.

Pastor Kerri will read the Gospel from where she preaches in the chancel.

We will not be able to safely have a children’s sermon.  (We can reassess this in mid-September.)

The deacon will lead the Prayers of the People from the lectern.  

We will have to omit the physical passing of the peace – but we will still speak the words to one another.  We can wish one another God’s peace.

We will have to omit the offering = the physical passing of the offering plates.  We will place an offering plate in the narthex where people can place their offerings to the Lord as they enter or exit worship.

For Holy Communion everyone will have their own Communion in their pews using pre-packed/pre-sealed grape juice and wafers.  Pastor Kerri will invite everyone to open their communion before she shares the Words of Institution and we pray the Lord’s Prayer together.  Then we will all receive/take communion together.  

After we take communion we will all carefully place our empty communion cups and containers back into our zip-lock bags and seal them in preparation for throwing them away ourselves in the trash cans provided in the narthex following worship.  

We will need to ask people to exit worship mindfully and in a way that is safe.  Following the announcements Pastor Kerri or the deacon will direct people to leave pew by pew starting from the back of the church and working our way toward the front.  

As they exit, they will need to place their communion waste in a trash can and their worship attendance card in a basket on the table in the narthex (we can label all of these things – but no one can touch these items until they have had 72 hours to “breathe.”)

People will then need to head outside promptly so that the people behind them can leave the sanctuary.

Again the doors to the sanctuary and the parking lot will need to be propped open to insure that people are not touching the doors.

We encourage people to chat in the parking lot at a safe social distance if they choose – but not in the church.

We understand that some of our members will not be able to join us at Saint Stephen for worship for the foreseeable future.  We will continue to post the sermons/worship services online each weekend.

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