Here is an update on our plans for the church over the next several weeks. As you know we have been very cautious – I have been very cautious – based on information about the virus, and based on cautions about bringing groups together. Our approach here during this time of pandemic has been to livestream every Sunday, with a maximum of around 12 people present in the church as liturgical ministers and technicians. We believe this is working well for us, even though we’re aware that it’s not the same as having people in the church.
Our plan at this time is, beginning next Sunday July 19, we will have a group of no more than 20 first communion children, and their parents, present in the church for our 9:30 Mass. This means 60 people + ministers and technicians, so around 75 people at the max. We will have strict guidelines in place: masks, distancing, no singing, communion in the hand only. Our task force, which is made up of staff members plus medical professionals, has worked hard on preparing the way for us to have these kinds of celebrations.
As always, this plan could change depending on how things go with the virus. Also, please note that no matter what happens, we will continue to livestream, as many people have commented that they are not ready to come back to the church building and this is a good way for people to stay connected. We will see how this goes next Sunday and then look further out into July and August, and look into the possibility of expanding into a model of having mass with some people inside, and some people outside in the columbarium garden. We will keep you informed.
On a pastoral note, I know that these have been very strange and difficult times to navigate for many people. Our whole understanding of “going to church” has changed. Our whole understanding of sacraments has changed. These times invite us to go deeper into our Christian tradition. We believe in a God who became human, lived among us, and experienced everything of what it means to be human. God looks upon us, and as a poet once wrote, said “Let me go there.” It’s human life as a place where God seeks to dwell.
And these times we’re in invite us to ask, can we see that? Can we recognize in the joys and struggles of our times as the place where God lives and dreams God’s dream for all humanity? Can we recognize that God seeks to be known in the everyday stuff of life? We find God in the simple and ordinary form of bread, and we have not been able to receive that bread for several months now. Can our longing for the Eucharist, in this time of absence, become a longing for God’s justice and peace and kindness and mercy in a world that cries out for it? It’s not the same as receiving holy communion on a Sunday morning at church. It does not replace that. But that’s where we find ourselves in these days.
Let me say thank you to all the faithful members of St. Francis who continue to support our parish in these times. And let me say also that we continue to look into what is best for the parish in any decisions we make, and will keep you informed along the way.
A few other things as we move into mid-July: the friars’ last weekend is Sunday, August 30 and there are plans underway for a virtual farewell on that Sunday morning.
Also, please be watchful for scam emails that are going around in my name. If you have any question at all about an email you receive from me or from anyone on staff here, please call to make sure. Please also know that we have members of our staff and volunteers who are making phone calls to check in on members of the parish.
And finally, thank you to all who continue to support our parish financially. We are deeply grateful.
Blessings on your week!