“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.” Genesis 28: 20-22
It has been 16 months since we’ve been together in worship, and with recent news of reopening protocols we are at a crossroads moment which means we may be wondering when are we reopening? The wardens and I have been praying, consulting, and listening to the community regarding this and after bringing this to our Parish Council in June, have decided that we will return to in person worship services on September 5, 2021.
You may be wondering why September 5th and not now? Well there are a few reasons:
- In our parish survey the majority of respondents said that while they will return once we reopen, that we should approach reopening gradually. Indeed many felt like they were being rushed back into life post pandemic, according to the survey.
- Many of you in conversation with me have said you plan to travel, see your families, and get out of Vancouver as soon as you are able this summer, meaning the people we need to help provide ministry in our worship would not be around to help.
- We have a few outstanding projects in the church to complete, like the installation of our permanent live stream system which should happen sometime in August, which will help make our entry back into the building easier.
- I have not had my second vaccination yet, and given the rise of variants and the increased exposure to people that a reopening would mean, I am not comfortable reopening before my second vaccination, which should happen by mid August.
- The provincial rate of second dose vaccinations is around 53% (as of this week), which is still low. Two weeks after a second dose there is an increased resilience to the virus and with the rise of variants, leaving some more space for a higher percentage of the population to be double vaccinated is an important step in coming back safely to in person worship.
Dreams of reopening and returning to community have been in our minds as leadership since the fall of 2020. While we are in a very different situation today, than we were in the fall of 2020 , the wardens and I do not want to rush our return without more fully understanding what God is unveiling before us in this post pandemic world. We believe it's important to take intentional steps towards reopening that helps us transition well from isolation back into community.
So what can you expect when you return to worship in September?
- Congregational singing will be allowed, although for the first few months we will ask you to please keep your mask on while singing. Many professional singers have been able to sing quite successfully with a mask, and this is to help protect the spread of covid-19 should any unvaccinated people attend worship with us.
- There will be no social distancing requirements or need to sign up ahead of time to attend.
- We will ask that masks be worn inside for the first few months while everyone's second vaccinations are being completed and we grow our understanding of how these virus variants work with vaccinations. We can still visit and socialize between pews and before/after services though.
- Coffee hour will be gradually reintroduced and simplified over the first few months with food safe informed protocols being followed to help us all remain safe.
- Sunday School will be offered for those who would like to attend in person.
- Eucharist will be in bread only. The common cup will not be shared until further guidance from our Bishop and the provincial house of bishops is released as they are still studying the impacts of covid-19 on the safety of chalice administration.
We are at the intersection of life that is unveiling what God is doing before our eyes as a community of faith in this place, which is offering us a new life post pandemic through community. Over the last 16 months we have dreamed and wondered, prayed and phoned, asked and cried, for the time to come when we can return to our “fathers house in peace” just like Jacob did in the opening passage to our letter today. His return, his dream, was built on an understanding of God’s time in all things and the providence of His time to show us how we are to live in our world together. Jacob set up an intersection between heaven and earth and called it Bethel which means “house of God” as a shelter for his people and their dreams. For us, God has set up his house at this intersection between heaven and earth we call St. Anselm’s, planting within us the dream of coming home so that we can continue to build deeper relationships with our neighborhood and each other. And friends, we are coming home in God’s time which for us means September 5, 2021.
As we gradually come back into community at this intersection of heaven and earth we call St. Anselm’s, mark your calendars for a Festive Service of Thanksgiving on October 10, 2021 where we will honor those we have lost and give thanks for our safe deliverance from this pandemic.
May God bless you richly this summer as we continue to grow together in Christ at this intersection of Heaven and Earth we call St. Anselm’s.