Dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
After careful planning, in conformity with governor Pritzker’s executive orders and the guidelines we have received from the Holy Synod of the OCA and our own diocese, and having been reviewed and approved by our Parish Council and the Chancellor of our Diocese, and with the blessing of Archbishop Alexander, our parish is implementing a partial re-opening plan.
This letter provides information concerning the partial re-opening. I know that it is a bit lengthy, but please take the time to read it all. It is important for each member of our parish family in Christ to understand what is being done to protect us all, in order to make an informed decision regarding your own participation.
What we are doing
- Continuing live-streaming services on our Facebook page.
- Permitting up to 10 people to attend Divine Liturgies at our parish.
- Providing for reception of Holy Communion.
- Making Confession available.
When this will happen
- As soon as practicable, but we have to:
- Obtain cleaning and communion supplies.
- Establish the “rosters” described below and work out a corresponding service schedule.
- Prepare and clean the church.
What we are not doing at this time
- Resuming in person meetings (coffee hour, church school, etc.)
- Guaranteeing that we will remain open. A change in the situation may result in returning to live-stream only services as directed by civil authorities, the Holy Synod or our diocese, or by the judgment of Father Andrew and the parish council.
What we are doing to minimize coronavirus risk
- Publishing CDC guidelines at church and through email.
- Establishing a social distancing plan in our church. Six seating areas in the pews have been identified and marked, and traffic patterns are being arranged so that each family/individual will maintain at least 7 feet social distance at all times. The side aisles, and doors other than the front door, will be used only in an emergency. If needed, two additional seating areas have been identified in the choir loft.
- We will identify “rosters” of 8 people as groups to attend services. Only one roster will attend a particular service. Services will be rotated as needed so that each roster will have the opportunity to attend Sunday Liturgy
- All processions during services will be just in front of the iconostasis, not around the entire church.
- Everyone coming to services will wear a mask. We are attempting to obtain masks to distribute if needed. Everyone entering the church will immediately use antiseptic handwash.
- No service books, bulletins, or handouts will be distributed, and all these will be removed from the pews. These will be emailed, and the faithful may print theirs out at home to bring if they wish. They may also bring service books for their own use.
- Liturgy intentions will be given to Father in advance, via phone or email. Intention slips will not be used.
- The faithful may drop contributions into a collection basket at the candle stand; The basket will not be passed.
- Candles will not be available at the candle stand. Those wishing to light candles will request, and a single helper will light them for you.
- All greetings, veneration of icons and the cross, and receiving blessings from the priest will be made using a slight bow, without making contact and maintaining social distance of at least seven feet.
- When approaching the Holy Gifts, there will be no line. Father will “call” each family/individual group from their seating area individually. They will go to the center aisle, approach to receive, then return via the center aisle to their seating area, before the next group is called.
- While the faithful will temporarily lower their mask to receive the Holy Gifts, Father will wear a mask. The Eucharist will be celebrated with port wine (higher alcohol content) and steaming water. Father will administer the Holy Gifts with several spoons, which will be rotated between each family/individual by being placed in a glass of pure grain alcohol, then rinsed in clear water before use. A helper will provide a clean, unused paper towel to each family/individual to use as a communion cloth; These will be returned to the helper after communing, stored in a cleanable container and burned. The faithful may decline to approach the chalice.
- The antidoron will be distributed by a helper wearing gloves, and dropped into the recipient’s hands without contact. Receiving antidoron is optional.
- The church will be cleaned and sanitized after every service.
- Only the vestibule, the Nave, the hallway in the addition, and the upstairs bathrooms will be open during services. The upstairs drinking fountain will be turned off.
What we are asking you to do
- Using your own judgment along with the advice of experts and family members, make your own decision as to whether it is safe for you to attend church at this time. Of course you should stay away out of laziness or impiety, but honest concern and knowledge of your particular risk factors should guide your decision.
- If you do decide to attend church, you should also make your own decision as to whether it is safe for you to approach the chalice.
- You may not attend services if you or anyone you live or work with: have or think you may have COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19, are caring for someone who has COVID-19, or have had COVID-19, general cold or flu-like symptoms, or any sign of illness in the last 14 days. If any of these is the case, follow CDC guidelines and seek medical help.
- Healthcare professionals who may be exposed to COVID-19 must receive a blessing from Archbishop Alexander to attend church.
- Children who are not old enough to stay with their parents in the marked seating areas should not come to church.
Becoming part of a roster
- If you decide to attend church during this partial re-opening, contact Father Andrew to let him know, and if you are coming as a family, who is included, or other special requests. Father will form rosters.
- The purpose of rosters is to limit the number of people each of us is exposed to at services. Father and Popadia will be at every service, along with the members of one roster. If possible, there will be at least one Liturgy each week for each roster, and they will be rotated so that each roster has the opportunity to attend Sunday Liturgy in turn.
- Barring exceptional circumstances, everyone will remain a member of their roster until re-opening proceeds further and more people are permitted at services.
- Only come to church when your roster is designated.
When you come to church
- By coming to church, you are agreeing to comply with the practices presented in this letter, even if you personally do not believe that they are fair, necessary, or effective. We are doing this for each other as an expression of Christian love.
- Wear your mask from the time you exit your car in the parking lot.
- Maintain social distance at all times.
- Enter the church by the front door only.
- Do not go downstairs or into the conference room. Enter Father’s office only for Confession.
- Immediately upon entering, use the hand sanitizer.
- Acknowledge others, venerate icons, and receive blessings only with a slight bow. Do not kiss anything.
- Enter and exit the Nave only by the center aisle and in turn.
- Keep your mask on except when receiving the Sacrament.
- Popadia will be doing the singing. You may “sub-sing” along with her if you wish.
- We are asking all roster members who are able to remain after the service to help clean the church. Popadia Joan will have cleaning materials and instructions.
Specific helpers in each roster
- Tasks that don’t overlap can be done by one person.
- Ensures that each person is part of the designated roster for that service.
- Ensures that hand sanitizer is available.
- Checks that each person is wearing a mask. Provides masks as needed if we have them.
- Lights candles on request.
- Guides people to seating areas.
- Makes a dated list of those present at service. This is for possible contact tracing.
- Informs Father in the event that anyone is not complying with the practices outlined in this letter.
- Communion helper
- Before communion, washes hands for 20 seconds, uses sanitizer, and puts on gloves.
- Wearing mask and gloves, stands near front during administration of the Eucharist.
- Hands a clean paper towel to the first member of each family, or to individual, which that person uses as a communion cloth.
- Each member of family passes paper towel to next member.
- Last member places paper towels in contain for later burning.
- Antidoron helper
- Before communion, washes hands for 20 seconds, uses sanitizer, and puts on gloves.
- Wearing mask and gloves, stands near front during administration of the sacrament.
- Distributes antidoron without contact by dropping a piece into the hands of the Communicant.
- Repeats at final blessing.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Father Andrew.
With love in Christ,
Fr Andrew Moulton