Grace Episcopal Church has suspended all in-person campus events, activities, and worship services until further notice. Please visit our Grace@Home page to see ways we are staying connected to one another, to Grace, and to God during the days ahead.
422 Brenau Avenue, Gainesville, GA 30501
Dear People of Grace,
This morning, the clergy met with the bishop for our bi-weekly conference, and I wanted to write and give you an update on where things stand at the present. Briefly put, we are holding to this current pattern of online worship for the time being. The bishop has formed an advisory group made of priests, attorneys, epidemiologists, and other medical advisors, who are assessing the data to make a recommendation for small group, in-person worship at some point in the future. He could not give us a time frame this morning but assured us that it was definitely closer. He will give us ample time to prepare for those potential gatherings as soon as they are comfortable with the possibility. You may remember that I formed a discernment group to look at our worship life during these days. The Liturgy Cluster met on Monday evening to assess where we find ourselves now and find consensus on best practices for these circumstances. Here is who I have asked to serve in that capacity, a wonderful group of vergers, lawyers, medical professionals, staff, and priests.
They are helping us navigate the many details around our next move into small groups, once the bishop has cleared every parish in the diocese to proceed. I am extremely grateful for their counsel and dedication to this community! We will continue to meet to look at next steps, and I ask you to hold this group in your prayers as we navigate what is definitely a complex situation.
I know that some of you will be disappointed that we are not immediately returning to even small group worship. Others are still relieved that we are not going back. Most understand the complexity of the situation, and some are angry. I hear you. There was no class in seminary on navigating the theological and spiritual complexities of global pandemics, but we had ample counsel to make sure we are grounded in prayer so that we can truly discern the Spirit’s movement–and untangle our own ego’s desire for control and tendency to react. I hope you can sense the prayerful grounding that we are trying to hold.
Looking ahead to our immediate future, here is what the staff is adding after counsel from the Liturgy Cluster team around details–that we think can navigate the expectations we feel at the moment. We recognize that many have found Zoom helpful in its nurture of community. Others do not find it helpful, since it looks so different from what we are accustomed to regarding our liturgy. To that end, we are moving forward with a new service framework.
Beginning Sunday, June 7 we will offer the following:
The Zoom service will continue its focus on connection and pastoral relationship. Anyone can log on as we have been these past nine weeks to share in the worship. Readers will rotate through, as will clergy. The clergy who officiate Morning Prayer will do so from the chapel, to connect with this historic space of prayer. This space will give us the chance to continue a deeper level of engagement with one another, even from our homes.
The later service will be the same as the earlier service, only with one additional hymn and streamed entirely from the nave. The current plan is to stream using Facebook Live and the service will also be available to watch on the Grace@Home page of our website. Since it is a live stream service we will lose the personal connection but gain more of our familiar liturgy. I will work with a small worship group to rotate through leadership of the service, working to ensure that folks are safely spaced and organized. Since we will be a small group in one space, we will be following medical counsel and will be wearing masks. A note on masks: it is important at this point to wear masks for many reasons, the most primary being to respect the health of those who are around us in any small groups. Also, since we are offering a public worship service, we want to model good behavior. In addition to this, when we do return to small group worship, we will all be expected to wear masks, so we are taking the initiative to acclimate everyone to that reality now.
I can also share that we have already reached out to our technical company to look at installing a permanent live stream system in the nave. We will use this tool going forward, and I know we will all find it meaningful for when we are away from the nave for any reason.
I hope you see the desire to find balance with the expectations we all feel in these circumstances. You may find yourself drawn to one or the other service, or you may want to share in both.
So, on this day, this is the update I have for you as a community. I will be in touch with any other details that arise, and I will let you know if there are any updates for us all. I assure you of my prayers, and I thank you for yours, for the remarkable leadership in this parish and for the faithfulness of a remarkable community.