Christ Episcopal Church
Serving the Jersey Shore since 1865
October 14, 2021
Dear Christ Church family,
I have been doing a lot of thinking, praying and inquiring as to what is going on with the other churches in our region of Monmouth and Ocean County. The majority of the churches are back to in-person worship. There are a few who are still using virtual worship and at least one that is holding outdoor worship only.
Most congregations are holding Church School in-person - both outside and inside with masks. Some are still on Zoom only. Attendance is reported to be down overall.
Some have had their choirs return, but not most.
Coffee hour is also back in many of the churches. Mostly in places where the clergy can identify the majority of people have been vaccinated.
As with everything else in our lives right now, people will make the choice to participate in what they feel comfortable doing. Most people will do the right thing for themselves and others, but we know the reality is that we can't count on this to be 100%
One thing that all the churches seem to have in common is that attendance is much lower than in pre-covid days. My friends in the Atlantic Convocation report the same thing - so I believe this is an issue that we are all going to be facing as we head into stewardship and the holidays seasons. The people who feel comfortable being in church will show up - those who aren’t will not be swayed by the re-opening of in-person services. This response was not prompted by anything that clergy or fellow congregation members have done. It doesn't have anything to do with Covid protocols or changes to worship. It is a decision made purely because they have moved on and have found other ways to meet their spiritual needs. Some check out livestream recordings when it is convenient for them. This is the new reality that the churches are going to be facing. Church as we know it has changed and meeting these new realities is going to require flexibility and acceptance.
Another thing I think that is important for us to understand is that in-person worship being suspended is not the same as the church being closed. A closed church has no mission or ministry happening. This is far from the truth for us and the majority of churches. Worship goes on. People continue to be fed physically and spiritually through carefully devised protocols. Outdoor events are safe and there for our participation. Pastoral calls are still being made. The life of the church and the making of disciples continue in this strange new world.
Virtual worship - while not everyone's cup of tea is still worship. Until our generation become the predominant group in attendance, the Episcopal Church was a Morning Prayer church with the Eucharist celebrated on a monthly or a 6-week basis. So, while we have all become accustomed to receiving communion weekly, it has not always been the norm. Believe me, I miss it too, and I miss celebrating the breaking of bread and sharing as much as the next person. Communion is about more than bread and wine - it is about table fellowship. The pandemic has forced us to find new ways of being community. That is the one blessing in all of this - we have found ways to stay connected, some through technology, some by phone and some in conversations on porches and over fences. While we may find some people have drifted away, let us not forget the number of people who have reconnected to the church - worshiping from new homes out of state, home bound people being able to see and hear their dear friends again, those with physical and/or emotional issues that prevent them from physically being in church, and those who have found church for the first time. The ability to worship where and when we can and to be exposed to multiple services, worship styles, and preachers has enriched peoples' spiritual lives and relationship with God. And isn't that what it is all about anyway?
Every congregation will do what is best for them and their demographic - Christ Church included.
So here is what I propose - let's get back to in-person worship. I think that if we follow most of the following guidelines until we get through the fall and winter, we can navigate our way through these slightly higher case rates.
- The numbers were slowly going down - but have started to creep up again slowly. We will resume in-person worship beginning Sunday, October 24th for both the 9:45am and noon services.
- We will follow the following recommended protocols until the case rates fall below the acceptable 25/100,000.
- Rope off every other pew for the immediate future.
- Masks should be worn by all as this is still diocesan recommendation (celebrants, lectors, intercessors, readers, and preachers are the only exceptions when reading and preaching).
- Continue to have hand sanitizers and masks available.
- Continue to encourage people who wish to talk and have fellowship to do so outside.
- Congregational singing with the choir can resume on November 28th (Advent 1).
- Church School can meet with masks - either inside or outside as per what the Church School teachers feel comfortable with.
- Let's consider bringing back Coffee Hour for Advent 1 - new church year, new thing - November 28th.
- Outside groups must continue to follow current protocols for Covid.
- Book and Formation groups can meet in-person with masking and social distancing as necessary as well as offering a virtual option whenever possible.
- Outside events and community activities are encouraged as part of being more visible in the community.
- Prayer books and Hymnals will remain out of the pews until further notice. We will continue with practice of full-text bulletins in the meantime.
While this has been a difficult time for the church, it is also an exciting time. There are a lot of opportunities to take advantage of for growth and development if we are creative and willing to try new things. Our community has the potential expand far and wide if we are ready to step out of our comfort zones. The Episcopal Church has been "forced" into the future by the circumstances of the past 18+ months. I find it exciting and in many ways something the church has needed for quite a while. The world has become a new place and the church is now poised to keep up. I am ready to embrace this new future and I think Christ Church is ready to do so as well.
I invite and encourage any thoughts or concerns as well as any creative ideas that we might look at as we move forward into this new "new" normal.
Peace and blessings,
Live Stream Recordings of Sunday Services are available on our Facebook page HERE.
The Food Pantry remains OPEN each Tuesday from 9:30am-12:00pm and is well stocked and available to any person or family in need of food.
The Church Office has public hours Monday through Thursday, 9:30AM -12:30PM (closed on Federal Holidays). If you are in need of an appointment with a Clergy or Staff member, please contact the Church Office via phone 732-349-5506 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule.
We will keep you informed as modifications continue.
How We Experience Christ
From our Rectors and Deacons who live, teach, and love the Word of God. We are so blessed to have wonderful clergy sharing their knowledge of how we can live better in Christ
We have a variety of ministries to help and enrich the lives of those in our community and throughout the world. Loving our neighbors is our call and our ministries are how we show our light to the world.
"For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
Welcoming and Celebrating all
Spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ
Teaching, baptizing and nurturing new believers
Responding to human need by loving service
Seeking to transform unjust structures of society
Striving to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
Looking for More?
- God is infinitely more interested in the promise of our future than the mistakes of our past.
- The Church embraces and encourages those who are suffering or looking for answers to life.
- The Church is broad enough to encompass those firmly holding traditional beliefs as well as those questioning the essence of belief.
- Worshiping together is what it means to be a church: we gather to engage in ritual that invites the mystery of belief into our hearts and to be reminded of the stories of those who have gone before.
- It is at the end of our worship service that our service begins.
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