A letter from Fr. John regarding the phased reopening of our parish
Christ has Ascended!
He has Ascended in Glory!
May 29, 2020
Dear parishioners of St. Michael’s,
First let me thank all of you who have faithfully participated virtually through the live-streaming or our worship services. I know this has not been easy, but we appreciate your steadfastness of faith as well as your patience during these trying and unprecedented times. We also appreciate the fact that you have remained vigilant by following our virtual Sunday school program, working the daily Bible quizzes I send out to help educate, and that so many of you went out of your way to minister to those in need and help not just your own families, but those in your neighborhoods as well. The Parish Council is also grateful that almost all of you continue to send in your donations and fulfill your pledges on a regular basis.
Since there now seems to be a downward trend in COVID-19 cases in the Cleveland area and Governor DeWine has allowed the reopening of businesses (with obvious stipulations), I have petitioned Bishop Paul that, beginning in June, 25 parishioners will be allowed to physically attend and participate in Divine Services. There is certainly ample space in our temple by which we might comply with social distancing, and we will follow every guideline stipulated by the Holy Synod of Bishops, our own diocesan bishop, and the civil authorities pertaining to said gating and gatherings practices.
Here is a list of guidelines that that all parishioners must follow:
- For the time being, a maximum of twenty-five (25) parishioners be allowed into the temple for services. This does NOT count the priest, deacon, or choir director
- That all who enter fully understand and comply with posted guidelines
- That all who enter NOT show symptoms caused by the COVID-19 Virus
- That no one should enter who has knowingly come into contact with persons suffering from the COVID-19 Virus
- That all parishioners wear masks during services with the exception, of babies and small children carried by their parents
- That those who enter bring and use their own hand sanitizer
- That hand sanitizer and mask also be available at the candle desk for those who may have forgotten theirs
- That strict social distancing be practiced amongst congregants: families who live together may share a common pew, but pews will be alternated and/or closed-off so as to show designated distances
- That no one greet one another by hugging, kissing, or shaking hands
- That no one venerate icons, relics, and other sacred objects by kissing, but only by blessing themselves and bowing before them in reverence
- That all bibles, liturgical, and service books in the pews will be taken out and parishioners be encouraged to bring their own
- That no collection baskets be passed during the services. Those who have brought donations can make them either before or after the liturgy at a basket specified for this purpose
- That all services be sung, not with a choir, but with two singers practicing social distancing
- That no more than two altar servers be allowed to serve at any given service
- Although the Church teaches and ensures that no microbes, germs, disease, or illness can be transferred from one person to another via the Chalice or the Communion Spoon, to alleviate earthly “fear” in those of weaker faith, we will be using multiple Communion Spoons which, after each use, will be place in 151% grain alcohol
- In addition, we will be asking that parishioners adopt (at least for now) a new practice for receiving Holy Communion by simply coming forward, tilting their heads back, opening their mouths wide, thus allowing the priest or deacon to simply insert and turn the spoon so that the Eucharist drops into ones mouth without having to place their lips on the spoon
- Instead of a common Communion Cloth, each person coming to the chalice will receive a paper towel which they can hold under their chin and wipe their lips. This towel will then be collected and burned following service
- Because the COVID-19 Virus is transferred through the air, our parish clergy will wear masks during the distribution of Holy Communion, since this will be the only time the six-foot distancing factor will be broken
- That no zapifka (bread and wine following Holy Communion) be distributed
- That no antidoran (bread) be distributed after liturgy
- That the weekday liturgies be reserved for those who consider themselves at higher risk or who have medical issues and/or immune deficiencies
- That the entire interior of the temple be sanitized prior to and after each service
- That a custodial person be on hand to wipe-down and sanitize the restrooms after each use
- That upon completion of the service, parishioners be instructed to immediately leave and exit the premises and NOT congregate, dawdle, or participate in group conversations inside the building.
- Parishioners are also encouraged to NOT gather outside the church in groups. If they do, they MUST maintain social distancing practices
- That NO coffee hour or gathering take place before or after any service
- That anyone who fails to comply with any of the above set guidelines will be asked to leave the church premises
Therefore, by maintaining these guidelines and practices, with four Sunday liturgies and the two festal weekday liturgies (Nativity of the Forerunner and Sts. Peter & Paul) in June, we can accommodate 150 persons and allow them the opportunity to again participate and receive the Eucharist (not counting the option of attending vespers). If this standard is maintained over the course of July and August, we can pretty much ensure that every parishioner (450) who wishes would have an opportunity to attend at least once before the rotation begins again. Obviously, this is not the ideal by any means, yet it is a means by which we can begin to incorporate parishioners back into the church while we continue to live-stream our services to those at home.
Regarding Great Vesper services: since there are so few who attend, at present we will not have a sign-up for attending unless numbers grow. The same protocols that govern one’s attendance at Divine Liturgy also apply to Great Vespers.
Please remember that PATIENCE is one of the seven virtues of the Holy Spirit, and should be practiced liberally and with a joyful heart – especially within this unprecedented period we are all going through.
With love in Christ,