Dear Friends in Christ,
In general, taking into consideration our present Covid-19 environment, worship at Christ Church is going very well. In March, we pivoted quickly to adapt to the challenges of the Virus by moving all of our services online. These services provided a way for us to keep connected, but they also unexpectedly brought new people into our community. Today, our services connect us to people in our region (Westerly and Stonington) and all over the United States and overseas. We have viewership in England, Australia, Bahrain, and India (yes, my mother and cousins are watching). We are also finding that people who could not come to worship with us in the church are now able to pray, listen to scripture, and sing hymns with us as they watch online. In other words, we are reaching many more people than we ever had before. I think the Covid-19 challenge has allowed us an opportunity to connect with many more people. And so I believe that we will continue to have a robust online presence even after the Covid-19 challenge is a distant memory.
Although our online presence is growing, many of us long to have in-person services again. So in early June we started a taskforce for In-person Service Coordination; this committee chaired by Sarah Starkweather came up with guidelines to safely start in-person services at Christ Church again. The guidance we have developed is in keeping with Federal and State requirements, and our Diocese has also endorsed these guidelines. On Saturday, July 11, at 5 pm, we had our first in-person communion service. It was in the Rite I tradition; although this is a communion service, we did not have communion distributed to the congregation opting instead to use the Spiritual Communion Prayer after consecrating the bread and wine. Over the past two weeks the In-person Committee has developed procedures to move to the next phase for the Saturday 5pm service, adding the distribution of communion of one kind (bread only). This coming Saturday August 1st, we will be following these procedures as we distribute communion to the congregation during the service. I know the process seems to be proceeding very slowly for some but our desire is to keep us all healthy during the Covid-19 challenge.
Further evolution will happen at the Saturday 5 pm service; we plan to introduce in-person music. Although congregational singing will not be allowed because of both State and Diocesan restrictions, our Music Director George Kent will enhance the service with beautiful music with the help of a soloist. We are currently working on procedures to allow this to happen safely for all (including our musicians) by August 15.
Please remember, while our in-person service developments continue, we will continue to offer our online worship opportunities. Currently, we have the following online worship services: Morning Prayer on Wednesdays at 10 am, Compline at 6 pm on Wednesday and Saturday nights, and our 10am Holy Eucharist service. We are also working toward offering our 10am Holy Eucharist service as an in-person service beginning on Homecoming Sunday, September 13. We hope to use what we have learned through the development of the in-person 5pm service and apply it to this service.
Through our work in developing all of our services, we hope to accomplish many objectives. Primary among our hopes is to enable our congregation members to connect to God and each other. Through these connections, we hope all of us will find joy in worship. And although we are now worshiping differently than we might ever have imagined, I know we are also drawing strength from God, the center of our worship, to face our challenges. Please keep us in your daily prayers as we adapt to meet the changing needs of our community.
Yours in Christ,
The Reverend Sunil Chandy, Rector
Christ Church Westerly