As of May 23, 2020
Dear Church Family,
Easter Season ends this Sunday, but a time of and renewal is coming over our region as Florida begins “Phase 1” of reopening. Our bishop has pointed out that during this time, Episcopal congregations will be managing a process of “re-entering,” not “re-opening,” because we certainly never closed! Beginning with the feast of Pentecost next weekend, we will be able to welcome more people to worship at Good Shepherd in person. This is exciting for me because I miss you all so much!
Our bishop has given us clear direction on managing the re-entry. Using his guidance, a wonderful team of parishioners has worked with your Vestry and me to develop a thorough plan for welcoming people back while doing all we can to keep everyone as safe as we possibly can. Here are the highlights:
+Safety and health come first. If staying home is the best way for you to take care of yourself, that’s what you should do. We will continue to livestream both the 8 AM and 10 AM Sunday services for the foreseeable future.
+All of our services will resume: In addition to the regular Sunday services, beginning next weekend we will offer Celtic Kirk on Saturdays at 5:00 PM, and the service of Holy Communion and Healing on Wednesdays at 10:00 AM, beginning June 3rd.
+Social distancing means fewer people in one space. Including the altar party, about 50 people can worship in the Sanctuary. We have marked the spaces in the pews for you to sit. In case more than 50 people come on a Sunday, we are livestreaming the service into both Kirk Hall (35 chairs) and the Patio Room (15 chairs). Social distancing also means that the Peace will remain “no touch,” but our eyes reveal our smiles, even with a mask on. Those who share a household may sit together, and everyone else must stay 6 feet from the next person.
+Holy Communion is available to all. We will distribute the Body of Christ to everyone present in a reverent, safe, no-contact manner. Our bishop has directed that there be no wine distributed for now.
+Masks are required. Yes, they are hot and uncomfortable. Being sick is much worse. Exposing our neighbor to this virus is unconscionable. Science shows that the highest risk of infecting others with COVID19 is from the tiny droplets that come from our mouths when we breathe, talk, sing, and, of course, sneeze or cough. When people are near each other for an extended period, as in a church service, the exposure and, thus, the risk, increase. If you are medically unable to wear a mask, please sit in the most forward row on the south side of the sanctuary, or in the front rows of Kirk Hall and the Patio Room.
+Bulletins and books. As usual, we will have worship bulletins for everyone. If you prefer not to touch a bulletin, you can access it online on your smartphone or tablet. As directed by our bishop, we have removed all books, envelopes, and pens from the pews. However, there is a bookcase in the baptistry with a few prayer books, hymnals and Bibles. If you wish to use one, please do, then put it in the bin next to the bookcase for disinfecting.
+Bring some wipes with you. We are going to do our best to disinfect surfaces, but why not bring your own disinfecting wipes with you? Before and after the service, or when using the restroom, using your own wipes to clean the surfaces you will or have touched is a great way to ensure everyone’s safety. The hand-sanitizing gel is still in the pews.
+Coffee Hour will remain virtual. Besides our breath, shared food remains a high-risk medium for transmission of the virus. Coffee hour, as well as our other virtual offerings, will continue on Zoom for now.
This has been a most remarkable time in our lives nationally, in our neighborhoods, and for every faith community. The one thing I know is that God can use even a pandemic to make things “work together for good.” (Romans 8:28). From the first dawning awareness that we had a major issue to deal with, to this time of emergence into a new normal, the people of Good Shepherd – time and again – have worked together for good. What a blessing you have been to this community, each other, and to me throughout it all! Well done, good and faithful servants of the Lord.
Blessings and love,
As of May 2, 2020
Dear Church Family,
With a heart full of joy and gratitude, we share that our latest grandchild, Theodore James Penniman-Morin, was born late last night in Austin, Texas. Sarah had an emergency C-Section and Teddy came safely into the world at a whopping 8 lbs 13 oz and 22”. Mom, baby, and Daddy Jim are all doing beautifully.
As for church news, here’s the latest. This past Thursday, Bishop Smith met with the clergy of the diocese via Zoom. He announced that the current rules for holding services would remain in place at least through May 20th. This means that no more than 10 people can be in any given room at one time, members not in the same household must stay 6 feet apart, and people should wear protective masks. We will continue to livestream both our 8 am and 10 am services as we have been doing. I hope you experience significantly improved performance with this week’s upgraded internet connections and equipment tweaks.
We are making plans for the next phase of re-entry towards “normal,” (whatever “normal” looks like while we continue to take the threat of COVID-19 infection seriously). A team of dedicated, knowledgeable parishioners is working with the church staff to consider how best to prepare the campus, keep us safe during worship, and sanitize the premises afterward. This team is led by Pat Cates; when he asks for your help, please continue to be your awesome selves and do whatever you are safely able to do to assist him.
Until the bishop permits larger gatherings on campus, there are many ways to stay connected remotely; please look at our weekly news for opportunities and links. I know, however, that many of you would very much appreciate another opportunity to receive Holy Communion. We will host another “drive-through Communion” on Mothers Day, Sunday, May 10th. As before, we ask you to join us in the livestream of your preferred service to hear the Gospel read and proclaimed prior to coming to receive the Sacrament. (See below.) The bishop supports this practice during this unusual time but has asked that we not serve the wine, as he does not want us to use the individual plastic cups.
As always, our greatest concern is for each of you to remain healthy and safe. Please remain at home if this is what you need to do to be faithful in your self-care.
I miss you all so, so much. I’m grateful that technology lets us connect in 2 dimensions! I look forward to seeing you in 3D as soon as circumstances allow.
Blessings and love,
GATHER ONLINE ON SUNDAYS
WE ARE LIMITING FACE-TO-FACE GATHERINGS
PRAYER BRINGS PEACE
If you need help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will connect you with someone who is eager to be of assistance.
For the latest information on health and safety, local event cancellations, and other COVID-19 facts, please visit the CDC’s website or visit the Tampa Bay Times special Coronavirus in Florida section updated hourly. Also, the Diocese of SWFL has their own webpage regarding COVID-19.