September 15, 2020 | News by Father John Tober
Dear St. James’ Family—
Wow; what a week! In between doing the things I usually do to keep the parish on a simmer, the executive committee met to talk about the electronic improvements to the sanctuary to make recording services a bit more fluid, and to plan the agenda for our monthly vestry meeting tonight. We also started spinning up to offer in-person worship on Sunday. What we decided on was to set up our “portable altar” (i.e., a card table) in the courtyard behind the parish hall. We had 11 family groups –which were mostly single individuals—attend. Barbara, our 10:30 organist, played a portable keyboard to provide music. And we had a nice, almost normal, intimate service. I think we can probably fit another 4-5 families or individuals in that space, and we’ll plan to do it again this Sunday.
We’re also working on the 10:30 service starting this Sunday, the 20th. The nave in the church is much more restrictive on spacing though. While the State has relaxed restrictions to 40% occupancy, we still have to maintain 6’ of separation between family groups, so our layout possibilities really hasn’t changed at all. We still must limit attendance indoors to 7 family groups. Remember a family of 5 is treated the same as a single person. I’ve asked Rick Marshall to set up a conference call with our ushers to talk about how our new safeguarding procedures work and what their new responsibilities will be. One unfortunate task will be turning people away who haven’t made reservations or once we reach capacity. So, please, if you’re interested in attending in-person services, call the church to see if there’s space and let us know you’re coming.
The final piece of this is to open our midweek “recording session” to attendance. This will change the streaming service a bit, as we can have music during the service (or continue with choir members singing a capella), and also have a reader at the podium to read the lessons contemporaneously. This will make our recording a little easier for the videographers, and provide a more complete service in that setting like people are used to.
We continue to work on improving our online service on the one hand, and opening the church to in-person worship, on the other. I think both are parallel paths St. James’ needs to travel. I’m working to intertwine these so that it’s seamless for the people creating worship, and transparent for the congregation. We’re not there yet, but we’re definitely moving in that direction. I thank you for your patience.
This week I’m “out of the office” officially, at our diocesan clergy conference. I’m making space for the vestry meeting this eve, and to record our Sunday service on Thursday. But I’m officially in teleconferences all week. On Saturday, Manny Terrazas and I are each driving to Albuquerque to help the diocese approve an online forum for our diocesan convention next month. I’m also, again, rearranging my work week, since Sunday is once again Sunday. My plan is to certainly be in the office Wednesday and Thursday much of the day, but probably not as much at the beginning of the week. However, Eric’s big days in the office are Monday and Tuesday. One of us should be here much of the work week.
We’re excited and also apprehensive about the prospect of in-person worship. Believe me, it’s much more fulfilling to be in community and with people than to talk at a camera.. However, I ask you to continue to be patient. It may be a while before there’s an open seat—especially in the church. If you can make it to a service, I look forward to seeing you. If you aren’t comfortable returning to in-person worship, that’s totally reasonable, too: please continue to worship with us online. Please continue to stay safe. Wear a mask; keep your distance. But wherever you are and whatever you do, remember to “…love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5b)
With many blessings,