Dear St. Philippians,
In consultation with health agencies and the Virginia Synod, ELCA, on March 13, 2020, all in-person gatherings at St. Philip were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The St. Philip Church Council later extended this practice through May 17, 2020. We acknowledge that this time of physical distancing has been hard. We grieve the lack of in-person connections. One of the gifts of living in a community as St. Philip is being with one another. But even as we have missed being together physically, we give thanks that we have never ceased being the church! God has walked with us through this season and will continue to guide and comfort us in the days and weeks to come.
As we are now entering the time of a phased reopening approach, St. Philip will operate under the following guidelines and practices. Please know that these practices were thoughtfully prepared in consultation with the relevant health and government authorities. We want to return in the very best way possible, and as frustrating as it might be, we need time to prepare to do that well.
As always, our mission as disciples of Christ is to live out the love and grace shown to us by God. We understand that mission during this time of pandemic to be one of love and care for our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable among us. While these plans are intended to be carried out, they may be revised at any point in response to new relevant information.
Phase One: Starting May 15
From the CDC Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith, “Phase 1: Limit gatherings to those that can be held virtually”
St. Philip’s Practices
- Continued suspension of in-person gatherings for worship
- Open Doors digital worship will be offered at 8:30 and 11:00am on May 17 then at 9:30am starting May 24. Additionally, the worship video is posted to Facebook and the church website.
- Conference call access offered for both services.
- Church Council is forming a COVID Preparedness Team to plan for, resource, and implement restrictions for in person gatherings of faith communities.
Phase Two: Beginning 2-4 weeks after the start of Phase One, to be announced by Governor Northam
From the CDC Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith, “Phase 2: Consider continuing to hold gatherings virtually… for vulnerable populations and consider video streaming or drive-in options for services.”
St. Philip’s Practices
- Open Doors digital worship will continue to be offered at 9:30am. Additionally, worship will be posted to Facebook and the church website, as well as access via conference call
- Drive In Worship will be held in the church parking lot on a monthly basis, while still following important social distancing guidelines.
- Worshippers may attend the worship service while seated in their cars with windows rolled up. Through a radio transmitter worship will be broadcast using the FM radio in the vehicle. Windows must stay rolled up throughout the service to prevent the spread of the virus between closely parked cars.
- A worship bulletin will be emailed to the congregation in the week prior to worship that they are invited to print at home and bring to worship. For those unable to access email, bulletins will be provided at the church.
- During the passing of the peace, worshippers who are wearing masks are invited to exit their vehicles and stand by them to wave a greeting of peace to the community. Social distancing is to be maintained during the passing of the peace. Worshippers not wearing masks should not exit their vehicles.
- Communion will be celebrated at the drive in worship service. Worshippers are asked to bring their own communion elements with them to worship. Worship elements include bread or, gluten free bread or crackers, and either wine or grape juice.
- The pastors will lead the service and walk by cars to greet worshippers. The pastors will practice social distancing while leading and interacting with worshippers.
Phase Three: Will start at a later date to be announced by Governor Northam
From the CDC Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith, “Phase 3: Limit gatherings to those that can maintain social distancing and consider video streaming or drive-in options for vulnerable populations.”
St. Philip Practices
- The pastors and congregational council will continue to consult state and federal health guidelines before making decisions about Phase Three operations.
- The sincere hope is to resume in-person gatherings in Phase Three. The pastors and St. Philip Council will consult the Bishop’s Office and all relevant state and federal guidelines about gatherings at the time.
- Online worship will continue to be offered in some form to serve the whole community.
We know that this time of pandemic has not been easy. We miss worshipping with our St.Philip family and spending time with one another. We give thanks that this hard time will not last forever. In the meantime, we give thanks for one another, for the ways we are connecting during this time, and the love of God that holds us always.
In God’s care,
Pastor David and Pastor Laura