Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Dear people of St John’s,
As we approach the one year anniversary of our COVID-19 closing, we may be seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel. This update will provide some details of what’s to come, including our current Easter service plans – and what we have yet to determine.

More options ahead
For the past year, our staff has worked hard to offer safe yet nourishing worship options, the vast majority of which have been online. Because the Hennepin County COVID positivity rates have been falling, the Episcopal Church of Minnesota has now given us the option to consider offering more in-person gatherings while still maintaining social distancing, capacity limits and other safety protocols.

It’s a complex puzzle
The staff and church leadership have been wrestling with ideas and logistics surrounding any return to in-person gatherings. Unfortunately, returning to regular worship in our sanctuary is the most challenging option due to lack of air circulation, capacity limits, germs spread when singing inside and other issues. However, there are a number of possibilities we can consider. Our number one concern is the health and safety of our members and our staff. We are all in different places in terms of our comfort levels, health concerns and ability to gather together. These differences are important, and must be honored.

What we know right now:

  • Mark your calendars! We are planning outdoor services of Holy Eucharist and/or events safely and in-person on at least these four Sundays (and there will be online options for those who wish to participate remotely):
    • Easter Sunday, April 4 (time TBD) (including the opportunity to sit in prayer in the St. John’s sanctuary in small groups after the outdoor service – stay tuned for more details)
    • The Second Sunday of Easter, Earth Day Sunday, April 18 (time TBD)
    • Pentecost Sunday, May 23 (time TBD)
    • The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, June 20 (time TBD)
  • We will continue to provide online service options for all Sundays at least until we can all gather safely in person.
  • We will continue various online opportunities during the week, and continue to try new ways to connect meaningfully given health and safety concerns.

What we are thinking about:

  • While we all miss worshiping together in person, two groups have been especially hard hit by our need to primarily gather online: our very youngest members (elementary school and younger) and our eldest members. These groups have limited ability to engage online, resulting in very little or no connection to church during the pandemic.
    • In response, we may prioritize in-person indoor events for these two groups.
  • We all miss being together. That came through loud and clear in the parish-wide calls we made last fall and is no surprise.
    • Because indoor gatherings carry more risk, we are focusing primarily on outdoor options. However, we are also considering ways to allow smaller groups to gather indoors, knowing there will be restrictions on what can be done safely.

What we don’t know:

  • The COVID situation is fluid, which means we don’t know when it will be safe to return to church without restrictions, or when greater restrictions might again be needed due to alternate virus strains or vaccination rates.
  • There may be things that members have learned and enjoyed this past year – and should incorporate into our non-COVID future. Members may also have realized things they long for, that weren’t offered before.
    • If you have thoughts about practices to continue or new ideas to try, please email them to Lisa Wiens Heinsohn or Elizabeth Lienesch, our Seminary Intern.  Let’s learn from this year to make our faith future together even better!

I am so grateful for this generous community, your faith and patience during these trying times, and your support for our talented and committed staff. Our staff have gone above and beyond as we navigate this COVID world, and I’m so proud of and blessed by each and every one of them.

Faithfully, in Christ’s love,
Lisa
The Rev. Lisa Wiens Heinsohn, Rector
St. John’s Episcopal Church