Special details about upcoming services due to the COVID-19 epidemic
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
I will begin by asking everyone to please read the information and the linked attachments as carefully as possible. You may wish to break up your reading into two or three sessions.
Herein, you will find the most recent directives blessed by Archbishop Alexander regarding partial re-openings of communities in our Diocese. Because of their length I have only provided an edited summary below citing specific tangible things that Archangel Gabriel members must take into account when the parish does reopen on a rotating basis with limited attendance for each service.
Please note that these directives have been carefully written and compiled by His Eminence in concert with brother Bishops, Diocesan leaders and Medical Experts. While the directives are not optional, they do take into account variations in state, county and city ordinances as determined by the rise or fall of COVID-19 cases in different areas of the country. Local Churches will then adjust the number of services offered and attendance figures on a regular basis according to COVID activity in their respective areas. Thus, for the time being it will be necessary to check your emails for updates.
Beginning Sunday, May 10, Sunday of the Paralytic, we will will start a rotating schedule of attendance for services and will no longer be live-streaming the services in their entirety. We will however continue to livestream the Gospel Reading and Homily at all Divine Liturgies.
At this time we will be allowed 10 people in Church at any given time. I confirmed these numbers with Fr. Gerasim, our Diocesan Administrator and Dean. As we get accustomed to necessary procedures and as the number of Corona cases diminishes in Tarrant County, we will then begin to add more worshippers.
When members gradually begin to return however, there will be significant changes initially with which we all need to be familiar. Some of the most noticeable changes are listed here. Please read the directives in their entirety as provided in an additional attachment. Some of these include, at present:
(1) Where to stand in Church with social distancing required (thus the need for limiting initial attendance). We have been provided the means for calculating allowable attendance figures based on square footage. We may adopt the recommended procedure of marking spots on the Church floor with tape to indicate safe distances.
(2) Upon entering the building greeters will take the names of those in attendance for the purpose of contacting worshippers should someone in attendance test positive later for COVID-19. This is required by the Diocese.
(3) The wearing of face masks will be required except when receiving Communion (choir, servers and clergy are exempt while chanting the services, but must maintain a safe social distance). The Church currently cannot provide face masks for everyone. Please bring your own, on your family’s designated Sunday. Since face masks are required by the Diocese, we have been instructed not to allow anyone in the building without a facemask.
(4) No face masks are required for children under 8 years old.
(5) Children are being asked to stay with families while in Church or to remain home with a family member if the restriction proves too cumbersome for some families (i.e. there can be no wandering about the building).
(6) No Coffee Hours or Education Classes currently allowed except of course on-line.
(7) There should be no kissing of the Chalice or Priest’s hand after Communion, and no kissing of Icons or the Cross, only a slight reverential bow. Variations for distributing Communion with more than one spoon are being considered and have been recommended, using as an example a practice employed by Churches in Russia.
(8) After each service the building will have to be cleaned and sanitized, so a small crew will be necessary. We have some of the recommended cleaning supplies. A crew of 2 or 3 should be able to do the job in 10 to 15 minutes. We will ask that only adults take part in these cleanings.
(9) Once the designated capacity for attendance has been reached no other worshippers or visitors will be allowed in the building.
(10) Those in high risk categories (the elderly, the infirm, those with compromised immune systems, etc), should remain at home for the time being, unless given special permission.
(11) Our clinicians who work with and care for anyone who has COVID-19 are to be highly commended and prayed for. They should not attend Church however at this time given the risk of exposure, but their family members are permitted to attend.
(12) On a person’s “non- designated Sunday” there should be no visiting of Churches of other jurisdictions which may not be following the OCA guidelines for reopening Churches. Such a practice will increase the likelihood of exposure at Archangel Gabriel and at other Churches within our Deanery.
(13) No Phone Confessions are currently allowed, but personal Confessions at Church are blessed by the Archbishop, by appointment and while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Again, this has been an attempt to summarize the most noticeable changes that will be experienced for now by Church members, as directed by the Holy Synod of Bishops and Archbishop Alexander. I encourage you however, to read the files linked below.
Taken as a whole the changes certainly seem strange compared to what we are used to, and perhaps overwhelming. Yet, if we can visualize ourselves just coming to Church on our designated Sunday, and putting into practice at Church – step by step – the safety procedures that many of us currently take when going to the store or to work, the changes described herein are not too difficult to implement and are temporary until life begins to resemble again some sort of normalcy.
If you signed up to be put on the service rotation schedule you will be receiving an email shortly if you haven't already with your dates to attend, a possible assigned “role”, and your assigned spot to stand in the church.
Please take some time to read these documents for more information:
- COVID-19 Directives on Reopening Parishes - updated May 5 - From His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander
- Holy Synod Pastoral Letter
- Synodal Directives
Thank you for your kind attention.
In the Risen Lord!
© Copyright 2020 Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Mission