It is time again for my monthly letter. We have been living with COVID for five months. In these months we have learned how to live-stream and record our services through one Facebook to another, then upload them on the parish website. We’ve started a Vicar’s blog on our website as well. Kyumin and I have attempted a few different approaches to music in the liturgy, and we will continue to explore the conundrum of the importance of music to our prayer and the ‘no singing’ directive. By the way, that isn’t from our Bishop but from the BC Choir Federation. It has been found that the virus travels further through the air when we are singing.
The main question parishioners are asking is, “When are we going to be able to come back to church again?” This was discussed at the June Parish Council meeting and will be looked at again next week. Coming back together will mean having teams of at least 3 sides-people/ greeters at the 10 am service, and two at the 8:30 am for the foreseeable future. Where we sit and how we move in the church will be changed. How to put a candle up with prayer at the prayer bowl will be different. The differences exist so that we are doing all that we can to keep one another safe. As with the masks we will be wearing, this is about the persons around us, an immediate practice of love of neighbour.
Our food ministries continue quite strongly with skeleton teams doing the work. Many families in Richmond are receiving a weekly hamper in one of the new endeavours that has been started with funding for COVID-related work. Kudos to Dianne Woodhouse again! I understand that single parent families are a growing focus of this outreach in the near-future. Those without shelter, those who are the most marginalized in our community, continue to receive food on Fridays at noon, and sandwiches are delivered on the weekend. The Community Meal has moved toPresbyterian Church just for the summer, and up to 35 meals are taken out to shelter-less people in the area after the take-away boxes are given to those who attend.
What has been going on Sundays here has been a source of confusion. We are following the guidelines the Bishop and team sent out on May 20th, so only the necessary people for the service are permitted to be with me: one or two readers, a prayer leader, deacon, and me. It is my hope that we will be moving to Phase II (open but no Eucharist) before the end of the summer if possible.
The Diocese has relieved us of paying assessments since April until August, and they have also been paying salaries for parish priests for April and May and have also paid some monies towards the salary for our Office Administrator for June and July giving parishes as much room as possible to pay the ordinary bills that don’t have any respect for a pandemic. Our Treasurer, Sandy Scherban, reports that we are receiving about one-third less income than our usual. Many, many people have continued to be faithful in their giving and to them we are truly thankful. We continue to pay our Office Administrator, our Musician and janitor in addition to our Vicar (which again we are grateful that this was covered by the Diocese for May and June). We continue to have the usual light, water, garbage recycling and electricity expenses and we are not able to rent our parish hall or lounge at this time for events etc due to the pandemic.
Some parishioners indicated they will wait until we are ‘in person’ again, and we ask you to rethink that choice. We need to keep a long-term perspective as much as we are able.
What is the mid-term perspective? Some folks think we’ll see the ‘second wave’ hit this fall and may have to return to Phase I again. Some are reporting they do not expect to have businesses, schools and such open for ‘normal operations’ until January 2021 at the soonest. Given the number of viruses we have seen in the past decade on a global level, I can’t help but think that, while we may find a vaccine for this virus, there will be another one not too far in the future. The challenge to us about being church, sharing worship, making community and caring for others will continue. The Church will not look the same as we have known her. There will be less of a sense of ‘standard operations’ and more diversity in “doing church.” St. Alban’s clearly has a mission and ministry in this community. I pray we be given the imagination and energy to find new ways of being a faith community from which our ministries spring.
Blessings in Christ to you,
Rev’d Paula Porter Leggett, Vicar
St. Alban’s in Richmond