Trinity responds to the Coronavirus pandemic

June 15, 2020 – Father Les Jackson – In-Person Worship at Trinity and St. Matthew

 St. Matthew’s will reopen Sunday, June 28th, and Trinity will reopen on Sunday, July 5th.  All services will be live streamed, and there will only be one service each Sunday, at 10:15. The service schedule will revert back to the original schedule, that being services at Trinity on the first and third Sundays, and at St. Matthews on the second and fourth Sundays. Services will be at Trinity, the 5th Sunday in August. 

Please read the safety measures below:

Dear Beloved in Christ,

We place our trust in God seeking the Holy Spirit to give us insight and wisdom as we journey with Jesus in the uncertainties of this strange and uncharted wilderness.  We long for the way it was before COVID-19 but realize the “normal” to which we return will not be the same normal that existed before the pandemic.  The decision to reopen in-person worship at St. Matthew’s and Trinity is made prayerfully considering Bishop Bascom’s guidance to congregation, medical advice, guidance from each of our counties and concern for each of you.  As pastor, I want to assure every precaution is practiced and that each of you are safe returning to in – person worship.

The proposed path to reopening our two congregations is cautious and considers those who will attend in-person and those who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend.  A combination of in-person worship and streaming services on Facebook will be utilized.  Spiritual Communion or Eucharist with wafers only will be offered during in-person worship service.  In-person worship will be offered at Trinity on the first and third Sundays and at St. Matthews’ the second and fourth Sundays and fifth Sundays as announced. St. Matthew’s will reopen Sunday, June 28th, and Trinity will reopen on Sunday, July 5th.  All in-person worship will be live streamed.  Spacing out in-person worship allows time for deep cleaning of the nave, for any potential surface virus to dissipate and to conduct any COVID–19 tracing if necessary.

Our Vestries and I strongly encourage each person to exercise utmost care for themselves and others in determining whether to attend in-person worship.  Everyone needs to evaluate their own health status and risk factors before attending in-person gatherings.  No one should feel compelled to attend unless they are healthy and think it is safe to be with others.  Certainly, if you have a fever or chills, a cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, recent loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea do not attend in-person worship.  If you have any of these symptoms seek and follow the medical advice of your physician.

Some groups of people are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  People at a higher risk include those 65 and older, have poorly controlled medical conditions, chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, liver disease or a person who is immunocompromised in anyway i.e. recipient of an organ transplant, receiving cancer treatments etc.  Please prayerfully consider your risk factors when making decisions to attend in-person gatherings.

When attending in-person worship expect the following:

1.      To have your temperature taken before entering the nave by an usher.

2.       To sign a COVID-19 Register for the sole purpose of tracing and notification if necessary.

3.      A physical distance of six (6) feet must be maintained at all times whether seated or standing.  Family groups may be seated together but must maintain a physical distance of six feet from other unrelated congregates.  We will follow guidelines for in-person gatherings established by each county. 

4.      Everyone attending needs to wear a mask.  This includes clergy and lay leaders participating in the service.  If you do not have a mask of your own one will be provided.

5.      Worship bulletins will be emailed prior to each service with a few hard copies available as you enter the nave.  These single use bulletins will need to be taken with you as you leave.  Hymnals and Prayer books will not be used. 

6.       Instrumental music will be the norm.  We will not be singing hymns for the foreseeable future. 

7.      Offering plates will be located at the back of nave and will not be passed or brought forward at the offertory.

8.      When celebrating the Eucharist wafers will be consecrated in a ciborium (closed vessel).  The celebrant should be the sole person distributing communion, using freshly washed and sanitized hands.  Wine will be consecrated, but not offered.  Wafers will be offered.

9.      The church will be cleaned between services. Approved cleaning products such as Lysol may be used. A cleaning solution of 1/3 cup of bleach in a gallon of water, or a 70 percent alcohol solution, is also permissible.

Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes will be available.  Please know that we value your health and well-being as beloved members of the household of faith.

Blessings!

Les+

March 31, 2020 – Bishop Michael B. Curry’s A Word to the Church on Our Theology of Worship from the Presiding Bishop

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Patrick, Bishop and Missionary of Ireland,“….do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand….For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”  Isaiah 41: 10, 13

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ gathered at St. Matthew’s and Trinity Episcopal Churches,

Public Health officials are now clear that the wisest path forward is limiting contact and cancelling gatherings. Bishop Bascom has firmly requested that all worship services and gatherings in church across the dioceses be cancelled until Friday, April 3rd.  This includes all parish related meetings as well as outside groups scheduled to meet in our churches.

Sunday morning, I will lead us in Morning Prayer and proclaiming the Good News via Facebook Live at 10:15 AM from the Nave of St. Matthew’s.  Invite you to join me for this first time ever Face Book Live adventure.  You can find us at https://www.facebook.com/stmattsnewton.

Our circumstances provide us an opportunity to approach differently how we follow Jesus’ “Way of Love” as a committed faith community seeking to turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go, and rest in this usual and challenging time.

Please know that if you need anything you may contact me 432-230-9180 or by Email fatherles@stmatthewsnewton.org

Blessings! Fr. Les+

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Posted March 14, 2020

We know that God is with us in all of our challenges. When one follows the lesser saints of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, we often see people of God who act with both courage and wisdom in times of pandemic. The relationship with God we have in Christ anchors us amid waves of fear. We know that the Risen One is with us in all things.

From its conception Christianity has had community at its core; it has had communal worship at its core. We do not want to cease being a worshipping, faith community in the face of Covid-19 or other diseases or disasters. At the same time, we honor that each of us is holy, made in the image of God, and we need to be safe.

Worship guidance

• Any who are sick or immune compromised, please rest, stay at home and seek medical care and adhere to the advice of your physician. Pastoral visits will continue to those who are fragile, as they desire.
• Those who have done a lot of recent travel need to be discerning and consider whether self-quarantine is warranted.
• The Peace – Please avoid physical contact during the passing of the peace i.e. no handshaking or hugging. Consider waving from where you’re seated. Limiting physical contact is a deterrent to spreading of infectious disease.
• The Offertory – Offering plates will not be passed. An offering plate will be placed at the back of the nave where worshippers can place their offering.
• The Eucharist:
a. Communion will be given only with bread (waver) – with a reminder that receiving communion in one kind only is a full communion. Intinction is discourage all together for now.
b. Priests will consecrate a small amount of wine in a chalice during the service, which afterward will be reverently returned to the earth either directly or through a piscina in the sacristy.
c. Clergy, Eucharistic ministers, acolytes, anyone handling communion elements should use hand sanitizer immediately before distributing communion and again afterward.
d. Please make sure to use antiseptic solutions or wipes to cleanse the altar rail after every service.
• It’s strongly suggested that food service of any kind be suspended through Lent. This includes refreshments at coffee hour, potlucks, etc. Coffee and water will be available. It’s been suggested that you bring your own cup as opposed to sharing the cups that are already here. Consider this a Lenten fast for the sake of others.

Blessings!
Les+