Trinity responds to the Coronavirus pandemic



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 will be announced. 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.  Clergy and lay leaders participating in the service do have the option to remove mask while leading.

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 will be available in your pews and will be wiped down between services. Prayer books will not be used. 

6.       Singing will be done while wearing masks.

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.

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

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

Blessings! Fr. Les+

________________________________________________________________________

UPDATE Posted May 6, 2021 from the Bishop

I am pleased to offer relaxed diocesan Covid guidelines in light of our country’s increasing vaccination rates and decreasing infection rates. Our easing of restrictions will be at a slower pace than you might see in other realms because, in addition to the science, we must be guided by Christ’s commandment to love one another; we must remain vigilant in our care for the unvaccinated.
 
Still, as we continue to ease restrictions, I encourage parish leadership to continue conversations about how our parishes will look in this new reality. I’m grateful for Canon for Congregational Mission Gar Demo’s offering of this meditation and study guide for your consideration. Through the Episcopal Church Foundation, the Reverend Tim Schenck, rector of St. John’s, Hingham, Mass., offers thoughts and questions to help parish leaders think about how we will engage our post-pandemic world: Will we choose to be resuscitated or will we work to be resurrected?

I ask all clergy and Vestries to engage with this meditation in the coming weeks and months. Soon Canon Demo and Canon Funston will be in touch about scheduling two clergy meetings with me about this and other topics of our common life.
 
Updates to guidance on coronavirus restrictions for the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas
 
Building use and worship decisions continue to be at the discretion of clergy. I again counsel clergy to be in conversation with lay leaders when making decisions about moving through this pandemic. Clergy and lay leaders making complex, practical decisions within our diocesan guidelines have my full support, and I ask Episcopalians throughout Kansas to be patient and graceful with them.
 
The CDC updated its recommendations on April 27, 2021, with these central take-aways:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccination greatly decreases risk of symptomatic and severe infection from SARS-CoV-2 and somewhat reduces asymptomatic infection and transmission to others. In general, this means that some restrictions may be reduced, but remaining mindful of others’ health including indoor masking when in the presence of non-family children and people of unknown vaccination status. Unvaccinated people are at increased risk of infection (including severe infection and death) and transmission to others. In general, this means that unvaccinated people should get the vaccine while also continuing to be cautious and mindful of others’ health: masking, social distancing and washing hands. *The CDC report is quoted at the end of these diocesan guidelines.
*An infographic from the CDC helps show the levels of risk associated with vaccination and masking in light of various activities:
 
Revised diocesan guidelines in light of most recent CDC report to begin on Saturday, May 15, 2021 
1. Fully vaccinated people may remove their masks when outdoors on Episcopal Church property. In the rare cases where an outdoor gathering might be understood as “crowded,” masks are recommended.

2. Indoor social distancing measures may be relaxed with provision made for those who wish to remain socially distanced. Each church should keep some 6-feet-spaced seating. Vaccinated individuals may sit more closely with other vaccinated individuals. If another’s vaccination status is unknown, assume they are unvaccinated and keep them safe by keeping socially distanced. Unvaccinated individuals are welcomed and encouraged to keep themselves and others safe through social distancing.

3. Indoor singing and chanting (congregational, ensemble and individual) may begin again. Masking continues to be necessary for public worship, so singers and chanters must be masked. However, we encourage a gradual approach as vaccination continues. Consider bringing sung hymns back over time: start with a few weeks of post-communion and departing hymns, then add a processional, etc. Build over several weeks to music in the middle of the service.

4. Fully vaccinated lectors and officiants (including clergy) may remove their masks in the course of their duties when an amplification system is in use and they are speaking alone. Masks must remain on during communal prayer and when singing or chanting. With the return to singing and relaxed social distancing, I ask that within each Minster provision be made for those who wish to keep themselves safer. The Minster Team should assure that at least one parish in each Minster offers a “quiet” service without singing or an online service for those who wish to remain at home. 

5. Indoor, public worship and other open meetings: masking will continue for all persons. Indoor, closed meetings of adults where all are known to be vaccinated: masks may be removed. If children or adults of unknown vaccination status are present, masking will continue.

6. Use of the common cup is still restricted. Communion may be distributed in bread only.

7. Registration, sign-ups or attendance records must continue to be used and records kept for one month.

8. Use amplification equipment as possible to allow less need for personal projection when speaking. Consider making services shorter: readings may be limited to the gospel and one other lesson. Continue ventilation practices: open windows and doors!

9. Spaces and surfaces must continue to be regularly cleaned. (Because of new learning, previous guidance about cleaning after every individual use may be disregarded.)

10. Coffee hour and feeding ministries may continue, with the encouragement to move outside and to remain masked when not eating or drinking. Outside groups are allowed to use space according to local leadership discernment, provided they agree to (and actually do) follow these guidelines.

11. As able, continue to offer online worship and meeting options to continue welcoming those who do not wish to gather in person. Inform in-person attendees about recording or streaming practices. A sign or bulletin notice will suffice. Create areas of the nave where worshippers may worship without being on camera. When a positive test result is reported for a person who attended a gathering, parish leadership should call the local health department for guidance.  

* From the CDC:
“Currently authorized vaccines in the United States are highly effective at protecting vaccinated people against symptomatic and severe COVID-19. Additionally, a growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection or transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others. How long vaccine protection lasts and how much vaccines protect against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants are still under investigation. Until more is known and vaccination coverage increases, some prevention measures will continue to be necessary in some settings for all people, regardless of vaccination status. However, the benefits of reducing social isolation and relaxing some measures such as quarantine requirements may outweigh the residual risk of fully vaccinated people becoming ill with COVID-19 or transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others. Additionally, taking steps towards relaxing certain measures for vaccinated persons may help improve COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and uptake. Therefore, there are several activities that fully vaccinated people can resume now, at low risk to themselves, while being mindful of the potential risk of transmitting the virus to others.”