Joanna Connects: Destination -- Normal Church

Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?

"Are we there yet?” I can’t help thinking that the question, so familiar to family travelers, is an inborn genetic trait that is triggered one hour after the car leaves the driveway. Sometimes children even make a repetitive chant out of it, thus increasing its output a hundredfold before the parents put a stop to the noise, if not to the wondering itself. On my family’s first trip to Disneyland, after the timing of the questions reached every two minutes, my father finally told us, “When you see Sleeping Beauty Castle, you’ll know you’re there.” What a relief to know how to recognize our destination! And he was right. A few interminable hours later, Sleeping Beauty Castle loomed up to our right, and we knew we were there. These days for St. Barnabas, our “Sleeping Beauty Castle” is the experience of “live worship services in the church.” Only (or interminably) one year ago, the idea of “live worship services” would have been taken with a shrug. Of course, we have live services! What else is there? Well, now we know. There are pre-recorded services, livestreamed services, Zoom services, restricted reservation-only services, and parking lot services. What we don’t have right now is live worship services. But we are heading there. Are we there yet? The COVID-19 statistics, the vaccination schedule, and the diocesan and CDC guidelines regularly updated are our roadmaps to our destination: St. Barnabas Church in person, with Eucharist, with each other. At this point, all of the road signs say “Not Yet.” Here’s where we are now. According to Diocesan guidelines, if Hamilton County is at the Red alert level, it’s the same as if it were Purple. That means:

  • We can worship using the Service of the Word (the first half of the Holy Eucharist, as we have been doing), Morning Prayer, or Evening Prayer. Since “home communion” is in practice a worship service, it is not permitted.

  • We cannot hold any outdoor worship services.

  • As for attendance indoors, no in-person congregation is permitted; only livestream or pre-recorded services are allowed, with ten or fewer persons involved.

When the danger moves the county back to the Orange alert level, we will be allowed to have all services indoors including Holy Eucharist using bread only, Baptism, Confirmation, weddings and funerals, with attendance at 50% maximum capacity indoors and 50 persons maximum outdoors. When the alert level is Yellow, all rites are permitted, with 75% capacity indoors and 75 persons maximum outdoors. Seeing the trend in coronavirus cases, it may take a while to get there. And that is still not our old “normal.” That’s not the Sleeping Beauty Castle that is our ultimate goal. However, when we as a community have been vaccinated against the virus, that time and that goal may come sooner rather than later. We just don’t know exactly when that will be. However, we do know what steps we can take toward our SBC (“Sleeping Beauty Castle,” “St. Barnabas Church”—get it?) goal to get there. Please be patient as we move gingerly but safely toward being together in the church on Sunday mornings. At this time, we will continue to worship using Zoom at 10:00am on Sundays. Beginning in Lent, which kicks off with Ash Wednesday on February 17, we will also offer pre-recorded worship services. These will be in addition to the Zoom services. We are doing this recognizing that some people may want to see the people with whom they worship and the Zoom gallery of worshippers feeds them, while others may experience worship best when seen on the pre-recorded screen as if from the pews. We will try to offer both. The SPOD team (Strategic Planning and Organizational Development) is exploring the ways in which St. Barnabas can move, not to the Old Normal but to a New Normal which will be a more encompassing, more inviting, more 21st century church. They will be urging us to renovate the Castle, in a way. I am excited to see where St. Barnabas will go! Meanwhile, poor Moses moves on:


- Joanna+


I would love to hear your reactions and thoughts! Please respond at clergy@st-barnabas.org and let’s have a conversation!

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