As our public officials invite a gradual re-opening of Baltimore City, many of you are wondering about Redeemer. When might we gather again for worship? What about small groups and classes? What about fellowship and prayer and communion? I hear your longing and grief, and want to respond to them.
I have asked a group of parishioners to help me imagine a safe and sensible way forward. They are Keri Frisch, senior warden and MPH; Matt Buck, Calvert School; Noel Morelli, physician assistant; Doug Riley, vestry; Fern Riley, MD, Shepherd’s Clinic; Ruthie Cromwell, community partner and Blakehurst retirement community resident; Bert Landman, Director of Music and choir director; Ellen Chatard, Director of Program; Helena Ware, college junior. The group includes expertise in medicine and public health, and we are reading closely the guidelines set forward by our Diocese. Bishop Sutton is in regular conversation with the Bishop of Washington and the Bishop of Virginia, and together they have created a phased approach to re-gathering.
The difficult truth continues to be that in-person worship is still a long way off. Strict limitations on how close we can stand or sit together, advice against reading out loud in a group or responding with vigor to the liturgy, the expectation of good health for all who attend, the requirement of face masks, and the prohibition of singing together for the foreseeable future all challenge us to be patient. Since our desire is to be together, but our safety depends on our being physically separated and mostly silent, meaningful worship will have to be re-imagined.
We should expect not to gather for in-person, outdoor worship until after August 1. Given the intimacy of church activities and the vulnerability of so many of our members, it seems prudent not to gather for worship in this next phase of civic re-opening. The two months between now and that date correspond to an expected increase in cases of COVID-19, due to the inevitable contact that resuming normal activities will bring, as well as offering time for authorities to ramp up adequate testing and tracing. With that said, if public health directives allow small groups to meet in this period, prayer groups and fellowships will be invited to meet outside, separated by six feet, and in limited numbers, including the 14 recovery groups that utilize our space. Redeemer Parish Day School is following the lead of the Maryland State Department of Education, modifying their practices where necessary, utilizing outdoor spaces whenever possible, and hoping to open on time in the Fall.
We will continue to offer online prayer every weekday and online worship on Saturdays and Sundays. Centering Prayer, Women of Wisdom, the Men’s Fellowship, the Dad’s group, choir check-ins, Knitting, book groups, Center for Wellbeing, the Rector’s Bible Study and more are thriving. Facebook Live, Zoom, and YouTube have become a part of our pastoral and liturgical repertoire—we have welcomed many new people and re-connected with old friends who had drifted away. The gifts of this virtual ministry are varied and real, and we expect to incorporate them into our lives long after the pandemic has passed.
Let me know how you are feeling about our plans: I’d love to hear from you. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .