Dear People of St. Peter’s,
This week Bishop Sam Rodman announced that all parishes in the Diocese of North Carolina will remain closed for in-person public worship until at least July 1. While this is much later than we had hoped, our bishops are carefully evaluating how to safely reopen in light of evolving information from public health officials.
Our bishop has outlined a plan for how we will move forward in three phases. Please note that though language is similar, these are diocesan timetables, independent of Governor Roy Cooper’s timeline.
- Phase One, our current situation, encourages social distancing, the wearing of masks, and the closure of our building, with the exception of essential staff and livestream worship on Sundays.
- Phase Two, which may occur beginning July 1, will be a gradual reopening of our building for in-person gatherings. These gatherings will only include governance meetings, Bible studies, the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, clergy and staff meetings, weekday worship, pastoral liturgies, and other small gatherings of no more than 25. Phase Two will also come with new precautions and procedures, such as screening for symptoms, sign-in sheets for tracing, deep cleanings of all our spaces, and the wearing of masks. These guidelines are evolving every day. As we prepare to begin this phase, we will release more details.
- Phase Three, at a date to be determined, will occur when new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to decrease. This phase will allow for larger gatherings, public Sunday worship, and in-person children and youth ministries. In this phase, there will be easing of restrictions but some measures, such as mask wearing, may still be in place.
- Phase Four, our final phase, is the one we hope to reach as soon as possible. This phase will occur when antiviral treatments or a vaccine is readily available. In Phase Four we will be able to gradually dispense of social distancing and resume all of our in-person ministries.
Our bishops are in conversation with the governor’s office and with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Mother Amanda, Deacon Robin, and I are regularly receiving updates during Tuesday and Thursday diocesan clergy video meetings. Bishop Rodman has asked each parish in the diocese to submit a detailed plan by June 15 for how we will enter each phase. I am in the process of creating a taskforce for reopening St. Peter’s, which will include members of the staff, vestry, and others.
In this week’s gospel passage, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This text was famously set to music by Thomas Tallis in 1565 and remains one of my favorite choral pieces. As we are nearing the end of the Easter Season and preparing for the Day of Pentecost, Jesus is asking us to keep his commandments and to prepare for the “Comforter,” the Holy Spirit, who will be our guide.
Not that long ago, we celebrated Maundy Thursday and remembered the new commandment given by Jesus on the night before he died: “This is my new commandment that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
While this season is difficult for each of us in a variety of ways, keeping physical distance is an act of love. We are still loving one another, though we cannot physically embrace. Keep reaching out to those who are sick or alone, keep praying for those who grieve, keep calling your neighbors and friends, keep supporting our outreach partners, and keep supporting St. Peter’s in its ongoing ministry.
I speak for all of the St. Peter’s clergy and staff in saying we feel your prayers. Thank you for your continued support and love. Together, though from a distance for a while, we will ensure that St. Peter’s continues to be a place of unconditional welcome and a beacon of God’s love in the heart of Charlotte.
The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Rector