Guidelines for Worship and Gathering Update

St. John's Episcopal Church   -  

Informed by the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the Diocese of West Texas has revised the guidelines that have governed how we have gathered and operated over the past 15+ months. After consideration from the St. John’s Reopening Task Force and with approval from the Vestry, we have adopted the following procedures for worshiping, gathering and doing life together as a church, effective June 27, 2021.

  • Fully vaccinated* individuals are no longer required to wear a mask or physically distance indoors or outdoors on church premises. This includes worship services, fellowship, bible studies, formation, meetings, etc. The decision to wear a mask remains a sensitive concern for many. We encourage all who feel safer and wish to wear a mask to do so.
  • If, for any reason, you are not fully vaccinated, you are expected to wear a mask and maintain 6-feet physical distancing. We will not request to see proof of vaccination nor will we have a designated space for non-vaccinated people to sit. We trust that you will follow CDC recommendations and Diocesan guidelines to best honor yourself and your St. John’s family, especially children under 12 and others who are unable to be vaccinated.
  • You will not need to sign up to attend services and seats will not be assigned. Seating will be available on a first come, first served basis. With consideration for those who wish to maintain 6’ physical distance, every other pew will remain closed inside the sanctuary. People may sit wherever they choose, being mindful of those who prefer to or need to maintain physical distancing. As the church fills and seats are unavailable, overflow seating will be provided in the Parish Hall with the service streaming to a TV. Those worshiping in the Parish Hall are invited to walk over to the Sanctuary to receive Communion.
  • Bibles and Prayer Books have been returned to the pews. You may use these if you prefer to follow along with the service in the Book of Common Prayer instead of the bulletin.
  • While we explore sanitary ways to share Communion with bread and wine, Communion will continue to be served in one kind (bread only) and through the same station method we are using now.
  • Church staff and lay leaders who facilitate or lead formation offerings or provide childcare for children under the age of 12 must continue to wear masks and maintain 6-feet physical distance, regardless of that individual’s vaccination status.
  • Clergy and Eucharistic Ministers are required to wear masks during the distribution of Communion, regardless of that individual’s vaccination status.

Welcoming all is a priority at St. John’s. This requires all of us being mindful of our fellow parishioners. Bishop Reed said it best, “We must reflect a gracious and restrained care for others.” Masked or not, some will rejoice in sitting near their friends they haven’t shared a pew with in over a year, others will choose to maintain physical distancing in the sanctuary, while some still prefer to worship from home by watching our live-stream. Please know that you are welcome to participate in the life of your church in whatever way is best for you.

As we move into this next phase may we, in all things, let our actions and decisions be guided by the Spirit: “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22,25)

Finally, we encourage you to get vaccinated if it is medically appropriate for you. If you have hesitation about the vaccine, speak with your doctor. If you need help finding somewhere to get a vaccine, email [email protected] and we will be glad to assist. Being fully vaccinated is a key part in gaining more normalcy at church and in all aspects of life.

* People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines; or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. If an individual doesn’t meet these requirements, they are NOT fully vaccinated.