Here we are after more than a year since we were together. Who knew it would be this long? As the period of COVID-19 restrictions has continued and the availability of vaccines has increased, some St. Stephen’s members are wondering about when we might return to in-person worship. The Vestry recently considered this question, reviewing the re-opening plans St. Stephen’s developed last summer, and the lessons we have learned from the 1st and 2nd waves of COVID-19 spread.
Although optimistic about the growing numbers of vaccinated parish members and the current decline in COVID-19 infections; the Vestry consensus was that we are not yet ready for indoor, in-person services. But we are “leaning forward”, anticipating steps that will need to be taken when the time is right. Since the Vestry met in March, Bishop Greg Rickel has weighed in with his statement, "Pull Up the Gangplank: I'm on board,"
in alignment with the Vestry’s conclusion. It is not yet time to reconvene in person.
Even as we reached this conclusion, the Vestry reflected on the many things we have learned in the past year. We have learned how to use YouTube and Facebook for worship services. Many of us have even learned to use Zoom technology to join together for fellowship! We also recognized the progress that is being made in the fight against the pandemic.
Things do seem to be getting better. Many of our congregation has been fully vaccinated. That certainly is a good thing. And in the past week the numbers of cases have improved locally. However, before that, Oak Harbor’s number of new cases as a percentage of population, was high. As a result, I must agree with Bishop Greg’s reflections: I think that we have followed COVID-19 prevention steps for a long time, and it would be a shame if we jumped back prematurely to services in person and caused further, preventable spread of this virus. We will certainly keep looking at the statistics, as well as what our Diocese advises, and let you know when we feel we can be together again. Hopefully, that will be sometime this summer, or early fall.
So, for now, tune into the regular Sunday service provided by our resident clergy, join us for our Zoom coffee hour on Sundays at noon, be involved in all the activities outlined in your weekly email for Holy Week and Easter, and phone a fellow parishioner. If you are both fully vaccinated, you may even be comfortable meeting up for coffee, or just a walk and a chat. It seems as if we are in the home stretch now, so let’s stay tough and get through this.