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The Current Status of Re-Opening St Andrew’s Church, Edgartown

To the members and friends of our St Andrew’s Church family:

Today, Governor Charlie Baker issued an Order concerning the re-opening of certain businesses and other concerns as part of a four-part process for reopening businesses and other establishments in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.   Places of Worship are now authorized to open to the public, including for public worship, and to employees, provided they abide by certain requirements for safe-distancing, sanitization, and other rules, listed in the Order. 

Last week, our Bishop Diocesan, The Right Reverend Alan Gates, informed all congregations that the previous restrictions and prohibitions on conducting public worship, issued by the Diocese, shall be extended until July 1, 2020. 

Simply stated, that means there will be no public worship at St Andrew’s Church until we receive further direction from Bishop Gates on or about July 1, 2020.

This morning I’d received a request from The Martha’s Vineyard Times asking me to comment on Governor Baker’s Order, namely, how St Andrew’s might now arrange to offer public worship, to which I responded:

“As an Episcopal church (the word “Episcopal” itself suggests “Bishop”), we look to the Diocesan Bishop’s directives regarding this issue.  Last week, The Right Reverend Alan Gates (together with the Right Reverend Douglas Fisher of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts), decreed that all Episcopal congregations in the Diocese of Massachusetts, which includes St Andrew’s Church here in Edgartown, would not be permitted to open for public worship at least until July 1–at which time, the Bishop would issue further instruction.

“The leadership of St Andrew’s Church fully supports that decision, agreeing with a recent comment by the Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Colorado, who recently wrote that ‘The number of acceptable deaths as a result of our [Diocesan] actions is ZERO.’  

“Since we view the notion of “church” as the community of faith borne by the people who follow Christ, and such community exists by and among the people, not confined to physical space, the current public health crisis has challenged our Episcopal congregations to find new and exciting ways to “be church” and to remain connected with the members of our faith community largely by using the gifts our newer technologies have provided us:  through Zoom meetings, Facebook posts, on-line Bible Studies, weekly worship on our YouTube Channels, phone calls, and the like. In most all cases, we are finding excellent, positive, encouraging–and even exhilarating–results among our respective congregations!

“So, unless and until we are certain our actions in maintaining public worship will not jeopardize the health of any of our beloved members, we will be happy to wait until we can all meet (physically) again.  Until that time, we are delighted with how the Holy Spirit continues to bind us in love and affection for each other.”

I feel strongly that the Holy Spirit continues to abide, and continues to guide, us here at St Andrew’s Church, as evidenced by the caring work of our members to keep in touch with each other and find ways to share joys as part of our wonderful faith community. 

As we continue to watch and wait for more guidance in our prayerful discernment, together with the capable reflection of our fine Vestry and Wardens, I am confident we will know how best to proceed in light of our current challenge.

And as I’ve recently taken to say:

I always thank God for you.

Your brother in Christ Jesus,