Summer Sunday Worship Plan: 2021
After meeting yesterday with our Worship Team and later with our Senior Warden, I’m pleased to announce on their behalf the last revision to our public worship schedule I plan to make. This schedule will continue through the summer, and likely will be revised again at that time in conjunction with a return to a “normal” program schedule that will include adult and children’s formation, choir rehearsals, and fellowship events.
The summer plan is intended to extend edifying, thoughtful and consistent worship through a period in which the parish will have only one available staff priest on several Sundays, when worship leaders and volunteers are taking vacation, and Sunday attendance is historically lower than normal.
Effective this Sunday, June 13, the worship schedule will be this:
- 9 a.m.: Online Morning Prayer
- 10 a.m.: In-Person Holy Eucharist
Note that this is a temporary schedule, and that the team intends to propose a fuller schedule in the fall.
The Online Morning Prayer service has, as expected, seen significant decline in participation since the re-introduction of in-person worship, and will be similar in structure to that offered during the year leading up to Easter Day, 2021, with these adjustments:
- The officiant will not be inside the church during the service, but instead will be online from a convenient location at the church or at home like all the other participants.
- The officiant normally will be a skilled lay worship leader, but led by clergy every 4-6 weeks.
- Music will not be offered, but will be part of a future online live-stream worship option.
- In response to favorable feedback following a two-week trial, the sermon will be replaced with a brief meditation and discussion of the appointed readings.
- We’ll move from two to one reader for the lessons, and that reader will offer the “people” voices for prayers that normally are read in unison, including the confession of sin and the canticle. We do that because Zoom does not manage concurrent speaking well, so we mute the congregation for those times, hoping that they continue to pray aloud at home.
- Prayers that are entered using the chat feature will be read by the officiant rather than a designated “prayer moderator” because the reduced congregation size makes it easier to manage.
- The technical director roles will be reduced from two to one because its easier to manage without hymn slides and large groups to monitor for sound problems.
The In-Person Holy Eucharist will be a continuation of the 9 a.m. (now 10 a.m.) format we’ve offered for the past two weeks. Although we are told by public health authorities that vaccinated people can safely gather inside, we have chosen a shorter, more streamlined format than the pre-pandemic 10:30 service. That service will have these characteristics at least through the summer, to be re-evaluated in time for the fall program year startup:
- One reading and a Psalm before the Gospel, with no Epistle reading or sequence hymn, to reduce the total duration of the service
- For the same reason, the Confession of Sin will not be used in the near term.
- An opening hymn, Gloria, Sanctus, and closing hymn will be sung by the congregation.
- A soloist or small pick-up choir will offer an offertory anthem.
- Communion will be at the rail, and ministers will take communion to those in the pews who prefer to have it brought to them. (Please tell an usher if you want this.)
- Per Diocese of Texas COVID-19 guidelines, the congregation may intinct (dip the bread into the wine), but not yet drink from the chalice, and unvaccinated people must wear masks inside the buildings. All Saints’ will ask the congregation to comply with the mask restriction, but will not ask anyone to disclose or prove their vaccination status.
I don’t doubt that All Saints’ soon will return to multiple in-person worship offerings on Sundays. But the temporarily reduced availability of clergy and lay volunteers this summer argues for a simpler schedule. Prior to the pandemic, the congregation expressed near universal dissatisfaction with the Sunday morning schedule, and the pared-down summer schedule allows time for worship and program leaders to confer and consider a more satisfying Sunday morning format.
For those attending in-person worship this summer, please remember that the pandemic is not over. Some people have impaired immune systems (or live with someone who does). Not everyone is vaccinated. And not everyone is comfortable with full immersion to pre-pandemic physical proximity and engagement. Let’s be respectful and hospitable to each other. For example, before touching someone in greeting or sharing of the peace, extend a hand and wait for a reciprocal gesture before moving in close or shaking hands. If you’re a hugger, hold your arms out as an invitation, but wait until the other person is comfortable before embracing someone else. Everyone in the room should feel safe and respected.
Some things you can expect in the very near term:
Volunteer schedules for readers, ushers, acolytes, altar guild, singers, and others will be revised on short notice in response to the schedule change. Please be patient with the heads of those ministries. They’re doing their best in a rapidly-changing and complex context.
This Sunday, June. 13, we’ll officially install the search committee (which I completely forgot to do on June 6), though I promise that they already are hard at work. The “Sayōnara Becky and Lane” event in Kinsolving Hall, originally scheduled for 10 a.m., Sunday, June 13, will be pushed back to 11 a.m.
Steve will be taking vacation through the end of June, returning to lead worship on Sunday, July 4.
All Saints’ is blessed with a large number of people who are, as my wife calls me, fellow “techno-nerds.” That group will be meeting soon to discuss what equipment and ongoing volunteer and/or staff management will be necessary to provide high quality audio and video for live-streaming our in-person worship services. That means you’ll be able to watch All Saints’ worship live anywhere in the world where you can find an internet connection, and watch recorded events. It also means that the sound portion of the service can be transmitted wirelessly into the room for the benefit of those who use assisted listening devices. The team includes professionals with extensive experience installing and managing these systems, and are a great gift to All Saints’.
I don’t yet have a schedule of officiants for the 9 a.m. Online Morning Prayer service, but will be preaching and celebrating at the 10 a.m. In-Person Holy Eucharist through the end of June. Steve Kinney will preach and celebrate at that service through July. I’m tentatively hoping to officiate the 9 a.m. online service on Sunday, June 20.
I’m looking forward to sharing the next three Sundays with you at All Saints’!