CoVID- 19 Updates
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.” Psalm 136: 1
A note from the Rector on 5/19/20:
My dear friends in Christ,
Since we have been torn away from you, brothers and sisters, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavor all the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face….For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.
Above is my paraphrase of what Paul writes to the Thessalonians in his first letter to them (2:17-18, 19-20). He was stuck, 360 miles away, in Corinth, and longed to see his friends in Christ Jesus, but everything conspired against him in his efforts to return. Lord, have mercy, for I feel the same way! It seems impossible to think that the last time we worshipped together in person was when Archbishop Orombi visited us on March 11th.
So I praise God, not only that we have remained healthy as a parish family through the first wave of this disease, but also that we are about to begin in-person worship again on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2020! I ask that you get a cup of coffee or tea, settle in, and read through the following plan to open up Christchurch for Sunday in-person worship in two short weeks.
Now a word of caution: while you may agree with some of the specifics of this, you may also disagree with others. Please respond in all ways with grace. These plans represent the unanimous will of your Vestry, Staff, Wardens, and Rector and, while they may not be perfect, they are the result of much prayer and wrestling. They have also been reviewed by Col. Jim Hawkins, a member of our parish and former Senior Warden who oversaw the response to over forty natural disasters during his years with the Alabama National Guard and is now advising Gov. Ivey in Alabama’s response to this novel coronavirus, and by Drs. Glenn Bedsole and Lori White, members of our parish with vast experience in infectious diseases. Our ultimate goal is to restore in-person worship in a way that does not endanger the weak among us, does not further the spread of this virus in our community, and does not indicate a refusal to obey our earthly leaders in their God-ordained task of defending human health and safety (Romans 13:1-7). I know some of you are very eager to return to full Eucharistic worship inside the church – we are right there with you. But we encourage you again with Paul’s words, this time to the church in Corinth – “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say-but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything,’ – but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, NIV). As we begin to worship together again in person, may we do all that we do for the good of others, remaining patient and grace-filled, recognizing that we are all wading through uncharted waters.
Without further ado, here are the plans for Sundays and Wednesdays for the near future.
Beginning Sunday, May 31, The Feast of Pentecost, we will have one service held outside in our newly-paved parking lot at 8 a.m.
- This is a joyous day to restart in-person worship, as this day is the “birthday of the Church,” for it commemorates the gift of the Holy Spirit!
- We have chosen this early time of 8 a.m. so that we can worship before the day heats up, especially if conditions require us to continue this practice into the summer months.
- We have chosen to worship outside, revival-style, during this first phase of our return to in-person worship. All of the medical authorities we have consulted have commended outdoor worship as being immensely safer than moving inside a closed space. Moreover, as you’ll see below, worshipping outside allows for a great deal of flexibility amongst the various groups of our parish. Many of you will remember worshipping outside when we first acquired the land on which our church is built – this is a joyous return to our roots!
- Dress will be very casual, with an eye towards remaining cool during warm Spring and Summer mornings. Of course, if you choose to stay home and live stream, you can worship in your jammies!
Option One – sit together in our outdoor “nave.”
- Chairs will be set up before a tented area that will shelter our worship teams and an outdoor altar.
- Our ever-vigilant parking team to guide you into proper parking spots.
- Please arrange the chairs as you wish, to create an area for your household that is properly distanced from other households. You may also bring your own chairs if you prefer to sit in style!
- The use of masks in this seated area will be mandatory, simply out of love for your neighbor, as a mask greatly reduces the chances that you’ll pass the disease on to another if you happen to have it.
- Spiritual Communion will be offered. Alternatively, you may receive physical Communion, by coming forward to a Communion station to receive Bread from a priest who will have clean hands and a mask. Please remove your mask, consume the Bread, and then put your mask back on. As a third option, you may return between 10:30 a.m. and 12 Noon and receive at the altar rail inside the church, one family at a time (see h. below).
Option Two – park and stay in or near your car.
- Feel free to bring your own chairs to set up outside of your car.
- If you do get out of your car you are strongly encouraged to don a mask out of care and concern for others who may come near to greet you.
- You may also consider this option if you have young children who will be difficult to wrangle while sitting amongst the chairs.
- Please do not leave your car running.
- Spiritual Communion will be offered. Alternatively, you may receive physical Communion, by coming forward to a Communion station that will come to each parking area to receive Bread from a priest who will have clean hands and a mask. If you are wearing a mask, which we strongly urge you to do, please remove it to eat the Bread and then put your mask back on. You may take more than one piece of the Bread with you to distribute to others in your car – simply give them out saying “The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven” and reverently consume any extra Bread. As a third option, you may return between 10:30 a.m. and 12 Noon and receive at the altar rail inside the church (see h. below).
Option Three – watch the service from home on our YouTube page.
- If you are not ready to return to campus for worship for any reason, we encourage you to stay home and watch the service remotely. Please don’t feel guilty about this – our goal in all things is to extend mercy and grace to one another!
- If you are in a vulnerable population group as defined by the CDC, we urge you to strongly consider this option.
- The service will be live streamed at 8 a.m., but available to watch at anytime.
- You may choose to receive Spiritual Communion, or your household may come to church between 10:30 a.m. and 12 noon to receive Communion at the rail inside the church (see h. below).
Physical Communion will be offered at the rail inside the church between 10:30 a.m. and 12 Noon.
- Signs will direct you to enter through the Gospel transept door (the side door closest to the church office building). Maintain proper social distancing if you find yourself waiting in a line at this door.
- When the family in front of you has left the rail, come into the church, sanitizing your hands as you do. Come to the center of the rail, remove any mask you may be wearing, and receive while standing. You will then depart through the Epistle doors and out through the columbarium, again sanitizing your hands as you depart.
A few general notes (whew, I know this is a lot of information!)
- At the passing of the Peace, physical distancing must be maintained, so waves and peace signs will substitute for hugs and handshakes.
- Restrooms will be for emergency use only and all doors to them will be propped. We ask that you utilize hand sanitizer before entering the restroom and wash your hands thoroughly before returning to the parking lot.
- If you wish to tithe or give while on campus, there will be a basket in a stationary location near the front steps of the church. Offering plates will not be passed during the service.
- Service leaflets will be available for download or viewing online. You may also pick one up from a table near the front steps of the church.
- Any who are exhibiting signs of viral illness or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the previous 14 days should stay home and worship remotely, receiving Spiritual Communion rather than coming to receive physical communion.
- If it is raining on any Sunday morning, it is our hope to worship in this manner anyway! Simply come and sit under a raised umbrella, remain in your cars for worship, or stay home to enjoy the service remotely before either taking Spiritual Communion online or physical Communion between 10:30 am and 12 noon inside the church.
Adult Sunday School will be offered via Zoom at 9:30 a.m.
On Wednesdays during this Phase One of re-opening Christchurch, we will continue our 7 p.m. drive-in style service of praise and worship music with a brief Bible study.
- This service will continue to be live-streamed and available to watch at any time.
- Beginning Wednesday, June 3, we will have chairs set up for you to get closer to the worship teams. Please follow the same guidance given above regarding where to park, maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, using restrooms, etc.
During this Phase One of reopening Christchurch, the church offices will remain closed with all staff teleworking.
The Church will be open for private prayer from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Please sanitize your hands as you come and go. The wearing of masks is encouraged in case you were to encounter anyone one else using the church for prayer.
Covenant Groups and Children and Youth Ministries will continue to meet online, except that
- Covenant Groups that can gather while maintaining proper social distancing may consider outside gatherings.
- Small groups of our youth will begin gathering on campus with outdoor bible studies and times of fellowship being the norm.
- Our nursery and children’s services will continue to be on-line only, given the difficulties associated with trying to make children maintain social distance
Daily streaming of Morning and Evening Prayer will not continue, even while we encourage households to continue those rhythms of daily prayer.
On behalf of your Vestry, Wardens, Staff, and Clergy, let me say that we cannot wait to worship in person again. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please feel free to reach out to our COVID-19 response team, which consists of Vestry Members Kitty Harris, RN, Jon Carroll, Junior Warden, and Bryan Craven, Senior Warden.
In all things, we ask that you remain flexible and patient, prayerful and hopeful, as we know we worship a God Who is in control and Who is making all things new.
All my love in Christ,
A note from the Rector on 4/02/20:
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
His mercy endures forever!
This verse from Psalm 136 is the one to which the leadership of Christchurch, your clergy, Staff, and Vestry, are clinging in these unprecedented times. It has been a difficult few days figuring out how we can stay connected as a worshipping body when we cannot be together physically. As your Rector, I miss seeing you all so very much! But, by God’s grace, we have had some truly remarkable moments of God’s blessings. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer continue to be well subscribed and are growing with each service. Our Children’s and Student ministries have had Zoom calls full of laughter and honest conversation about the things that are going on. And the wedding between Fr. Morgan Clark and Elizabeth Reilly will go down as the largest service in Christchurch history! Almost 1,200 screens watched that wedding and many of them were “watch parties” of five, ten, or twenty people – thousands shared in that celebration of Holy Matrimony. If you missed it, or any of our services since we’ve had to suspend corporate gatherings, simply search for “Christchurch Montgomery” on YouTube and watch away. We pray that all of that content, and more that is being added day by day, will bring the light of Jesus to the darkness. If you have no idea how to access these services, will you please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can help?
As Holy Week approaches, I’m aware that we all have many questions about how we will mark this most holy time of the year if we cannot gather physically. So, here is a list of our plans for Holy Week services. Note that every service will have a PDF for you to download, print out, or look at on a separate screen while you participate in the worship of Almighty God.
Palm Sunday – Live Stream at 9:30 am CT
- Palm Sunday marks the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, while His disciples and the people of Jerusalem laid down their garments and palm fronds to welcome the Messiah.
- Holy Eucharist will be celebrated this Sunday and those worshipping from home will be invited to participate in what the church calls “Spiritual Communion” or “The Sacrament of Desire.” This is the attitude of the heart that wishes to receive communion but is unable due to extreme circumstances (sickness, war, imprisonment, famine, or times such as those we are currently enduring). I will lead you in the following prayer at the time I consume the elements on behalf of God’s people: “Dear Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to possess you within my soul. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you, together with all your faithful people gathered around every altar of your Church, and I embrace you with all the affections of my soul. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.” (2019 BCP 677)
- For those of you who are wondering, we will save the palm fronds you will see surrounding the central altar, which will be blessed during the Liturgy of the Palms, to burn to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday, 2021.
- Our Director of Children’s Ministries, Cindy McLaughlin, has sent out instructions as to how to make a palm cross from paper or the greenery in your house or yard – so you can all proudly wear a cross that day!
- She’s also going to encourage families with children to hold a Hosanna Parade that day, stomping around the house making a joyful noise unto the Lord during the opening hymn!
Maundy Thursday – Live stream at 6:30 pm CT
- As this is the night we remember the institution of the Lord’s Supper, we will celebrate Holy Eucharist and will invite those worshipping at home to share in Spiritual Communion.
- After Communion, I will wash the feet of the small number of those participating in the live streamed service.
- After the Footwashing, we will strip the altar and ask that you prayerfully watch in silence.
- After the Stripping, a camera will focus on the Altar of Repose so that those of you who wish to “wait and watch with Christ” in the Garden of Gethsemane may do so. This stream will end at 9 am on the morning of Good Friday. Feel free to keep vigil with the Body of Christ at any time throughout the night.
Good Friday – Live stream at 12:00 pm CT (available to watch for the rest of the day)
- We will broadcast our service of The Stations of the Cross and the Veneration of the Cross. The service will be available for viewing for the rest of the day and into the evening.
Holy Saturday – Live stream at 8:00 pm CT
- We will livestream The Great Vigil of Easter, which will be full of both darkness and joy, and will include incense and the first ringing of our new sanctus bells.
- We will again celebrate Holy Eucharist and invite the home viewer to participate in Spiritual Communion.
- There will be a baptism that evening of Brett and Jessica Echols new son, Louis Bruce, so please watch with joy!
Easter Sunday. – Live stream at 9:30 am CT
- On this most joyous day, Christ overcame death and the grave! Alleluia! The church will be full of lilies, trumpets, song, and joy!
- If you’d like to dedicate lilies in “memory of” or “thanksgiving for” family, friends, or loved ones as you usually do, we ask that you email the dedication details to Leah Blanks at email@example.com. Note that, to make this dedication, you may make a contribution to the Christchurch Altar Guild in any amount, or you may make a contribution to a local charity that is supporting the poor and needy during these difficult days – and we’ll honor that good work through our lily dedications. We’ll publish a list of dedications as part of a downloadable service leaflet.
- Holy Communion
- Spiritual Communion will be encouraged, especially for those in high-risk groups, who are unwell, or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
- If you wish to receive physical Communion on Easter, please wait until the end of the service and then come to the church to receive.
- Upon arrival, please remain in your cars.
- A parking attendant will signal when it is your time to drive up to the front door of the church and come up to an altar set up on the front steps. After receiving Communion, please return to your car and return home.
- All of this is subject to change, of course, if, by Easter Sunday, we are under a mandatory “stay at home” order, in which case spiritual Communion will be our only option.
- Also note, for those of you who might be concerned, that I will not be distributing the Bread, as my wife, Mimi, is working in the COVID-19 ICU at Baptist South. Frs. Alan and Morgan, both of whom have had no direct contact with the disease, wearing masks, will give you and your family the Bread.
My dear friends, this is all so complicated! But I pray it all works out to be a blessing to each one of you and allows us to praise and glorify the Lord for all He has done for us in Christ.
One last thing. Many of you have inquired as to how you might continue to give to the gospel work of Christchurch during this time when we cannot gather together physically. Thank you all for your continued dedication to the life of God’s church! There are at least four ways.
1. Mail a check to the church at 8800 Vaughn Road, Montgomery, 36117.
2. Come by the church property and drop an envelope in the church mailbox, which is near the church office and is secure. We’ll also have a basket available on Easter Sunday if you come for physical Communion.
3. Contact Marty Nanfeldt and set up automatic monthly contributions.
4. Go to our website and click on Serve/Donate and make a secure online contribution.
We know that some in our parish have been hard hit by the current lockdown on our economy. If you have been financially affected during this season – please do not keep silent. Reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to make your needs known, so that the church can “give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:45b). For others who are not financially compromised by COVID-19, this may be a time for us to increase our tithes and offerings in order to help our brothers and sisters who have lost work due to this unprecedented situation. We remember that God’s Church offers the only real hope in this world, Jesus – and the leadership of Christchurch is thinking through ways to stay connected, to offer peace and hope, and to reach out to the lost. This is how we can continue to be a light in the darkness of uncertainty – be generous, give in faithfulness, and look for ways to be hope and light.
I hope you’ll read and re-read all of the above and reach out if you have any questions or concerns. Know that, in all things, God is at work to do something good and holy through this time of testing. If nothing else, I know that I have a newfound appreciation for how powerful it is to gather together for the worship of God. I miss you all profoundly and cannot wait until all of this is behind us and we are once again gathered around the altar of God together. Please stay well and safe and may we have a blessed Holy Week as we gather together in spirit while we are separate in the body.
All my love in Christ Jesus.
A note from the Rector on 3/20/20:
A note from the Rector on 3/20/20
All services will be online until further notice. Just search for Christchurch Montgomery on YouTube on your laptop, smartphone, or, best of all, your smart TV! Many have commented that they feel incredibly connected knowing that so many of their fellow Christians are praying with them during these special times of corporate worship. We encourage you to get on Facebook and to like our church page – it is an easy way for us disseminate important information to the parish.
Children’s and Student Ministries will be sending around Zoom links for their meetings (just click on the link you are sent and it should be easy). Please take advantage of the time together online – you’ll be surprised how connected it will make you feel! You can use a computer or a smartphone and it’s very easy. If you have a child or student who would like to participate and have not received any information, please contact Fr. Andrew, Cindy McLaughlin (email@example.com) or Ben Cheney (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The staff is working on more opportunities for all parishioners, such as Zoom conferences for Covenant Groups, Reunion Groups, various Bible studies, and Missions Updates. Please stay tuned.
Vestry members will be contacting parishioners over the coming days to check in with everyone and answer any questions and find out how we might be able to help one another through this turbulent time. Again, you may always reach out to Fr. Andrew directly if you need something immediately.
Please note that the April Paseo has been cancelled – we look forward to the one in October!
And in all things remember our motto through this whole ordeal….
A note from the Rector on 3/13/20:
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
As most of you know, we have our first confirmed case of COVID-19 here in Montgomery. In response to this development and in an abundance of caution to protect the weakest among us, I and your Wardens, Bryan Craven and Jon Carroll, have decided that we will not gather at church for at least the next two Sundays, March 15 and March 22.
This means that this Sunday we will not have regular worship. Instead, Morning Prayer will be livestreamed on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am CT from our website, www.christchurchanglican.net, until we return to regular worship, hopefully in the very near future. In addition, beginning Monday, March 16th, I and other parish leaders will be livestreaming Morning Prayer from the Church at 8:00 am and Evening Prayer from my home office at 7:00 pm Monday through Saturday every day until we gather together again. We hope that you and your family and your Covenant Groups will wash your hands and open up your Prayer Books at home, as we bathe this entire time of national concern with constant prayer and intercession for those most vulnerable to this disease. I and other parish leaders will also be making regular phone calls to the entire parish to check in on our people as we all experience the isolation of staying home for a few weeks. Please contact me on my cell phone – (334) 322-8550 – if I can do anything at all for you during these trying times.
This is, of course, a developing situation. The Wardens and I will be monitoring it all closely and will keep you informed as things shift. Please know that this was a terribly difficult decision and, yet, not one made out of fear. Rather, given the number of vulnerable members of our parish, it seems unwise for us to gather given the incredible ease with which this disease is transmitted. The only way to head off a pandemic like this is to reduce the transmission rate and social distancing is a key component in those efforts. If we make no changes in our daily lives, our medical care systems will be quickly overwhelmed and the disease will claim more lives than it will if we act prudently and wisely and make sacrifices for one another out of love.
This may strike some in our parish as an overreaction. The odd thing about these kinds of precautions is that they must be put into effect before things escalate or else they do not help because it is too late. Thus such precautions always feel like overreactions. And should they prove effective, then it really seems like they were much ado about nothing because the disease doesn’t spread. But if we can save just one life among our weakest members by worshipping apart for a short time, will this not all be worth it?
I hope you are all at peace with this difficult decision. Our Bishop urged us to consider postponing services when our local school system closes. The Wardens and I believe that, as of the writing of this letter, such closing is imminent, so we have gone ahead with the hard decision to take the lead, based on what we have learned from the medical community and after much prayer. But may we have no fear in all of this. Remember what God told the sons and daughters of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God (Isaiah 41:10). Remember what Jesus said to the whole world: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27). And remember that, in Christ, death will not have the last word no matter what tomorrow holds, for if we live we are Christ’s and if we die we are Christ’s. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s possession. (Romans 14:8).
Here is a prayer for us all to pray every day: Almighty God, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ went about doing good, and healing all manner of sickness and disease among the people: Continue in our hospitals and research centers his gracious work among us especially those ministering to people affected by the novel coronavirus; console and heal the sick; grant to the researchers, physicians, nurses, and assisting staff wisdom and skill, diligence and patience; prosper their work, O Lord, and send down your blessing upon all who serve the suffering; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. I commend to you our Bishop’s latest letter about the coronavirus, which calls us to acts of love to the weak and lost around us in the days ahead: http://gulfatlanticdiocese.org/coronavirus-information/. Someone said to me just today, “we need to wash our hands and wash the feet of the weak all the way through this.” Amen to that.
May the Lord draw us more tightly together as we worship and pray without ceasing in every home of every member of our incredible parish family until we can gather together again with joy.
All my love in Christ,
Fr. Andrew M. Rowell+