Pentecost: Returning to 2 In-Person Services
Our recent parish survey took the pulse of our community. The 157 survey responses were overwhelmingly positive, and we've now had the time to gather as parish council, wardens, and staff to determine next steps in our ongoing process of reopening.
Of those who worship regularly at the earlier service, nearly two-thirds of respondents found a 9:30 am start time most accessible, while nearly three-quarters of those who worship at the later service found 11 am ideal.
We are pleased to announce a return to two in-person worship services (9:30 and 11 am), starting Pentecost Sunday, June 5.
The 9:30 am relaxed service will continue to be led musically by our phenomenal musicians and vocalists, who have carried us through thick and thin of two plus years of pandemic. The service length will be approx. 45 minutes, and will see the return of the eucharist to our earlier gathering. For the summer months at least, we will offer a forward altar, with the congregation remaining seated in the pews. At this time, we will not be gathering in a circle around the altar. We wish to give people space and time to grow accustomed to in-person worship once more - including the reception of communion - without adding this additional variable. The service will be livestreamed every week for folks to experience from home as they wish.
The 11 am classic service will remain much as it has been: led musically by our incredible choir of parishioners and professionals, and featuring our beautiful organ. The service length will be approx. 60 minutes, and we will offer eucharist as we have been. We will continue our customary practice of using a forward altar for the summer months. The service will be livestreamed.
On June 5, the Diocese of Toronto is slated to remove all COVID restrictions, save the requirement that all those in worship or liturgical leadership roles show proof of vaccination. Beginning June 5, wearing masks will become optional inside our church building. It is important to reiterate at this stage that everyone's risk tolerance and comfort levels are different...and sometimes different week to week. That is normal and ok and to be expected. No one will be judged or made to feel uncomfortable for their very personal discernment in this matter.
If you are not yet ready to return in-person, that is ok and we welcome you to experience our 9:30 or 11 am livestream.
If you are ready to venture out, and wish to keep your mask on the entire time or to not receive communion, that is perfectly fine.
And if you are ready to enter our building without a mask, and to receive communion in both kinds, that is great too.
Pentecost will indeed feature the return of communion in both kinds (i.e., bread and wine). Each of our worship services will offer one station where wine is served. You are welcome to partake if and when you are ready to do so. Anglican theology has long held that to receive Christ in one kind only (i.e, bread or wine) is to receive the fullness of God’s presence. No one will be made to feel less than on account of their discernment here, and we recognize the widely different communion practices among our Christian siblings throughout the world.
A good chunk of the New Testament involves the Apostle Paul addressing the earliest followers of Jesus re: their different understandings of and comfort with eating with one another. The principle he established then holds still: “Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” (Romans 14:3–4)
On Pentecost, we mark the day when the Holy Spirit fell upon those earliest disciples and drove them from their places of hiding indoors and out into the city. Our parish survey asked, “What is one thing we could do right now that would help you to feel and/or stay connected?” A common response was "simply being back in person." On June 5, we'll get the chance to do that in a new but not new way: over a cup of coffee. For the summer months, we'll offer a single gathering point between our morning services, which we're calling Inter-mission. From 10:20-10:50 am, every Sunday morning from June till September, we’ll gather outside on the terrace, to rekindle friendships with all those with whom we’re on this incredible journey of learning to follow Jesus Christ.
Finally, it is important to say that Church at Home as we’ve come to know and love it will draw to a close over the next four weeks. We recognize the grief and loss of that transition, for Church at Home has been nothing less than a lifeline for so many of us.
Our survey asked the question, "What is one positive strength you hope we hold onto from this period of online Church at Home?" You said: "community, authenticity, flexibility, inclusivity, casual connectedness, accessible to everyone, warmth, experimentation."
These qualities and experiences cannot be taken from us and will indeed be drawn into our way of doing and being the Church going forward. Mark your calendars for Sunday, May 29, as we celebrate a very special final Church at Home.
In the meantime, we welcome the arrival of Spring and anticipate the even greater arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
St. Clement’s Staff & Wardens