Strategic Plan For Re-Opening of Services to Attendance

Updated July 1, 2020 ("Maintaining Safe Numbers", #2)

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” ~Colossians 1:11-12

"Christ the Healer" by Angel Fine Arts

Following a month and a half of services being held with only essential personnel, Christ the Savior is grateful to be opening our doors once again. With the blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Alexios, and built upon guidelines he sent on May 13th, we are able to prepare for a measured and gradual re-opening of the church services. The following was prepared after careful consideration of our parish demographics, physical space, and illness trends of our local counties. 

This strategy for re-opening will begin on Sunday, June 7th—Pentecost Sunday—and will remain in place until further notice. Some of what is contained herein is the same as what was being practiced before the shutdown, and some is new, so please read through carefully so that you are fully aware and equipped.

 
Maintaining Safe Numbers
While we do want to resume in-person attendance at the divine services, maintaining a diminished attendance number per service will be necessary to maintain safety for all. In lieu of a hard cap on attendance, the following will be instituted:
  1. In addition to our regular weekly serviceschedule, there will also be at least one weekday Divine Liturgyper week (depending on which day carries the most important commemoration), at 6:30 in the evening. If on a Saturday, the Liturgy will be at 10:00am. Please check the Parish Calendar for scheduled weekday Liturgies in June.
  2. Our parish membership will be formed into two groups, based on first letter of last name: Group A-L and Group M-Z. The Groups will alternate weeks for attending Liturgy: Group A-L on the first and third weeks, and Group M-Z on the second and fourth weeks. We kindly ask visitors and friends to join us for worship on their corresponding Sundays.
  3. Attendance at the Vespers services of Wednesday or Saturday evenings, or other such services, will not be restricted, unless it becomes necessary to do so.
  4. For any and all services, only one Priest will serve, assisted by no more than two adult altar servers. For chanters, there will be a second chant stand set up on the north side of the nave, with only one chanter at each stand.
  5. Live-streaming of services will continue for the time being, which can be found on our Facebook page and on our YouTube channel.
  6. All other, non-worship activities including meetings and fellowship gatherings will continue to be done virtually as they can be, or otherwise suspended until further notice.
 
Requirements for Attending
Those who wish to attend the Divine Liturgy and other services are required to abide by the following:
  1. Know the common symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell), and to NOT come to the church if you have any of them but instead seek medical attention.
  2. Know and observe the directives of safe conduct while in the church (see below “During the Service”).
  3. Those of higher risk are still encouraged to remain home for the time being, and have the episcopal blessing to do so. Such members have the option to make special arrangements to receive the Sacraments outside of the service.
  4. Parents are expected to ensure their children know and follow the safety rules, taking time to explain prior to coming to church as well as closely monitoring them while in church. If you feel your child is too young to be able to follow the rules (e.g. by needlessly touching surfaces or their own faces), you are encouraged to keep them home.
  5. Anyone who is known to have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days is expected NOT to come to church but instead seek testing and quarantine until results are received.
 
During the Service
  1. Worshippers over age 2 will be required to wear a mask at all times in the church, except when coming forward to receive Holy Communion (see below “Communion”). There is no exception to this rule, and anyone not willing or able to comply will be not be permitted entrance. Clergy, servers and chanters are included, but they will not wear masks while performing their liturgical duties. Congregational singing is discouraged at this time.
  2. At all times while in the church, follow CDC directives, which currently include: washing of hands thoroughly and frequently, covering your coughs and sneezes, avoiding sharing personal items, avoiding physical contact, and maintaining a social distance of six feet. Limit your movement in the church.
  3. Upon arriving at the church, an Usher wearing PPE will greet you and take down your name. The names of all those attending each service will be recorded to track any potential contamination.
  4. The Usher will also take each person’s temperature with an infrared thermometer to ensure no one has any unknown fever. Anyone discovered to have a temperature of 100.4ºF or higher will be asked to go home and seek medical attention.
  5. Use the provided hand sanitizer upon entering, as well as upon leaving.
  6. If you have a pledge or donation to give, place it carefully in the offering plate on the candle stand. The offering plate will not be passed during the Liturgy. Remember that pledges and donations can be mailed to the church at any time, as well as given online at our tithe.ly account.
  7. Please refrain from touching door handles or other surfaces, allowing the Usher to do so. If you wish to light a candle, ask the Usher who will get a candle for you. Service books, bulletins, etc. will not be distributed.
  8. Refrain from venerating the holy icons, Gospel, or other holy objects, instead crossing yourself self and offering a reverent bow.
  9. The Usher will show you to your seat in the pews. The floor will be marked with boxes to signify where worshippers can stand at a safe distance from one another. Couples and families may stand together.
 
Communion
All baptized Orthodox Christians desiring to receive Holy Communion must abide by the following:
  1. As always, make all necessary spiritual preparations to receive, including fasting, confession, and praying the Pre-Communion Prayers.
  2. When lining up to receive, maintain six-feet distance from others at all times.
  3. Communicants may remove their masks only momentarily to receive Holy Communion. 
  4. The Priest and assisting altar servers will wear masks during the distribution of Holy Communion.
  5. The red communion cloth will be held underneath the person’s chin by the altar servers. The communicant may not touch it and, His Eminence specially emphasizes, absolutely no wiping of mouths.
  6. In all other ways, receiving of the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord will be done in the usual fashion, in faith and in love. 
  7. After receiving, the communicant shall promptly return to their place.
  8. Antidoron will not be distributed at the time of Communion but instead at the end of the Liturgy.
 
After the Service
  1. After the Divine Liturgy, all the faithful may come forward, again observing a six-feet distance from one another, to receive the antidoron. The Priest, wearing PPE, will place the antidoron in the faithful’s flat palm, with no veneration of his hand.
  2. After the service, depart from the church promptly, refraining from unnecessary conversation either in the building or in the parking lot. Refrain from handshakes and hugs.
  3. The Virtual Coffee Hour will continue to be held on Sundays at 12:30pm. Visitors and friends are welcome to join us, and can email us to receive the Zoom link.
  4. A volunteer Cleaning Crew will clean and sanitize the church after each service, including but not limited to wiping down surfaces and seats, straightening chairs, and ensuring sanitizer and soap are stocked.

 

Sacraments (The following are notes from Fr. Stephen specifically to members of Christ the Savior parish)

Given that we remain in unusual circumstances, I want to ensure everyone has access to the Sacraments as they so desire and are comfortable receiving them. Please note the following:

  1. I have resumed regular Friday office hours at the church, from 9:00am to 5:00pm. During this time I am available, by scheduled appointment, for people to come for Confession and/or Communion.
  2. Confession is of utmost importance. Many of you who would have wanted to make confession during Lent did not have the chance to do so, and so please know it is available to you now. It is always beneficial to make confession at the conclusion of an extended period away from the Holy Chalice, even if that absence is due to a pandemic. I am available to hear confessions during Friday office hours, after Saturday Vespers, and other times, all of which must be by scheduled appointment.
  3. During confession, the Priest and penitent will both wear masks and remain six feet apart, including during the prayer of Absolution, during which the Priest will raise his epitrachelion toward the penitent to give the blessing.
  4. The confession itself is currently permitted to be done over the phone, with just the Absolution done in person at the church. If you prefer to make your confession in this way, let me know and we can make arrangements.
  5. Those of higher risk or otherwise have special considerations that would prevent them from coming to the Liturgy can make special arrangements with me to come to the church at an appointed time to pray and receive the Holy Eucharist. In such a case, it is expected that the communicant has properly prepared themselves beforehand, including making their Confession if they have not done so recently. NOTE: Receiving the Holy Eucharist outside of the Liturgy is done in extraordinary circumstances out of economia. Receiving in the context of the Liturgy remains the norm and no other form of reception should be thought of as a general alternative, but only necessary when an unusual need arises.
  6. Other Sacraments are currently encouraged to be postponed, but special arrangements can be made on a case-by-case basis.
 
Thank you for your careful attention to all these important details. If you have any particular questions on anything contained herein, please email us.
 
We must all work together to maintain the highest safety, for doing so is an act of loving service we do for one another. In that spirit, continue to pray for one other, for our community, and for all those suffering in so many ways on account of this virus. Let us not be divided, but bound together by our common struggle, seeking to overcome this present evil with good.