As State and Federal guidance has changed and COVID continues to recede in Northern Virginia, Epiphany is adapting its Sunday worship patterns.
Our 8:30 service is now “mask optional” in line with the new guidance that those who have been vaccinated can safely meet together indoors without masks. If you are not wearing a facemask, we will assume you are vaccinated. If you would like to or need to wear a facemask at the 8:30 service, you are more than welcome to continue doing so. As we announced last week, we will also begin singing as a congregation.
Our 10:15 service will continue to require facemasks as we relaunch nursery and Sunday School beginning on May 23. With children under 12 not yet eligible to be vaccinated, we believe it is important to do this, particularly as we encourage families with younger children to return to in-person worship. Our livestream worship will continue to be offered at 10:15.
Other changes are also planned.
- Following the state decision to end capacity limits on May 28, we will remove physical barriers in the sanctuary that have closed off rows and limited seating in rows in time for worship on May 30.
- Paper worship books and bulletins are available alongside the projected responses and lyrics on the monitors at the 10:15 service. The 8:30 service is using the Book of Common Prayer and Hymnal which will be passed out at the beginning of the service and then returned.
- Sunday School and Nursery will remain “mask required” activities at this time. Teachers will wear facemasks and are fully vaccinated. Children over five will also wear masks.
- Our plan is to soon begin offering communion in both kinds by intincting (dipping) the bread into the chalice. We are finalizing our plans to do this in a sanitary way and will still have the option to receive the bread only for those who would prefer.
These are significant steps forward, yet there is still much of our status quo for the last year that we are maintaining as COVID-19 wanes. For some of us, the steps we are taking will seem to be “too much too fast,” and to others “not enough too slow.” I am deeply grateful for how Epiphany has for many months now continued our worship, outreach and community despite the many fractures and disagreements of this time. My hope is that we can continue to do this now. Part of loving each other as Christ loved us (John 13.34) is recognizing that differences of opinion can exist even when all parties are prayerfully making decisions and doing their best.
Finally, I want to end with a word to those who are wondering when (or if) to return to in-person church. If you are vaccinated, and don’t have a condition that precludes it, that time is now. Livestream is wonderful, and it has truly been a lifeline for us, but ultimately a lifeline is intended to help a person get back in the lifeboat.
If you are not vaccinated, or have unvaccinated members in your family, I recognize that things are a bit more complex. That said, we are maintaining some practices at Epiphany specifically to keep you and your family safe. To the best of my knowledge, we have had a perfect track record so far in doing that here at Epiphany. Beyond continuing mask wearing at the 10:15am service, we have installed air scrubbing units in our HVAC system. The system itself turns over the air in the sanctuary between two and three times an hour, providing another layer of protection for all of us.
Friends, you are more than welcome back at Epiphany. It will be wonderful to see you in the weeks ahead.
Church of the Epiphany, Rector