WHERE WE STAND ON IN-PERSON WORSHIP
Dear Friends and Members of St. Francis,
I write this morning with an update on the status of in-person worship and work in our parish. There is really no good news here, except the news that we are watching the data and following the science and the diocesan guidelines closely, and we will continue to do everything we can to keep this parish and its people as safe as possible. This is undoubtedly the most dangerous time we have seen in our community regarding COVID-19 cases and transmission. Yesterday, the PPHD dashboard needle moved into red "severe" status, and the Healthy Nebraska tracking site we use for the diocese shows our 7-day moving average of daily cases at 277, fully 23 times the number of cases with which we could safely reopen (for reference, a month ago on October 9th that number was 14). Our local health system is being stressed substantially, and every week I get word about a new case or two among the people of our parish. By now, most or all of us have had someone close to us test positive. Some are thankfully symptom-free, some have been mildly affected, but some are suffering more serious affects. Please keep the entire parish, and especially those on the prayer list, in your daily prayers for health and healing, as well as our local healthcare workers, who are literally risking their lives at this time.
A couple of changes, then, in how we are working and worshipping at St. Francis.
First, this week I asked Gina to return to working remotely, except when she needs to be in the office for specific tasks such as printing, bookkeeping, etc. One of us will be checking voice messages and mail daily, but the best way to reach Gina for now is through email.
My days and hours haven't changed, but I will be in the building office less and in the home office more. Much of my work these days is online, and phone, emails, and text have always been the most reliable ways to reach me, so this will be not that different. Keep doing what you're doing to communicate with me and I'll be re-upping my efforts to reach out to you, and together we'll stay connected.
Now about in-person worship. This is the thing we all miss the most and are most anxious to get back to as quickly as possible. Based on current and forecasted trends in local cases, we have made the difficult decision to be online and live-streamed only through January 10th. This means, of course, that there will not be in-person worship on Christmas Eve. This breaks my heart. I cannot tell you what being with you and your families means to me at those two services. I have so many fond memories of that late candlelit service, and the early service with the church filled to capacity with adults and children and hymns and laughter and prayer and love -- this is truly the highlight of my year, and maybe yours, too. Sadly, this year we will not have that experience. HOWEVER -- please know that your clergy, vestry, worship leaders, and musicians are all committed to making Christmas worship this year beautiful and meaningful in spite of our COVID limitations around gathering. The details are being worked out as I write this morning, and the creative ideas continue to come in. We will do our level best to connect this year even though distanced.
I will have more to say this Thursday in my email, but for now, since the decision has been made, I wanted to communicate it as quickly as possible so we can all plan appropriately.
Stay safe. Stay home. Wear a mask when you go out. Wash your hands and keep your distance. Connect online and on the phone. Let's take care of one another.
Fr. Mark Selvey
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