Dear St. Paul’s family, 
Thank you for filling out the regathering survey. The list of restrictions is pretty daunting, and I know it was quite shocking for some of us to see them all in one place: all those “Thou Shalt Nots”. What about the “Thou Cansts”? 
What CAN we do? 
There is a lot we can do as people of faith even in the midst of the current restrictions. We can make phone calls, send emails, write letters to each other. We can pray. We can sing in our own homes. We can participate in the online services and other activities. We can do drive-by visits or arrange to visit with friends in back yards. We can make donations to organizations seeking to provide relief to those suffering. And soon we will have some opportunities to come into the church for a musical performance or quiet meditation. I know it will be comforting just to spend time in the sacred space. 
I want to emphasize that my priority and that of our regathering task force is not figuring out the minimal measures we have to take in order to comply with the authorities, but rather, what’s the safest we can make the church for our people. 
Lots of good questions were raised in the comments section of the survey, and I’m going to address a number of them now. Bear with me – this will take more than a few minutes! 
How interested would you be in attending one of our live services on campus with the restrictions listed above in place?  – Comments 
We are over 65.  Are the guidelines saying that we should never attend in-person worship? 

The guidelines strongly discourage people in high-risk groups from attending. The government has given over-65 as a blanket definition of being high-risk. Those over 65 are not prohibited, and I shrink from the thought of asking parishioners to be enforcers at the door, but I would beg you to consider not only your own health, but the guilt that a fellow parishioner would suffer if they inadvertently made an older friend sick. 
To many restrictions. I understand masks and temp checks. I understand no touching. But no bells or smells? No vestments ? No choir ?  

Not sure if this is a rhetorical question, but just to be sure, we would be doing a minimalist liturgy so as to involve as few people as possible at the altar, allowing for more people to attend within the maximum number, and the less equipment we use such as thuribles or vestments, the less there is to clean after each service. 

For those of us who will chose not to attend worship in person, will there electronic alternatives? In real time? 

We would resume the live-streaming at 10:30 that we have been doing for three years. However, creating a mosaic of online services and live services would increase staff workload. 


Evensong, as opposed to plain Evening Prayer, involves a choir and hymns. If you remove the singing element from Evensong it is no longer Evensong. 
Small masses only less than 50 people or even smaller should occur with no communion. 

This would mean adding services, with just two priests under 65 to lead them. It’s quite tiring to preach and preside twice or three times in a row, which we do now: it’s comparable to the stress of performing a play or a concert. Adding more services is a daunting prospect. 

It seems like a lot of work for the cathedral to track all these requirements.  We have limited priest to serve and if we went back to cathedral there is even more cause to be careful as now there is more exposure to them and the rest of the congregants. 

Yes – we have two priests under 65. The more we are exposed, the more chance of us becoming sick. 

if there is a face mask requirement and proper distance – why the prevention in no group responses?  

The group recitation restriction comes from the government. The precautions are cumulative: the more we do the safer we are. We are not looking for the minimum that we can get away with, but for the safest possible conditions. 

If you require folks to bring their own BCP/hymnal/etc, will you offer to buy those books for folks who cant afford them? Or can the community come together to offer that for folks?  

We are planning to loan out the prayer books and Hymnals in the pews so that families can take one or more home, use them for online services, and bring them to church with them when the time is right. We may also provide comprehensive orders of service that will be used once and then discarded. 

Will need directions on how Ushers can be most effective and how many are required 


I miss communion. Why can’t we bring our own cracker, raise it while the priest consecrates it, then eat it? 

You are in good company with this question! I have raised it with the Bishop. The rubrics, or directions, in the prayer book, require the priest to hold or lay a hand on the bread (and wine) when we consecrate. Our bishop interprets this to mean that we must touch the container. It is above my pay grade or hers to change that requirement. 

It would be purely to feel the sacred space. 

Yes, this is important to many of us. We are working on non-worship events that will allow us to spend time in the cathedral. 

When will the daily office be permitted?” 

It will be later because of the cleaning requirements and staff time limitations: we need to focus first on making the church available for larger numbers of people. 
 With no Eucharist no reason to attend. 

For many, the opportunity to be in community, to pray together, and to spend time in the sacred space of the cathedral are equally compelling reasons to attend 

Honestly, these restrictions seem draconian to me and go way beyond common sense.  A very low percentage of those who are sick with this virus die. 

The restrictions are placed on us by civic and church authorities. Following them is the only way we will be able to open at all. 

How likely would you be to attend in person if there was a new service, possibly outdoor, with the safety measures in place but not structured the same as our traditional worship?  – Comments 
I understand no choir but could we sing if we are outside? 

Unlikely, as the aerosol effect of breathing is multiplied by singing.  

Would it [an outdoor service]  have all of the above restrictions? If the outdoors allows for music, responses, and/or additional elements. 

All restrictions, except for the maximum attendance number, would still apply. Being outside simply adds another layer of protection. If we are worshiping outdoors in order to add a layer of safety, why would we zero out the benefit by adding a risky activity? From the county’s guidelines: “Activities such as singing and group recitation negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing.” 

Would you attend a service you had to make a reservation for?  – Comments 

Not clear. What do you have in mind? [re reservations]. 

The purpose is to ensure that people don’t arrive only to find that the max attendance has been reached. Sign up in advance by phone or online. Once the limit of 100 is reached, no more reservations would be accepted. We would reserve a few spots for visitors. 

 How interested would you be in continuing to attend our services online in lieu of in-person services for the foreseeable future? – 

It would be great to have it originate in the cathedral space, if possible. 

Our priority is to keep everyone as safe as possible; that includes the clergy and staff. So we are staying home to protect ourselves and each other, especially those over 65. Secondly, we have been broadcasting worship from our homes rather than allowing ourselves to be in the church because it doesn’t seem fair for clergy to enjoy a benefit that the congregation cannot. We are all in this together. Third, the cleaning requirements before and after every service would mean added work for staff, just so that the clergy could broadcast from the church. 

See you on Sunday! 

Like this post? Share it with your friends and family...

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

2 thoughts on “Dean Letter: Regathering questions to answer”

  1. I don't think having services outside is at all practical, and really has no advantages. For me, the best solution for the future, until we can resume normal services,is to allow a combination of masked attendance of a limited number of people, who can meditate, silently pray, or simply sit quietly in the cathedral, along with weekly online services. This would allow a sort of psychological "blending" of experience, with the memory of actually being in the cathedral present while you interact with the screen.

    Ken Gary

  2. I take issue with the commenter who says "only a small number of people who get this virus die" as though that justifies the very real risk. Over 115,000 Americans have died in just a few months (arguably some of them unnecessarily), many more will have serious long term health consequences. And, the risk of illness and death goes up dramatically for older people. Many of our SPC family fall into those at-risk groups.

    We know that close quarters indoors, with loud voices or singing are also significant risk factors for this disease. I don't see how we can go back any time soon.

    I applaud Dean Penny and the staff for being honest and transparent in their deliberations.

    Susan F.


Leave a Comment