COVID 19 Updates

Covid-19 Update on The Feast of St. Thomas, December 21, 2021

Dear parishioners and friends, 

The Vestry, Wardens and Clergy have considered and discussed the recent news about the pandemic. We are trying to balance two years of effort by the parish and its leaders to protect the most vulnerable with our desire to have our Christian community gathered on one of our most important celebrations at Christmas. As we wrote in August, we are in a difficult time where there is no consensus about how to handle the ongoing pandemic. We have a diversity of viewpoints at St. Peter’s, which is both a blessing and a challenge. In times like these, it means we must have forbearance and commitment to love one another as Christ loves us.

We believe we need to demonstrate our compassion for others whenever possible through receiving vaccinations and boosters, masking, distancing, and quarantining when appropriate. As Philippians 2:4 reminds us, we should look “to the interests of others” as we mask, even when already vaccinated and boosted because vaccinated people can still transmit the virus to others. We have heard about a few recent reports of vaccinated and boosted individuals testing positive for the virus. As the coronavirus caseload is increasing in other parts of the country and yet remaining fairly steady locally, our zip code does not yet reflect the Omicron variant surge but that may change as holiday travel increases.

Standing with the larger Episcopal church, we at St. Peter’s encourage everyone to be vaccinated and receive “boosters” before congregating. 

Help us keep church a safe place to gather and worship as we seek to protect others.  In order to love our neighbors this Christmas Eve and for the foreseeable future, we encourage masks for all. We require masking for those not vaccinated and strongly encourage masking for those not yet “boosted” against Covid-19. 

If you have tested positive, exhibit symptoms or feel you have been exposed, please quarantine, get tested, worship online and do not come to the church campus until you’re certain you do not have the virus. Those who have traveled, who are not fully vaccinated and “boosted”, or who have been in contact with unvaccinated people should mask, undergo testing and socially distance themselves and consider worshiping on Youtube. We recommend that everyone undergo regular testing, but especially those who have recently traveled or who are hosting travelers, or who have been in close contact with unvaccinated and/or unboosted individuals. 

To summarize, here are our current pandemic precautions:

  • Masks are still required indoors on St. Peter’s campus for those who are unvaccinated and are strongly encouraged for those not “boosted” or who have had exposure or recently traveled, including eligible children. 

  • Masks will be available at all entrances for your use and all are encouraged to use them. 

  • The Christmas pageant and worship is still happening as planned, with these two caveats above.

  • We will invite guests to give us contact information for contact-tracing on clip boards near the entrances.

  • If you test positive, exhibit symptoms of illness or feel you have been exposed, please get tested, quarantine, notify the staff and do not come to the church campus.

  • We will continue to offer the pandemic-adapted Eucharist during our worship services. It should allow for an almost-typical experience on Youtube and in-person, which is geared toward those who are vaccinated and boosted. We have “simplified” our liturgies to be shorter  and more physically-distanced than our pre-pandemic norms, such as refraining from announcing the Gospel in the midst of the congregation. 

  • We ensured that all Clergy, Lectors, Lay Eucharistic Ministers (LEMs), and Intercessors are vaccinated and boosted. 

  • Right now, the Choir is all vaccinated/boosted and committed to distancing, testing, and quarantining when appropriate, wearing specialized singing masks if transmission sharply increases, and not processing in the liturgies nor receiving Communion at the rail for Christmas Eve. 

  • Ministers will wear masks while distributing Communion and will only remove them to speak. We recommend receiving Communion in “one kind”, meaning, only the Body of Christ (the bread) or directly from the Chalice, without “dipping” the Bread.

  • Online worshippers may still pick up bulletins and Communion wafers outside the church office, as always. We are offering online worship at both 5 PM and 8:30 PM for Christmas Eve and every Sunday. We offer Zoom prayer services five times per week and online Bible Study as well so we can stay distanced and yet connected to God and each other.

  • We will keep attuned to health officials and keep the congregation apprised of changes to our pandemic response via email and verbal announcements. As has been true throughout this pandemic, our policies will account for both public health guidance and the direction of our Bishop. You may find the Bishop’s most recent statement from May 2021 here.

 

Overall, we are now a “hybrid church” that offers the full gamut online and in-person. This is one way we are adjusting to the lingering pandemic and allowing ourselves to seize the moment as one in which to grow. 

While many of us are feeling the very tiresome effects of the pandemic, we are very proud of the ways St. Peter’s people choose to demonstrate adaptability to the above-mentioned precautions. We are a strong community that knows how to improvise and overcome any challenge. In faith, we move forward!

Thank you for your continued prayers, presence and patience in this extended Covid-tide. May you be blessed at the end of Advent and may you enjoy a Merry Christmas. 

Sincerely,

The Reverend Kelly Steele (Priest-In-Charge), Hal Evans (Senior Warden), Kathy Field (Junior Warden)

A Prayer for Quiet Confidence (from The Book of Common Prayer, page 832)

O God of peace, who teaches us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your  presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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Covid Update 08-31-2021: What We’re Doing Now

 

Dear parishioners and friends,

 

We are in a difficult moment in this country where there is no social consensus about how to handle the pandemic.  This lack of consensus is also reflected in the diversity of viewpoints expressed in our own congregation.

 

As a reminder, the CDC updated its masking guidance on Tuesday, July 27, 2021 to recommend that fully vaccinated individuals resume wearing face coverings in public, indoor settings in areas of substantial or high COVID-19 transmission. In accordance with these recommendations and requests of local government officials, face coverings are strongly encouraged for all individuals while at St. Peter’s, regardless of vaccination status.  We believe this to be important as it has been clinically proven that fully vaccinated people can still transmit the virus.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to masking, those who have traveled or been in contact with unvaccinated people or who are not fully vaccinated should mask, undergo testing, and socially distance themselves. We have heard a few reports of local vaccinated individuals testing positive, mostly while traveling and/or visiting with unvaccinated people. If you have tested positive or feel you have been exposed, please quarantine and do not come to the church. Help us keep our church a safe place to gather and worship as we seek to protect others.

 

Given the spread of the Delta Variant of Covid-19 and concern with the increase in positive cases and the potential impact locally, we have taken the following steps:

 

  • We will continue to offer the Eucharist during our Sunday services, but with incremental changes to our liturgy to adapt to the shifting pandemic. It should allow for an almost-typical experience on Youtube and in-person, which is geared toward those who are vaccinated.

  • As a reminder, there are several worship options to provide varying degrees of social distancing and risk mitigation: (1) YouTube live-streaming; (2) 8:00 am in-person worship includes no singing and is generally less populated; and, (3) the 10:15 am in-person worship services includes singing so masks are strongly encouraged for those who are fully-vaccinated and required for the unvaccinated during the service. Those who participate at 10:15 am and would like to socially distance may be seated in the South Transept (closest to the pulpit).

  • Presently, all members of the choir are fully vaccinated and committed to distancing, testing, and quarantining when appropriate. They are also considering wearing specialized singing masks, and will not be moving through the aisle (“processing”) in the liturgies.

  • Youtube live-streaming worshippers may still pick up bulletins and Communion wafers outside the church office.

  • We have “simplified” our liturgies to be shorter than our pre-pandemic norms and recommend receiving Communion in “one kind”, meaning, only the Body of Christ (the bread).

  • We require that all lectors, lay Eucharistic ministers, and intercessors be vaccinated.

  • At the request of the Vestry, we will modify coffee hour to accommodate both indoor and outdoor attendance by opening the doors to the covered porch area beginning on Sept 12.

  • We are offering Zoom prayer services four days per week on Facebook Live at 4 PM (can be viewed at any time), preparing for Zoom Bible Studies in the fall, adult forums done in a hybrid fashion and youth group done with masking requirements.

  • We ask all committees and committee chairs to request masking and social distancing when gathering and/or use the Zoom format which is available to those who request it

  • The office has tightened precautions and requests all visitors wear masks and adhere to our 10 AM - 2 PM walk-in hours. All staff members are available by appointment, email or phone.

  • We will keep the congregation apprised of changes to our pandemic policies via email and verbal announcements on Sundays. As has been true throughout this pandemic, our policies will account for both public health guidance and the direction of our bishop. You may find the Bishop’s most recent statement here.

 

Overall, we are creating a “hybrid church” that offers the full gamut online and in-person. This is one way we are adjusting to the lingering pandemic and allowing ourselves to seize the moment as one in which to grow.

 

While many of us are feeling the tiresome effects of the pandemic we are very proud of the flexibility and adaptability shown by all  in accommodating seemingly ever changing worship protocols. We are a strong community that knows how to improvise and overcome any challenge. In faith, we move forward!

 

Thank you for your continued prayers, presence and patience in this extended Covid-tide.

 

Sincerely,

The Reverend Kelly Steele & Hal Evans

Priest-In-Charge and Senior Warden

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From our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Frank Logue on July 21:
News of rising COVID-19 case counts in Georgia driven by the Delta finding pockets of unvaccinated persons prompts me to write to you in order to provide reassurance as you plan for the coming weeks and months. I have no plans to change the present guidance. A larger move such as Governor Kemp imposing a new health order or the CDC reversing their stance on behaviors for those who are fully vaccinated would be the type of new information that could cause me to revisit this.
 
The difference from the post-Christmas surge is that we now have vaccinations that are proving effective in fighting the virus, even the new variants. I know that in many of our congregations, we have extremely high percentages of vaccinated persons in worship. In some cases we know 100% of those gathering are fully vaccinated, so that the risk even for unvaccinated visitors is miniscule.
 
We do have fewer children attending in many congregations, but where they are in person for worship you may want to consider how to encourage best practices. For example, at our three sessions of Family Camp at Honey Creek, everyone wore masks indoors so that the children present were not the lone mask wearers. And if the case counts in your area get back to numbers seen earlier in the pandemic, the color-coded charts required earlier remain a resource to your vestry in deciding how to mitigate risks. But in every case, you can make your own plans knowing that given the effectiveness of vaccines, you need not be concerned that a new mandate is pending from me as your bishop.

May 19, 2021: The Bishop has issued the following statement and interim guidance that allows Vestries and Priests-In-Charge to consider their contexts and move to "Phase II" which allows vaccinated individuals to unmask, but still requires masking for unvaccinated people. Your patience and prayers are much appreciated during this transitional time. Here are our new policies:

  1. Registration is no longer required to attend. There is now no maximum attendance or service duration limit. Our services typically last about 1.5 hours. 

  2. When entering the Nave, you will be asked to find a seat on one of the bright green circles in order to preserve 3-6 ft of social distancing between households/pods. Three feet of social distancing between households/pods is still in effect for everyone, with no one seated directly behind another in the pews.

  3. Masks and social distancing are required for unvaccinated individuals or individuals not fully vaccinated (please consider joining us for YouTube worship or 8 AM worship and consider sitting in the South Transept for 10:15 AM, which has greater distancing, 6 feet between households). An usher will assist you. 

  4. Masks are only encouraged for fully vaccinated individuals, especially when singing at 10:15 AM. 

  5. Everyone is now encouraged to sing on Sundays alongside our choir, which will resume processing.

  6. Communion will now be taken at the rail, with 3 feet distancing between pods using the green dots for guidance.

  7. Live-streaming: The 8 AM and 10:15 AM worship schedule will continue (both will be live-streamed on Youtube for now, although 8 AM will have it's last stream on June 20).

  8. Coffee hour is resuming with only coffee but we need volunteers to bring refreshments (let Susanne know if you are willing to bring something and she'll create a rotation).

  9. Ministry groups internal to the church may reserve space with Susanne, our parish administrator, and meet, 3 feet apart, masks optional for those vaccinated. Unvaccinated people must defer to and mask on behalf of those with medical conditions or children who cannot be vaccinated in order to "love our neighbors" well. Ministry leaders are strongly encouraged to check with their groups about vaccination status prior to meetings to protect others’ privacy.

  10. Third parties may request to rent church space, but must sign a liability waiver, be approved by the Vestry and adhere to our most recent COVID-19 policies outlined in the Diocesan document linked above. They must submit this form and fill out the room rental agreements. Our parish hall can safely accommodate 100 people (masked, 3ft apart) for third party rentals.  Groups may meet 3 feet apart, masks optional for those vaccinated. Unvaccinated people must defer to and mask on behalf of those with medical conditions or children who cannot be vaccinated in order to "love our neighbors" well. Group leaders are strongly encouraged to check with their groups about vaccination status prior to meetings to protect others’ privacy.

Thank you, everyone, for your continued patience and understanding during this transitional time. Through it all, we are balancing the need for safety with the need to be together. No matter what, “in faith, we move forward” together.