STEC To Resume In-Person Services Sunday, June 14

We plan to resume in-person services in our church on Sunday, June 14th. We will continue to live stream our service.

Summer 2020 In Person Schedule

  • Sunday, 10 am: One Service
  • Wednesday, 6pm: Holy Communion for older and at risk persons.

Fall 2020

  • We plan to return to our regular Sunday schedule

We are delighted that it appears that we will be able to meet in person again. Circumstances, however, may change and cases of COVID-19 may increase again. We remain in consultation with our regional bishop, Hector Monterroso, and will let you know if we must change our plans.

It is important to understand that when we return our service will not be the same as it was before Covid-19. We have obligations to our community and, most of all, to our most vulnerable parishioners as we seek to worship together again. Some of our precautions will be unpopular with some of our parishioners

When we meet for worship on June 14th:

  • Masks will be required.
    • I know and understand that wearing of masks is a hot-button issue. I understand why that is. In our recent surveys we found that about half of our parishioners were very concerned about worship if there were no masks, while another significant portion did not want to wear masks.
    • We are requiring masks to protect others from droplets from the mask-wearer’s mouth and nose, not to protect the mask-wearer. When we wear masks, we are trying to protect our fellow worshippers. We are not only trying to protect them, we are also trying to protect those who live and come into contact with them.
    • In my view, while the wearing of masks is an inconvenience, it is a mild inconvenience that helps us do our part in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. If we have people without masks, many beloved members of the church will not only cease attending worship, they will do so believing their brothers and sisters in Christ are being reckless with their health. We don’t want that. We want people to feel welcomed, cared for, and loved — sacrificially.
    • If you don’t want to come to church because we are requiring masks, I understand. I hope you understand why we’re doing it. I hope you’ll change your mind and come, though. We would love to see you and worship with you. Please continue to worship with us online.
  • Social distancing will be required.
    • After computing square footage and pew space, we believe we have room for 60 parishioners and 10 visitors. Households should sit 6 feet apart. Of course, households may sit together.
    • Social distancing will also be observed in the chancel and sanctuary.
  • We will have one lay reader who will come forward from the congregation.
  • As has been our practice in the summer, we will have one cantor to lead our singing.
  • We will have ushers who will dispense masks to all who don’t have them and who will help direct folks.
  • We will have orders of worship available to pick up in the narthex and we will also have an option to download an order of worship electronically for you to follow along with on your portable electronic device.
  • No prayer books or hymnals will be available for use for the time being. We will return them to the church as conditions improve.
  • We will open restrooms around the campus to keep them from becoming a bottleneck.
  • We will exit from four exits to reduce bottlenecks. The ushers will help direct people.
  • There will be no receiving line for the clergy.
  • We will not have any coffee hours or potlucks until it is safe to do so.

Holy Communion Changes

  • While we will continue to consecrate a bit of wine in the chalice, no one — including clergy — will drink from the cup. We will all partake of the bread. Only the celebrant will be in the sanctuary. The assisting clergy will remain in the chancel area.
  • The paten will cover the chalice and the ciborium will hold the host and wafers. The ciborium will have its lid on, making sure none of the elements are exposed.
  • The celebrant will celebrate with his own prayer book on the liturgical north end of the Table (as you are looking at the Table, the left side).
    • Anglican Evangelicals celebrated on the north end for centuries after the Marian exiles returned to England in the 16th Century. This is rich in tradition. This will be a nod to our forbearers as well as a great means of protecting the congregation.
  • After consecration, the clergy will put on masks and gloves and bring Communion to those in the pews. The congregation will have Communion in their seats.

Of course, if conditions worsen, we may need to do livestream-only again for a while. If anyone comes down with the virus at St. Thomas’, we will probably need to go into quarantine for a couple of weeks as well.

Despite the shift in national attention and declining cases, the coronavirus remains a threat. A Roman Catholic priest here in Houston, Father Donnell Kirchner, contracted it a few weeks ago and died. Five members of his order contracted it as well. More personally for me, Manson B. Johnson II, pastor of Holman Street Baptist Church in the Third Ward, died this past Sunday morning of COVID-19. He was very encouraging to me after we experienced the flood and I personally grieve his loss. He didn’t have to take notice of a young, white Episcopalian but he did and I appreciate it.

In taking these precautions, as inconvenient and irritating as they are, we are exercising our Christian liberty to serve and protect our community. I can tell you that many in the parish have health problems of which others are unaware.

When we inconvenience ourselves in service to our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, we are loving them and ministering to them. Let’s do that.

— David Browder