PASTORAL LETTER REGARDING THE RE-OPENING OF ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH, WITH Q & A



PASTORAL LETTER REGARDING THE RE-OPENING OF ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH

St. Nicholas Church’s Re-Opening Plan Begins
Wednesday, May 13th!

May 11, 2020
Methodius & Cyril, Equal-to-the Apostles Illuminators of the Slavs

Dear Faithful of St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Church,

Christ is Risen!

I offer my whole-hearted gratitude to each of you for your holy patience over these many difficult weeks. We have suffered through a time of great anxiety, fear, confusion, and unknown, and you have had the added challenge of facing these circumstances while subduing your natural impulse to gather in the church. You have had to be fed by the Church, and feed yourselves, without being nourished with the Holy sacraments. As a pastor, this situation has been immensely painful and frustrating, as it is always my desire to shepherd you and make a safe path for you to the Holy Gifts.
            By the Grace of God, we are entering a time of a phased reopening of the church. We pray that this occurs under the guidance and with the wisdom and discernment of Christ and His Spirit, that we safely return to the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. I ask your prayers as we begin this process, that we might maintain the delicate balance between prudence and faithfulness, neither falling into fearfulness nor into disdain for the well-being of our neighbor. I likewise ask your patience, as I know that the re-opening of the church inspires in each of us a fervent desire to rush to the Church and Her Gifts. Nevertheless, this phased opening will require that we each make room for our neighbor, that we might all, in the end, sit at the Banquet Table.
            This will be a slow and steady process to re-opening, and will be a fluid one. We are hopeful that the trajectory of the situation will only improve as time goes by, but we recognize that this may not be the case and we may need to once again cut back our attendance. May God illumine our path before us!
            Let us remember that all our sacrifices thus far have been done out of love for our neighbor and not out of fear. Perfect love casts out fear, and we know Perfect Love in the Resurrection of Christ and fear nothing. Yet, Perfect Love also tells us, “Love one another even as I have loved you”, and so, becoming ourselves perfect love, we may be confident that our actions are at once fearless and the evidence that we hold all life sacred.
            In order to re-open safely, the guidelines provided below in the “Q & A About Our Re-Opening” are in accordance with the directives from the Antiochian Archdiocese, the local clergy, the St. Nicholas Mission Council, the advice of physicians in our regional Orthodox community, and Tennessee Governor Lee’s “Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship”. As we re-open our parish doors in a limited way, I ask that all of us do our best to cooperate with these new directives.
            All of this may seem like a lot to digest. All of us are hurting due to our circumstances and the decisions that have been made and thrust upon us. If I can do anything for you, please do not hesitate to ask. If in any way I have left you feeling hurt, neglected, misunderstood, or angered, I ask your forgiveness.
            May God grant us His Spirit, that we might be directed with wisdom and discernment, compassion and love, forgiveness and patience, that, strengthened in these virtues, we might rejoice in our Savior Who is our Life and Resurrection.

With Love in the Resurrected Christ,
Fr. Matthew



Q & A About Our Re-Opening


Who can attend services?

Attendance at upcoming services is limited to 1 Priest, 1 Altar Server, 1-2 Chanters, and 10 Laypersons selected by sign-up.

If you are in the following categories, you are strongly encouraged not to sign up for a service until we are at a later phase of re-opening:
·         Over the age of 65
·         Have exhibited any sign of sickness over the week previous to the service you planned to attend
·         If you can be considered a “vulnerable individual”, e.g., you have underlying health conditions or a compromised immune system

How can I get signed up to attend a service?

You can find the sign-up sheet here:

[THE DOCUMENT HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE ONLINE VERSION OF THIS LETTER AND IS ONLY AVAILABLE TO ST. NICHOLAS PARISHIONERS.]

Please count every person from your family who is coming when you sign up.

If you have an issue using the sign-up sheet, please email or call Fr. Matthew to be added to the list.

What services are available?

The sign-up sheet will be updated every month for as long as needed. In order to accommodate as many people as possible, one additional Liturgy will be celebrated each week in addition to the Saturday evening Vespers and Sunday morning Liturgy.

Along with weekend services, services available for sign-up in May include:
·         May 13—9AM—Divine Liturgy for the Feast of Mid-Pentecost
·         May 21—9AM—Divine Liturgy for Ss. Constantine & Helen
·         May 27—8AM & 9AM—Orthros & Divine Liturgy for the Leavetaking of Pascha (considered 1 ‘service’ on the sign-up sheet)
·         May 28—9AM—Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Ascension

How often may I attend?

Divine Liturgies: Please sign up for just one Divine Liturgy per month, to give as many as possible a chance to come. 

Vespers (and other stand-alone services): There is no limit to how many stand-alone Vespers (or other) services you can sign up for; HOWEVER, do not sign up for multiple Vespers services at once. Please allow for others to attend as well.

If I attend Vespers can I still attend Liturgy?

Yes. Vespers attendance does not count as your one sign-up for Liturgy per month.

What if I signed up but am then unable to attend?

If you have signed up and are feeling ill the day of the service, please stay home and rest. Please do not give away your spot without informing Fr. Matthew so that we can properly keep record of those who attend services.

What can I expect when I get to the church building?

All will be asked to enter through the front doors, which will be open until service begins. Once all of those attending are in the building, the doors will be closed. The side door will be locked at all times, and the Fellowship Hall, all classrooms, the library, and the Men’s Bathroom will be locked/closed off. The Women’s Bathroom will be available to everyone.

Hand sanitizer will be sprayed on everyone’s hands when they enter.

Recognizing that masks are protective of the people around us, masks are to be worn by all adults and are strongly encouraged for children over 2 years old. Masks should be worn at all times while in the church except for when partaking of Holy Communion. The church does not currently have masks available, so please do not forget to bring a mask.

All will be directed where to sit in the nave. Individual “households” will be seated together but separate from other “households”. At each spot there will be a bulletin and a book (if applicable and available). All other books, etc., will be removed from the narthex and nave.

You may not kiss the icons in the church, nor the Chalice, nor the Priest’s hand. While you are in the church, you are strongly encouraged to greet other parishioners while maintain proper social distancing, avoiding physical contact.

Because of the data about transmission of the coronavirus via singing, congregational singing is strongly discouraged.

How will I take Holy Communion?

The Chanters or Altar Server will direct the flow of the communion line. The floor is marked indicating where each person in line should stand. When it is your turn to commune, carefully lower/remove your mask, tilt your head back, open your mouth wide, and allow the priest to place the Eucharist in your mouth without your taking it off the spoon, i.e., disallowing your lips to touch the spoon.

Antidoron (the blessed bread) will be handed out by the priest (wearing gloves) after the service is over.

At this time, no confessions will be heard at liturgical services, but will be available by appointment.

What happens after the service?

Disinfectant will be available for you to use to wipe down your seat before you leave. All will exit through the Emergency Exit in the nave. There will be no Coffee Hour or general milling about after services.

Will there be Coffee Hour?

No.

What parts of the church building will be open?

Only the narthex, nave, and Women’s Bathroom will be open. In order to keep from having to clean everything all of the time, all other spaces downstairs and upstairs will be closed/ locked/ off limits. If you are interested in checking a book out of the Library, please ask Fr. Matthew to get it for you if he is available.

Will services still be live-streamed?

Yes. All services will continue to be live-streamed while the majority of the parish is unable to attend. Live-streamed services may be found here:


Since we are unable to have visitors at this time, visitors are likewise encouraged to “visit” our church via our live-stream and our website (www.orthodoxjackson.com), and are encouraged to contact the church office with any questions about the Orthodox faith.

The camera may be moved or blocked during Holy Communion to avoid privacy concerns about people being broadcast online.

If I’m not signed up for a Liturgy, is there a way I can still partake of Holy Communion?

Yes. Fr. Matthew will be available during scheduled open hours of the week to offer Holy Communion from the Reserved Gifts for those in good standing with the Church and who desire the Eucharist. Those open hours will be made public each week in the weekend E-bulletin.

When can I make my Confession?

As stated above, at this time, no confessions will be heard at liturgical services, but will be available by appointment.

Can I come to the church to pray or light a candle?

Yes, there will be scheduled open hours of the week when you may come pray in the church or light a candle. Provided you follow these guidelines:
·         Call Fr. Matthew prior to coming to ensure that the church is open and that too many people are not already in the nave
·         Wear a mask
·         Come into the church through the front doors and enter the nave only
·         Use disinfectant to wipe down your seat before you leave (will be available)
·         Exit through the Emergency Exit in the nave only
Open hours will be made public each week in the weekend E-bulletin.

Will we start having Classes, etc., at the church?

No. All teachings and meetings will continue to meet over Zoom for the foreseeable future.

What happens if someone in the parish tests positive for COVID-19?

Our circumstances are fluid and everything is subject to change. If a member of St. Nicholas Church tests positive for coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, we will immediate cut back our attendance and, in consultation with the Bishop and the Mission Council, determine what further steps to implement.

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NOTE: This document may be amended as needed to reflect the fluidity of circumstances, or if it is found that something has been neglected. -FM