Returning to the Sanctuary

Dear Members & Friends of West Raleigh,

With joy and gratitude, relief and longing I join the Critical Care Team and the Session in announcing that West Raleigh will move back into the Sanctuary to worship together on Sunday, July 11th! It has been 65 Sundays since we worshiped inside the Sanctuary at the corner of Vanderbilt and Horne. By the time we gather on July 11th it will have been 69 Sundays.

So much has changed – we have lost saints, celebrated births and baptisms and welcomed new members. We have navigated new technology and initiated two new Task Forces, strengthening our resolve to the work of anti-racism and becoming a safe and welcoming space, allied with and advocating for those in the LGBTQ+ community. Through all of the change and uncertainty, our core identity as the people of God, gathered to worship – every week – never changed. Thanks be to God!

When and how we come back into the Sanctuary was guided by several factors – the science, your responses to the survey and the logistics of rebuilding the teams and protocols for worship all played a part. With Wake County vaccinations rates rising and community spread declining and the opening of the vaccine to 12-15 year olds, the scientific indicators the Critical Care Team has been monitoring began to point towards a safe reopening. We received additional confirmation from the survey. With over 90 responses (our largest, fastest response to a survey ever!), we learned that 100% of those who responded either were or will be fully vaccinated by July 11th! With that information in hand, we began to think through ushering protocols, congregational singing, refreshments and the necessity of masks. In the meantime, the Session also approved additional funding to purchase new cameras that are currently being mounted in the Sanctuary so that we can continue to stream worship with the same high quality that we have come to appreciate the last 65 Sundays.

So, what will worship look and sound like when we gather on July 11th? Here are a few things you can expect–

  • We will continue to wear masks when gathering in the sanctuary for worship. There are several reasons for this –
    • Worship is intergenerational and our youngest children remain unvaccinated. Just like schools are maintaining mask mandates indoors, we will also ask that everyone remain masked when inside for worship. This protects the youngest among us as well as those whose may have a compromised immune system.
    • The survey revealed a significant number of people feel more comfortable coming into the Sanctuary for worship if everyone is masked. We are a covenant community that seeks to provide a welcoming space for everyone, and we hope that easing back into worship, remaining committed to the health, safety and comfort of the Body will give everyone the cushion they need for a gentle landing back in the Sanctuary.
    • The Critical Care Team remains cautious, monitoring the rise of variants and vaccine effectiveness. Although we are eager to resume worship and our life together, we may not be done with some public health and safety measures quite yet.
  • We will not need registrations and there will not be caps to the numbers in the Sanctuary.
  • We will sing! Although the choir will not be making a full return until the fall, we will continue to have song leaders to help us make a joyful sound before the Lord! Again, mask-wearing makes this both possible and more comfortable.
  • The Prayer Book will return to use, and we will have the weekly Prayer List updated and available.
  • We will maintain additional health and safety protocols –
    • Contactless entry and bulletin pick-up
    • Folks will be encouraged to sit with some distance between families or friend groups that may already be sharing space outside of worship
    • We won’t have weekly refreshments until the fall (although there will be a frozen treat outside, after worship on July 11th)

There will surely be more updates and information as July 11th draws near, but I hope this helps spread the word and prepare us to gather together and apart as one season gives way to another, and we come home to worship in the Sanctuary.

May the Spirit lead the way,
Katherine

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