“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the sun.” The third chapter of Ecclesiastes reminds us that the appropriateness of any action shifts with the circumstances that surround it. What is right in one moment is not right in another, and vice versa.
In March of 2020, the teachings of Ecclesiastes became particularly poignant. We were advised that we could no longer engage in activities—gym classes, eating out, office work—we had once assumed were harmless. We couldn’t even gather together with anyone outside our household. Indeed, there was “a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing” (Ecclesiastes 3:5).
Eventually, we started wearing masks. Although various versions of lockdowns ended, many of us continued to work from home. Most of us got vaccinated. At St. Bart’s, we closed our building to the public and even our own members. When we again reopened for in person worship, we found ourselves implementing practices—mask requirements, vaccine mandates—we previously never considered.
For over a year now, we have faithfully worshipped together while wearing masks. It hasn’t been perfect, but we’ve managed. Since late November, we have asked in person worshippers to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 before entering our building.
Now we find ourselves at a new moment in the pandemic. I met with our medical advisors last week, and their message to me was clear: COVID-19 is still with us, but it does not pose the same threat it did in 2020, 2021, or even early 2022. It’s time to do something different.
Accordingly, as of Thursday, September 1, 2022:
- Masks will be optional for in person worship and all other St. Bart’s activities. Masks will continue to be welcome at St. Bart’s, but they will no longer be required.
- Full vaccination against COVID-19 will be strongly encouraged, but no longer required, for in person worshippers. Vaccination will remain mandatory for all St. Bart’s staff.
Along with these shifts in our COVID-19 protocols, we are happy to announce that the follow changes will also take place:
- As of Tuesday, September 6, the church will be open to visitors from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. It will also be open on Sunday afternoons between the end of the 11 AM service and the beginning of the 5 PM service.
- As of Wednesday, September 7, our 12:05 PM Eucharist will resume on Wednesday afternoons.
We realize that these changes will be celebrated by some more than others. If you’re particularly worried about your exposure to COVID-19, we hope you’ll continue to wear your mask and look for a place within our cavernous space that is more distant from others. The option to livestream the service from home will also remain available. The Rector and I will continue to consult our medical advisors on COVID-related matters, and we are ready to alter our protocols once again should that become necessary.
As we approach the fall, our medical advisors have asked us to remind you to be vaccinated not only against COVID-19 but also against the seasonal flu. The science is clear: vaccines save lives. You can save your own life and the lives of others by doing your part.
Thank you for the patience and flexibility you have shown as we have navigated a two-and-a-half-year pandemic. As the pandemic continues, we are grateful for your ongoing understanding and support.
The Reverend Peter D. Thompson