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Without Shame or Fear: Resuming In-Person Worship at IHS

“For I, the Lord your God,

hold your right hand;

it is I who say to you, 'Do not fear,

I will help you.'"

Isaiah 43:13

The last few months have been a sometimes confusing and often fearful time for many at IHS. As Christians, we are not children of fear, but children of Light, children of the God of all Creation. We are not slaves to fear. We move forward in faith, called to continue our mission of reconciliation to a world full of hurt, division, and need.

The good news is that God will help us, and be with us in the weeks ahead as we start holding in-person Holy Eucharist again at our parish. Governor Tom Wolf moved Delaware County into Pennsylvania’s designated “yellow phase” on June 5th. The Diocese of Pennsylvania is working within the state’s guidelines, but not dependent on the same timeline for reentry. IHS created a Transition Committee that has been working hard with our parish staff and vestry to develop a reentry plan so that we can celebrate the mysteries of the Church in a way that maximizes safety for everyone who comes to worship.

The Diocese of Pennsylvania is calling this reentry time “Phase 2” of a three phase plan. For the last few months we have been in Phase 1, with online worship only and no in-person events. Our building has been closed, but our community has been active and present online, ministering to our members and our community. Phase 2 will begin for us at IHS on Sunday June 28th, when we will begin to offer limited, in-person Holy Eucharist worship services.

We cannot guarantee that coming to worship at IHS will be safe from contracting COVID-19. Until there is a vaccine, there will continue to be a level of risk associated with any group activity, even with limits and extreme caution. Please consider your own risk level, health, and any underlying conditions you might have, and make the best decision for you and your household as to whether you plan to return to in-person worship. During Phase 2 we will continue to offer online worship so that each and every member of our IHS family of faith can worship with us.

Our Phase 2 worship might look very different, but we will still be worshiping with beautiful music, scripture, the proclamation of the Gospel, and receiving the Holy Eucharist.

We will be asking those who plan to attend to take precautions with us. First, we will be requiring that households commit to social distancing, staying six feet away from those from other households at all times. Each household, whether you are alone or with a group, will sit in their own pew. In order to keep these distancing measures, we’ll be limited to how many pews we can use each week. To accommodate, we’ll be asking you to sign up for worship services so we can keep within our attendance limits. We’ll be using an easy online form to have you sign up for church. Simply select one of the Household Unit slots available and let us know how many people will be coming to church. We’ll be opening two weeks at a time, but we ask that you please at first only select one week to give others a chance to sign up as well. For our “low tech” households, we’ll be giving first priority to you by making phone calls and adding you to the form if you wish to come and worship.

Second, we’ll be asking you to take your temperature beforehand so you know you are fever free. Our ushers will ask you a few simple questions to ensure you are symptom free, and we’ll be keeping track of who attends in case we need to make you aware of a case of COVID-19 at IHS. Everyone attending will be required to wear a mask except when receiving the Eucharist. Extra masks will be available. There will be a sanitizing station at the door, sanitizer and tissues in the pews, and a sanitizing station for receiving communion. While there will be no church singing, we invite you to hum along with music played by our new music director. Holy Eucharist will be offered “in one kind” by receiving the bread, but the wine will not be shared in Phase 2. Please rest assured that the fullness of the Holy Eucharist is received in the bread.

In addition to worshipping in our sanctuary, some weeks we will worship outside in our parking lot, as there are many safety benefits to being outside for worship. Our plan is for July 5th worship to be held outside. While our total number of attendees for outdoor worship is still capped at 25, we will not be limited by how many pews are available.

While all of these may seem like very strict restrictions, they are designed by the Diocese of Pennsylvania and our Transition Committee at IHS to make worshipping together in person possible in the safest way. We ask for your cooperation with these restrictions, and we hope to make worshipping positive and prayerful. We know by faith that God will hold our hands through this time and lead us onward toward a time when once again many of these restrictions will be lifted.

Our IHS family of faith remains strong and dedicated to our mission in Drexel Hill and beyond to strengthen and restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. We look forward to seeing you either in-person or online in Phase 2. And while we pray for you during these challenging times, we ask that you join us in praying for the entire IHS family of faith, for health, safety, and faithfulness to our calling as followers of Jesus.

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