Recently, Governor Ralph Northam announced welcome easing of restrictions on public gatherings in the Commonwealth of Virginia that go into effect on April 1st, 2021 (read the full text here). This has some immediate effects on our community as well. In addition, with the rise of vaccinations, antibodies from previous infections, and an increased demand in attendance for our Sunday services, we are pleased to announce that we are offering expanded capacity by using the fellowship hall for overflow. Let me address each item in order.
Under the April 1st guidelines, religious services of 50 people or less indoors no longer need to strictly adhere to all the guidelines for large group gatherings, other than mask-wearing, except where it would interfere with the free exercise of religion or participation in religious ritual. In our case, this exception primarily means receiving Communion, but includes preaching and singing by clergy. Gatherings for religious services of over 50 persons need to follow the full guidelines, including physical distancing. In our case, we cannot normally fit more than 50 people in the sanctuary under those guidelines due to spacing requirements, so we will continue to follow them as required.
Since our weekday and Saturday services do not normally exceed 50 people indoors (including up to 32 attendees in the pews), except during Holy Week and Vespers with Group Confession, we will no longer require registration for all services, though registration will still be available to help us track attendance and let visitors understand our procedures. Ushers and door wardens may or may not be assigned, and participants may be asked to seat themselves using the existing spacing markings on the pews. Wearing masks and sanitizing hands will still be required.
On Sundays, when there is a demand for attendance in excess of 32 attendees in the pews, we will still require registration, and make use of ushers and door wardens. The first 30-32 attendees to arrive will be able to be seated in the sanctuary. In addition, up to 6 altar spaces for servers (including the priest and deacon), up to 8 spaces for the choir, and 4 for door wardens and ushers will be reserved in the sanctuary. This has been our weekly configuration since June 2020.
To accommodate demand in excess of our 50-person sanctuary capacity, up to an additional 30 spots will be available in the fellowship hall. Once the sanctuary meets capacity, further arrivals will be directed by our greeters to the overflow area. Those in the fellowship hall will view the service on the monitor and be able to receive Communion during the service when either the priest or deacon brings the Chalice downstairs. We highly encourage those who attend to do so in parties of two or more when possible to improve our capacity. Our priority is providing as many people as possible with the life-giving Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As the weather improves, we also welcome those who wish to receive Communion, but could not secure a spot indoors, to be with us outdoors. We will provide you with an opportunity for Communion as well, as you watch the service on your own device or (cont'd on p.4)
(Expanded Services, cont'd) listen through the windows (this is an ancient penitential practice for the humble!). We also hope to provide more opportunities for outdoor fellowship after services now that the outdoor limits on group size have been increased (see our announcement for the Pascha Lamb Roast in this issue.)
Lastly, we will be sending out an anonymous survey later this month to all of you asking about your vaccination status, previous infections, risk factors, comfort levels, etc. so that we may have a better idea of what the level of risk continues to be as our nation approaches “herd immunity.” We would like to have a better idea of our own “flock immunity,” in order to better serve you, and prepare for Pascha.
— Fr. David