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Worship Updates

Worship Update

November 3, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control has recently categorized Pinellas County as a community with moderate transmission of the virus. At moderate transmission levels, the CDC does not advocate for mask use indoors for those who are vaccinated. As in past months we will continue to lean upon the CDC and other trusted sources to give insight into best practices. Starting Sunday November 7, masks will be optional in our worship gatherings. You may choose to continue wearing or discontinue wearing a mask. Starting November 7, we will resume communing with bread and wine. As with masks we understand that everyone’s comfort levels will be different, with some receiving bread and wine and others receiving only the bread. We affirm our Lord’s presence in each element of the meal.

We pray for sisters and brothers who have experienced the effects of the virus personally or who have lost loved ones because of it.

 

Worship Update
October 3, 2021

We are excited to be returning to in-person worship this Sunday at 8:45 and 11am. Worship will continue to be posted online by noon on Sundays. Drive up communion will be available from 12:30-12:45 on Sundays during October in the back parking lot. We strongly recommend that all worshippers wear masks when they are inside the building.

 

Worship Update
FROM PASTOR JOE / AUG 17
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The past 18+ months have been challenging for all of us. Words and phrases that we never had heard, much less used ourselves, have become part of our everyday conversation. When it comes to our ministries in Christ together—from worship to quilting to learning times and serving opportunities—we have adjusted, in order to continue living the good news as we feel called. To be sure, it has been different.

The times have meant that we have been forced to change schedules, forfeit meals, receptions and other fellowship moments, rearrange meetings, and even miss altogether regular opportunities of giving our time/talents as we have so faithfully in days past. Through it all our focus has repeatedly been on how to look out for one another as well as we are able. [I Corinthians 10:23-33]

Unfortunately, at this time of rising virus cases in our county, we have made the decision to return to online worship only, from this Sunday, August 22 through Sunday, October 10. We will offer Holy Communion in the parking lot each Sunday from 12:30 to 12:45. Below this letter is a graph that depicts the progression of cases in Pinellas County in past months. As we can see, the totals have increased dramatically since late July and show no sign of abating at this time. While we believe the numbers will come down in coming weeks, we simply do not know when.

In the early days of the pandemic, we determined to shift to online worship when the positivity rates were above 5%. Now the positivity rates far exceed that percentage and case loads are beyond anything we were confronting at that earlier time. In fact, the highest weekly total for virus cases in Pinellas County schools in the 2020-21 year was 294. In this year’s first 4 days of classes, the total of virus cases was 361. Virus cases in last year’s first full week was 41.

Later in September and October we are planning to have Prayer around the Cross outdoors in the portico, similar to our Lenten worship experiences. Please continue reading email and checking our website for other changes that may affect ministries or activities with which you are involved. And, as always, please contact anyone in the Church Office if you have a question.

In 2020 many of us experienced losses that have followed us into this year, both related and unrelated to the virus. Regardless, the divisive ways of this virus affect us all and only at times compound our frustrations.

We encourage us all to remember how God, from whose love in Christ Jesus we can never be separated, makes us one. From Ephesians 4 we hear:

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Faithfully in Christ,
Pr. Joe

 

August 1, 2021

Mask Update

The Centers for Disease Control has recently revised its guidelines and is now encouraging all who are meeting indoors to wear masks as a precaution in the spread of the virus.  As in past months we will continue to lean upon the CDC and other trusted sources to give insight into best practices.   Throughout the course of the virus, all our precautions have been for the sake of our care for one another as God’s people in Christ. This care for one another is rooted in our Lord’s command that we love our neighbor.

+ Hence, at this time we are recommending that as we gather for worship, we wear masks to reduce the aerosol particles in the room.

+We will continue to maintain our distance as we exchange the peace.

+At Holy Communion we come forward to receive the bread and return to our seats to consume it.

+ We place tithes and offerings in baskets in the narthex or at side door.

May 23, 2021

Mask Update

The Centers for Disease Control has announced that it is permissible to gather indoors without masks or social distancing, if you are fully vaccinated.  Because we have been following the guidance of medical leaders, masks are now optional in our worship gatherings.  You may choose to continue wearing or discontinue wearing a mask.  We will address other matters in the near future.  Throughout the course of the virus, all our precautions have been for the sake of our care for one another as God’s people in Christ.  This care for one another is rooted in our Lord’s command that we love our neighbor. 

May 3, 2021

Update on masks and worship

As we heard in our news reports this week, our governor has lifted all governmental requirements for wearing masks due to the virus.  Businesses and other nongovernmental entities will be making decisions about masks as weeks go by.  Health agencies continue to recommend the use of masks in enclosed spaces where there are large gatherings of people, such as worship spaces. 

Here at Prince of Peace we will continue to wear our masks during worship and take other precautions.  But we believe there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”  Later in the summer/fall, if we continue to experience progress with vaccinations and infection rates, we will transition to less mask-wearing and the elimination of our marked places for seating.

Thank you for your attention and concern regarding the care we extend for one another in these difficult times.  We pray for sisters and brothers who have experienced the effects of the virus personally or who have lost loved ones because of it.  The Lord indeed is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Here is a list of our continued guidelines for our coming together in this limited way. Let us encourage one another, as scripture teaches with love and care, so that we do what we are able to prevent any spread of the virus. While some of us are vaccinated, all of us need to continue to maintain precautions when we are together

  • If you do not feel well—you know the list of symptoms—do NOT come to worship.
  • We mask properly when we leave our vehicles to enter the sanctuary. Please make sure masks cover noses and mouths.
  • We sit in the designated places only. White tabs mark seating for individuals, and blue tabs mark spaces for groups.
  • We exchange the peace from our seats as our eyes make contact with brothers and sisters.
  • We receive the bread of Holy Communion and return to our seats to consume it.
  • At the end of worship, we depart the building maintaining an appropriate distance and BEGIN our conversations when we are outside the building.

Pr. Joe

 

February 10, 2021

Returning to In-Person Worship
BEGINNING ASH WEDNESDAY AT NOON (OUTDOORS) & 7:00PM (INDOORS)

In March 2020 when the virus outbreak became a reality for us, we stopped in-person worship and have been blessed since with dedicated friends among us to help us worship “together” at a distance. We have even equipped our sanctuary with tools to do this more effectively.

In early October with positivity rates declining, we decided to return to in-person worship, while continuing to record and publish our worship online and providing Holy Communion in the parking lot for all who desired the sacrament.

When positivity rates began rising again in late December and into January, we ceased in-person worship once again for a period of time to see if the numbers would again decline after the Christmas/New Year celebrations were passed. We said that we would consider conditions after the first week of February and prior to Ash Wednesday before deciding our next steps.

At the present time [February 8], the positivity levels have been trending downward. While we are not yet at 5%, we have come down significantly from early January. We are at the levels we experienced in late November, early December 2020. Pr. Adam and I have received notification from 35 PoP friends who have received vaccines.

A survey of local and regional ELCA congregations tells us that congregations are taking a variety of approaches. While some continue to be worshipping totally online, there are at least as many or more who are utilizing a hybrid approach—online and in-person worship. Some are not opening their doors for any reasons. Other congregations are more active.

Your Council and staff leaders have prayed, pondered and expressed their thoughts about the current circumstances. We, mostly likely as with the congregation as a whole, have opinions that range from one pole to the other pole.

At this time we will begin to offer in-person worship, even as we continue our online offering for Sunday mornings.

Here is a list of guidelines for our coming together in this limited way. Let us encourage one another, as scripture teaches with love and care, so that we do what we are able to prevent any spread of the virus. While some of us are vaccinated, all of us need to continue to maintain precautions when we are together

  • If you do not feel well—you know the list of symptoms—do NOT come to worship.
  • We mask properly when we leave our vehicles to enter the sanctuary. Please make sure masks cover noses and mouths.
  • We sit in the designated places only. At this time we do not have a limit to our seating. However, in the future we may need to set a limit.
  • We do not talk among ourselves in the sanctuary. Save that conversation for outside after worship is over.
  • We sit for all songs and may sing softly to ourselves [and our Lord.]
  • We exchange the peace from our seats as our eyes make contact with brothers and sisters.
  • We receive the bread of Holy Communion and return to our seats to consume it.
  • At the end of worship, we depart the building maintaining an appropriate distance and BEGIN our conversations when we are outside the building.

We will announce further plans for our Ash Wednesday worship in a later publication. Let us continue in prayer for one another and the community around us.

Pr. Joe

 

 

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