May 21, 2020
Dear Members of the Trinity Family,
My colleagues and I are holding you close in our thoughts and prayers in this time of separation and isolation. While we are eager for the day when we can be together again, we realize that it will still be some time before we can safely gather at Trinity for corporate worship.
While some congregations in our community are returning to in-person worship in May and June, Trinity’s Transition Team composed of John Beckford, Kay Cook, Melissa Kolb, Richard Moose, Mike Parker, Donna Potts (Chair), Kerry Sease, Melanie Wessinger, and myself have determined that it is still too early and too risky to bring our community together again at Trinity. While we are following recommendations from DHEC and the CDC with regard to reopening, our intent is not to return to in-person worship at Trinity until we are confident that we can provide a better in-person experience than the experience that we can provide to our members at home via an online service. If we were to return to worship at Trinity in the very near future, there would be so many restrictions to include the loss of singing and responsive readings, no hugs, handshakes, or embraces, the mandatory use of masks, six feet of physical distance between individuals and families, no socializing before or after worship, and the likelihood that holy communion could not be a part of the service. Even with all these restrictions and guidelines, it would still be too risky for some of our members to attend.
Trinity’s Transition Team has made the wise and prudent decision to suspend all in-person activities at Trinity at least through the end of June. There is the remote possibility that some smaller groups and ministries may resume before the end of June but that will depend on the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the Greenville community and would also require the use of masks, physical distancing, as well as a protocol for sanitizing and disinfecting spaces. Until we are able to mitigate the risks of in-person worship and provide a worship experience that is meaningful, we will continue to worship via online services. Once we are prepared to manage the risks associated with returning to church, a live-stream service will continue to be provided for those who would be better served worshipping from home.
Since this time of isolation and separation will continue at least until the end of June, I am excited to share with you that our community of faith will be celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Communion from our homes on Pentecost Sunday, May 31. In spite of the obstacles to be overcome in order to reach this decision which include revisioning and reimagining our traditional understanding of this sacrament, it will be a joy to offer the benefits of Holy Communion to our community of faith. I recognize that some of you may not be comfortable celebrating communion from home and will prefer to wait until we can be together at Trinity while others are eager to experience this innovative way of receiving the sacrament. Both options are equally valid.
On Pentecost Sunday, May 31, during the worship service, the bread and wine will be consecrated at the altar, and in this consecration we will trust and believe that just as that blessing extends to the whole community when we are gathered physically together in the Sanctuary, that blessing will also extend to our whole community as we are gathered together in the spirit but separate and safe in our homes. Each of you is invited to create a small altar in your worship space at home that may include a candle, some wine, and a small piece of bread – enough to commune yourself or your whole family. If you would like to bake your own loaf of communion bread, the recipe that Trinity uses will be available on our website and via Facebook. Several folks in the congregation are already making small loaves of communion bread for each family to use. This bread along with a small candle can be picked up at the red canopy door on Saturday, May 30 from 11:30 to 12:15. These items will be placed on a table in the parking lot next to the door so that you can easily reach them without exiting your car. Pastor Parham, Vicar Luke, and I will be at the door in our masks to greet you but will be keeping an appropriate distance in order to protect us all. While it is certainly not necessary that you use these items, my colleagues and I think it will bring additional meaning to the sacrament knowing that all of us are lighting the same candle and using bread that was lovingly made by one of our members.
As Lutherans, we believe that the full benefit of Christ’s love, grace, and forgiveness is available to us in one element. Trinity will provide bread for you. You may include wine if that is available to you at home. It is perfectly acceptable for you to use your own candle as well as any kind of bread that you have at home. As you are worshipping via digital space on Pentecost Sunday, May 31 and after we pray the Lord’s Prayer together, you may share the sacrament with your family members by saying the words, “The body of Christ given for you,” and if the wine is available, you can share that with the words, “The blood of Christ shed for you.” If you live alone, you may say the words and consume the elements. While some of us will commune in family groups and others by themselves at home, no one is alone as we will all be gathered together as one family of God, simply communing from the safety of our homes.
My hope and prayer is that you will open your heart and mind to communing in this way in this time when it is not safe to be physically present together. Let us trust and believe that God, for whom nothing is impossible and who lives, moves, and has being in the past, present, and future in ways that we can not comprehend, will use this celebration of Holy Communion to bring us together in community and to offer grace, mercy, strength, forgiveness, and blessing to each of us.
As we are physically separated from one another, let us continue to accompany each other with words and deeds of love and kindness as we move through these days of challenge and difficulty. My love and prayers are with you.
Peace, love, and joy,
Pastor Susan Crowell
The COVID-19 Transition Team held its second meeting May 15. The group agrees that, while we all yearn for a rapid return to in-person worship, we must ensure that it is as safe as possible; that the experience is positive for all; and that online worship be continued for those who choose to worship from home. Recent research has indicated an increased risk of coronavirus spread in congregational singing and responsive reading that must be taken into account. It is possible that worship in the gym would allow for appropriate distancing and sanitizing but the video capabilities will need to be enhanced to provide quality live video streaming. Worship will continue to be entirely online, and no other gatherings will occur at the church, at least through the month of June.
The CDC Reopening Guidelines can be viewed at this website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html
For S.C. specific information, the DHEC website is: https://www.scdhec.gov/infectious-diseases/viruses/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
A COVID-19 Transition Team has organized and held its first meeting via videoconference on Friday May 8th. The team consists of Donna Potts (chair), Melissa Kolb, Kerry Sease, John Beckford, Richard Moose, Melanie Wessinger, Mike Parker, Kay Cook and Pastor Crowell. The group will meet weekly to discuss new information from the CDC, SC DHEC, and government leaders as we consider the many aspects of deciding to re-open the church for worship, work and meetings. We welcome comments and questions, and will be posting regular updates here.