COVID-19 AND GSL

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MARCH 12, 2022 UPDATE

Saturday, March 12, 2022
A Message from The Rector
COVID-19 Update for Parish Life: More “Open” Guidelines

Dear Friends in Christ:

Grace-St. Luke’s Church remains committed to partnering with others in efforts of flattening the curve associated with COVID-19. Considering the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 Community Levels update on March 10, Shelby County is now at a “low” level!

Shelby County’s low COVID-19 level is why GSL moved to a mask-optional protocol effective March 6, the First Sunday in Lent. Now, all persons regardless of vaccination status may choose to mask at any time but are not required to do so. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask. All unvaccinated persons who are eligible and able to receive the vaccine are encouraged to do so. The following outlines less-restrictive protocols for in-person events at GSL effective Sunday, March 13, 2022:

The following outlines less-restrictive protocols for in-person events at GSL effective Sunday, March 13, 2022:

  • Signage is posted outside and within spaces to indicate current guidelines. Ushers and Welcome Hosts assist with answering questions, directions, seating, and more.
  • At services of the Holy Eucharist (Sunday 8:30, 10:30, 5:00; Second Wednesday Noon) and during the Sunday 9:30 formation period, masks are optional regardless of age and vaccination status. Nursery Staff (professional childcare workers) and volunteers are required to be vaccinated.  
  • The pews are adjusted to allow a more open-seating option versus every second pew marked by ribbons. Small ribbon-marked sections remain an option for worshippers who might prefer more distance from others.
  • The Sacrament is administered in both kinds (bread and wine) at standing stations. The option to receive at the Sanctuary rail will resume on Easter Day. The wine may be taken by drinking or intincting (dipping). Regarding The Chalice: All may but none must drink from the chalice. The antimicrobial properties of silver, air exposure time from wiping and turning the chalice after each communicant, and higher alcohol content of fortified wine suggests that drinking from the chalice is more hygienic and lower risk for transmission of germs. Scientists report that intincting is less hygienic than sipping from the chalice. However you choose to receive, be assured that Christ is fully present. At the Offertory, detailed instructions are given by the Celebrant about our custom for the ministration and reception of Holy Communion.
  • Congregational singing is permitted without or with a mask. Because vaccination is required for all members of The Grace-St. Luke's Choir, the requirement or option for choristers to mask is at the discretion of the Director of Music and Organist in consultation with the Rector.
  • Social distancing norms are recommended before, during, and after offerings to respect the personal space of person who may wish to maintain distancing.
  • Small groups, such as Education for Ministry (EfM), formation classes, fellowship groups, 12-step meetings, etc. may assemble indoors without mask requirements for participants. Said groups are encouraged to maintain social distancing norms especially in smaller spaces.
  • Gatherings with food and beverage are mask-optional except for persons who are preparing and serving provisions. Sunday breakfast by the Crossmen is coming soon.
  • Watch for Updates: Short- and long-term guidelines for in-person gathering are evolving while online worship and formation offerings have become our new norms in life at GSL. If individuals and households are unable to gather in person for whatever reason, each is encouraged to engage online.

Our protocols reflect how GSL is being mindful of and attentive during the COVID-19 pandemic. I remain grateful for the counsel of Bishop Phoebe, the wardens and vestry, and members of an ad hoc medical advisory team composed of parishioners and non-parishioners. To learn more about and engage life at GSL, explore  www.gracestlukes.org and spread the word about all that we are and offer.

In this ever-changing season of being the body of Christ, may we continue to love and serve one another and give thanks for abundant life at GSL. Our vision is to be a thriving community of hope, belonging, and healing through worship, parish life, and service, and who rejoices in the love of Jesus to transform the world.

Faithfully,

Ollie+

The Rev. Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901-252-6320 | orencher@gracestlukes.org

MARCH 2, 2022 UPDATE

March 2, 2022 - Ash Wednesday
A Message from The Rector
COVID-19 Update for Parish Life

Dear Friends in Christ:

Grace-St. Luke’s Church remains committed to partnering with others in efforts of flattening the curve associated with COVID-19. For a season, parish guidelines have included the requirement of face masks for indoor worship, formation, fellowship, community engagement, and music offerings. Considering the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) February 25 COVID-19 Community Levels update, the latest CDC data for Shelby County is “low.”

This awesome “low” level news means that effective March 6, the First Sunday in Lent, face masking will become optional at GSL. People may choose to mask at any time but are not required to do so. This applies to all persons regardless of vaccination status. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask. All unvaccinated persons who are eligible and able to receive the vaccine are encouraged to do so.

I am grateful for the wise counsel of Bishop Phoebe, the wardens and vestry, and members of an ad hoc medical advisory team composed of parishioners and non-parishioners. The following outlines protocols for in-person gatherings at GSL effective Sunday, March 6, 2022:

  • At services of the Holy Eucharist (Sunday 8:30, 10:30, 5:00) and during the 9:30 formation period, masks are optional regardless of age and vaccination status. Nursery Staff (professional childcare workers) and volunteers are required to be vaccinated.  
  • The Sacrament is administered in both kinds (bread and wine) at standing stations, and detailed instructions are given by the Celebrant at the Offertory about our custom for the ministration and reception of Holy Communion.
  • Congregational singing is permitted without or with a mask. Because vaccination is required for all members of The Grace-St. Luke's Choir, the requirement or option for choristers to mask is at the discretion of the Director of Music and Organist.
  • Ushers and Welcome Hosts assist with seating for worship and other events, and signage is posted outside and within spaces to indicate seating guidelines.
  • Social distancing norms are recommended before, during, and after offerings to respect the personal space of person who may wish to maintain distancing.
  • Small groups, such as Education for Ministry (EfM), formation classes, fellowship groups, 12-step meetings, etc. may assemble indoors without mask requirements for participants. Said groups are encouraged to maintain social distancing norms especially in smaller spaces.
  • Gatherings with food and beverage are mask-optional except for persons who are preparing and serving provisions. Following the success of and logistics learning from the March 1 Shrove Tuesday Festival, Sunday breakfast by the Crossmen is coming soon.
  • Watch for Updates: Short- and long-term guidelines for in-person gathering are evolving while online worship and formation offerings have become our new norms in life at GSL. If individuals and households are unable to gather in person for whatever reason, each is encouraged to engage online.

Our updated protocols reflect how GSL is being mindful of and attentive during the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about and engage in life at GSL, please explore  www.gracestlukes.org and spread the word about all that we are and offer.

In this ever-changing season of being the body of Christ, may we continue to love and serve one another and give thanks for abundant life at GSL. Our vision is to be a thriving community of hope, belonging, and healing through worship, parish life, and service, and who rejoices in the love of Jesus to transform the world.

Faithfully,

Ollie+

The Rev. Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901-252-6320 | orencher@gracestlukes.org

JULY 30, 2021 UPDATE

July 30, 2021
A Message from The Rector
COVID-19 Update for Parish Life

Dear Friends in Christ:

Considering this week’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) update of protection guidelines, especially for communities such as Shelby County with “substantial” or “high” COVID-19 transmission rates, GSL will require face-masking effective immediately. All persons, regardless of vaccination status and except for children two years and younger, are required to wear masks when gathered indoors for worship, fellowship, formation, small groups, and more. Advanced sign-up will not be required for worship.

I am grateful for the wise counsel of Bishop Phoebe, members of the GSL Re-Entry Task Force Advisory, the Clergy-Staff Team, and my rector colleagues in the other larger congregations of the diocese to decide on this protocol change since my June 30 update. The following outlines protocols for in-person gatherings at GSL effective July 30:

  • At services of the Holy Eucharist (Sunday 8:30, 10:30, 5:00), masks are required for all persons, regardless of vaccination status and except for children two years and younger.
  • Advanced sign-up for worship offerings is not required. Ushers and Welcome Hosts will be available to assist with proper seating configurations. Pew spacing is every second pew and may allow for various individual and households pods to share the same pew.
  • Social distancing norms are recommended before, during, and after offerings to respect the personal space of individuals and households who may wish to maintain distancing.
  • The Sacrament is administered in one kind (bread) at standing stations. Conversations and decisions about how and when to resume the offering of wine are ongoing.
  • Congregational singing is permitted while masked. The Grace-St. Luke's Choir (volunteers and staff singers) serve at the Sunday 10:30 service. Music is provided at 8:00 (organ, hymns) and 5:00 (instrumental: cello, flute, guitar, piano, jazz).
  • Nursery re-opening plans are underway for spaces to be staffed by professional childcare workers with support from parent volunteers. Children’s Chapel will be offered occasionally during summertime at the Sunday 10:30 a.m. service. Until the nursery re-opens, parents are encouraged to bring children for any Sunday 45-60-minute service (8:00, 10:30, 5:00)
  • Small groups, such as EfM, formation classes, fellowship groups, 12-step meetings, etc., may gather indoors, and all participants are required to wear masks.
  • For youth and children’s events, masking is required for all ages when indoors.
  • Gatherings with food and beverage require masks except during moments of consumption.  Plans are underway for outdoor and indoor fellowship, including breakfast on Sundays.
  • Watch For Updates: Our short- and long-term guidelines for gathering in person and online are evolving and being explored during summertime. The Clergy-Staff Team is working with ministry area leaders and committees regarding plans for worship, formation, fellowship, community engagement (outreach, social justice), music, and special event offerings.

Our protocols reflect how GSL is being mindful of and attentive during the COVID-19 pandemic following the advice of health, church, and government officials. In addition to in-person gatherings, weekly virtual offerings remain a vital, rich part of life at GSL. For details about worship offerings, explore www.gracestlukes.org/worship

In this ever-changing season of being the body of Christ, may we continue to love and serve one another, and spread the word about abundant life at GSL. Our vision is to be a thriving community of hope, belonging, and healing through worship, parish life, and service, and who rejoices in the love of Jesus to transform the world.

Faithfully,

Ollie+

The Rev. Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901-252-6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org">orencher@gracestlukes.org
Explore www.gracestlukes.org to learn about and engage life at GSL.

JUNE 30, 2021 UPDATE

June 30, 2021
A Message from The Rector
COVID-19 Update for Parish Life

In this sacred time of learning more about how to be in faithful community as the body of Christ during the COVID-19 pandemic, many thanks for adapting to the guidelines that have been in place at GSL since March 2020. Your patience with the "lifting" of our restrictions for in-person gatherings has been appreciated and is a part of our resilience.

Our approach has been simultaneous with an increasing number of fully vaccinated persons throughout the GSL community, and respectful of those who may be unable or choose to not receive the vaccine for whatever reason. Bishop Phoebe’s updated worship guidelines on May 19 grant permission for congregations to make decisions that may work best in their context.

Beginning Sunday, July 4, masks are optional at GSL for persons who have been fully vaccinated when indoors. For persons who have not been vaccinated, masks are required for adults and children ages 3 to 12 to protect themselves and others. Also, advanced sign-up for worship offerings will no longer be required. Our worship space should accommodate this change in protocol. Social distancing norms remain essential before, during, and after events. Alongside these in-person gathering changes, weekly virtual offerings remain a vital, rich part of life at GSL. For details about worship offerings, explore www.gracestlukes.org/worship

The following outlines protocols for most in-person gatherings at GSL effective July 4:

  • At services of the Holy Eucharist (Sunday 8:30, 10:30, 5:00), masks are optional at GSL for persons who have been fully vaccinated when indoors. For those who have not been vaccinated, masks are required for your own protection, including children ages 3 to 12.
  • Advanced sign-up for worship offerings will no longer be required. Ushers and Welcome Hosts will be available to assist with proper seating configurations.
  • Social distancing norms are recommended before, during, and after offerings to respect the personal space of individuals and households who may wish to maintain distancing.
  • Pew spacing has changed from every third pew to every second pew.
  • The Sacrament is administered in one kind (bread) at standing stations. Conversations and decisions about how and when to resume the offering of wine are ongoing.
  • Congregational singing is permitted by all, and the Grace-St. Luke's Choir (volunteers and staff singers) serve at the Sunday 10:30 service. Music is provided at 8:30 (organ, hymns) and 5:00 (instrumental: cello, flute, guitar, piano, jazz). Unvaccinated persons must wear masks when singing indoors. Masks are not required for anyone when singing outdoors.
  • Nursery re-opening plans are underway for spaces to be staffed by professional childcare workers with support from parent volunteers. Children’s Chapel will be offered occasionally during summertime at the Sunday 10:30 a.m. service. Until the nursery re-opens, parents are encouraged to bring children for any Sunday 45-60-minute service (8:30, 10:30, 5:00)
  • Small groups, such as EfM, formation classes, fellowship groups, 12-step meetings, etc., may gather indoors (i.e. vaccinated persons may gather unmasked and with minimal distancing restrictions; masks and distancing are required for unvaccinated persons).
  • For children’s events, such as Vacation Bible School, masking is required for children as well as for all adult and youth workers when indoors. For youth events, masking requirements are at the discretion of the Director of Youth Formation in consultation with the clergy.
  • Gatherings with food and drink, such as coffee hour, may gather unmasked outdoors, and indoors, maintaining physical distances for eating and drinking. For those who have not been vaccinated, masks are required, including children ages 3 to 12. Note: Plans are underway for outdoor and indoor fellowship, including breakfast provisions on Sundays.
  • Watch For Updates: Our short- and long-term guidelines for gathering in person and online are evolving and being explored during summertime. The Clergy-Staff Team is working with ministry area leaders and committees regarding plans for worship, formation, fellowship, community engagement (outreach, social justice), music, and special event offerings.

I am grateful for the counsel of members of the GSL Re-Entry Task Force Advisory, Executive Committee, Wardens, Chancellor, and Clergy-Staff Team in arriving to this new stage in the pandemic journey. Our protocols reflect how GSL is being mindful of and attentive to the most vulnerable persons throughout our parish community and visitors alike. We are aware that some practices may be differ from other congregations and faith communities in the diocese. 

In this new season of being the Church, the community of the body of Christ, may we continue to love and serve one another, always spreading the word about abundant life at Grace-St. Luke’s. Our vision is to be a thriving community of hope, belonging, and healing through worship, parish life, and service, and who rejoices in the love of Jesus to transform the world.

Faithfully,
Ollie+

The Rev. Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
901-252-6320 | orencher@gracestlukes.org

Explore www.gracestlukes.org to learn about and engage life at GSL.

JUNE 8, 2021 UPDATE

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Many thanks to all who have adapted to the COVID-19 guidelines that have been in place and evolved at GSL since March 2020, and thanks for patience as we begin "lifting" restrictions simultaneous with an increasing number of vaccinated persons throughout the GSL community. 

On May 19, Bishop Phoebe released updated worship guidelines in response to the new protocols issued by the CDC on May 13 for vaccinated and unvaccinated persons. The Bishop's guidelines are a transition from uniform diocesan-wide guidelines to the provision for congregations to make decisions that might work best in their respective context. 

During a recent meeting of the GSL Re-Entry Task Force Advisory, Vestry, Treasurer, Chancellor, Clergy-Staff Team, Altar Guild Directress, Flower Guild Coordinator, Head Verger, and Head of School, we discussed that children ages 12 and under do not have access to the COVID-19 vaccine yet. Mindful of this significant population of children and parents in our common life, we are not ready yet to permit mask-free, large group, indoor offerings for worship, formation, fellowship, and more. For worship offerings, explore www.gracestlukes.org/worship, and please note that virtual offerings now are a regular part of life at GSL. 

The following outlines current protocols for in-person gatherings. Watch for future updates. 

  • At indoor services of the Holy Eucharist (Sunday 8:30, 10:30, 5:00), worshipers will continue to be masked except for children ages two and under. At Sunday outdoor 5:00 services, masks are not required except during the distribution of the Sacrament.
  • Pew spacing has changed from every third pew to every second pew.
  • The Sacrament is administered in one kind (bread) at standing stations versus ministers coming to individual and household pods seated in the pews, and to pods when gathered outdoors.
  • Advanced sign-up for services helps the ushers, welcome hosts, and clergy to gauge how many persons will be present and to ensure sufficient seating configurations before worshippers arrive. 
  • Congregational singing is permitted (while masked) and the Grace-St. Luke's Choir (volunteers and staff singers) has returned to the Sunday 10:30 service. At outdoor services with music, masks are not required while singing. 
  • Plans are underway to re-open the Nursery, which will be staffed by professional vaccinated childcare workers with support from parent volunteers. Until nursery services are provided, parents are encouraged to bring children of any age to worship, and all services purposefully last 45 to 60 minutes. 
  • Small groups without children ages 12 and under present, such as EfM, formation classes, fellowship groups, 12-step meetings, etc., may gather indoors per CDC guidelines (i.e. vaccinated people may gather unmasked and with minimal distancing restrictions, but masks and distancing are encouraged for unvaccinated people).
  • Gatherings with food and drink, such as coffee hour, may gather unmasked outdoors, and may also gather indoors, maintaining physical distances for eating and drinking. Plans are underway for outdoor and indoor fellowship events, including breakfast provisions on Sundays. 

Thank you for honoring our approach to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and "flattening the curve." Our protocols are a part of how GSL is choosing to be mindful of and attentive to the most vulnerable persons throughout our parish community and visitors alike. We also are aware that our practices may be different from other congregations and faith communities n the diocese. 

In this sacred time of learning even more about how to be in community as the body of Christ, all are asked to respect those who may be unable or choose to not receive the vaccine for whatever reasons. Together, we are one with Christ. Spread the word about worship and formation at GSL.

JANUARY 27, 2021 UPDATE

Resumption of In-Person Worship begins January 31. On Sunday, January 31, at 10:30 a.m., GSL will resume in-person worship with the Holy Eucharist (ministration of bread only) while virtual access will continue indefinitely. This return follows the late December suspension based on the Shelby County Health Department Safer At Home Health Directive No. 16. The January 20 order (Directive No. 17) is due to the lower rates of COVID-19 transmission as well as increased availability in the ICU units of local hospitals. Note: Advanced sign-up is required for our maximum capacity of thirty-six (36) households. For detailed information including how to sign up, visit tinyurl.com/GSLWorshipSignup. To read the January 26 message from Bishop Phoebe, click here.

DECEMBER 22, 2020 UPDATE

Tuesday, December 22, 2020
COVID-19 Update: Celebrating Christmas and Epiphany with GSL
A Message from the Rector: The Rev. Ollie V. Rencher
Click here for video message.

The seasons of Christmas and Epiphany will be quite different for life at Grace-St. Luke’s Church and throughout the world in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to yesterday’s Shelby County Health Department Directiveto assist with flattening the coronavirus curve, our Bishop, the Right Reverend Phoebe A. Roaf, asked in a message to all diocesan faith communities to temporarily suspend in person worship and indoor activities with more than 10 persons for at least the next several weeks effective December 21. Our updated schedule of offerings for Christmastide into Epiphany is provided below and available online at www.gracestlukes.org/news/advent-christmas-epiphany/ 

The GSL Clergy as well as members of our Re-Entry Task Force and the Vestry support this holy pause to in-person offerings for a stretch as part of our Christian witness in partnership with the state and community public health measures requested. Fortunately, our worship, formation, and several connection-making offerings will continue online and will include some new offerings to be announced in January. While this change naturally is painful and disappointing, especially as GSL and other Episcopal congregations have observed sound protocols for in-person gatherings, health and medical professionals agree that we will not regret exercising an abundance of caution at this particular juncture in the pandemic. We walk by faith and not be sight, trusting in God that a new day will come when we can gather.

The twelve-day journey of Christmas to the Epiphany (January 6) when the Church celebrates the divinity of Jesus boldly reminds us of our baptismal heritage that the “Church” literally is the body of Christ. From the beginning of the Christian tradition, the Church has been without walls, because the Spirit of God cannot be confined to a building. The Church is rooted in and thrives by its baptized members and newcomers who share a combination of faith, hope, service, and giving, all built on nothing less than Jesus love and righteousness.

The devoted congregation of Grace-St. Luke’s has been an extraordinary community of believers long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and I believe our resilience and commitments will not be detoured. If anything, I wholeheartedly believe the faith that binds us has been growing and stretching us in new ways bound to form and improve our practice of being faithful followers of Jesus. Now more than ever is a perfect time to hold one another and the world in fervent prayer. While the GSL Clergy, Staff, Vestry, and Lay Pastoral Care Ministers will continue to pray for you daily and be even more intentional in reaching out, I ask that you both pray for and reach out to fellow parishioners, family, and friends in this time when personal connection is especially meaningful. All this to say that the Church is alive, well, and not closing, because we live! 

Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24 
8 to 8:45 a.m. - Virtual Video of Christmas Lessons and Carols from GSL premiered December 20 
Noon - Virtual Video Premiere of GSL Youth & Children Holiday Greetings, Christmas Pageant and slideshow of Creches (Nativity Scenes) from parishioner homes and GSL 
2 p.m. - Virtual Service of Evening Prayers with sermon, choral ensemble, hymns, music for flute and organ, and selected tenor arias from Messiah by George Frederic Handel 
8 to 8:15 p.m. - Virtual Compline (Night Prayers) officiated by the clergy 
9 p.m. - Virtual Service of Evening Prayers with sermon, choral ensemble, hymns, music for organ, and string quartet with the “Gloria in excelsis” from Gloria by Antonio Vivaldi

Christmas Day, Friday, December 25 
10 a.m. - Virtual Service of Morning Prayers with homily, hymns and music for organ

First Sunday after Christmas, December 27 
10:30 a.m. - Virtual Service of Morning Prayers with sermon and music 

Second Sunday of Christmas, January 3
 
10:30 a.m. - Virtual Service of Morning Prayers with sermon and music 

God's peace, blessings, and take good care, 

The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector 
Direct 901.252.6320 | orencher@gracestlukes.org 
Click here for video message.

Parish Office Holiday Schedule 

The church office will be closed December 25, 28, 29, 30, and January 1. The Office will be open December 31 and resume regular hours on January 4. For pastoral or hospital emergencies concerning a member or after-hours parish facilities management matters, contact the Clergy-on-Call at 901-252-6334.

OCTOBER 14 UPDATE: HOLY EUCHARIST INDOORS BEGINS NOVEMBER 1

Indoor Service of the Holy Eucharist begins November 1. On October 14, the Right Reverend Phoebe A. Roaf, Bishop, extended the opportunity for faith communities to offer the Holy Eucharist to include indoors. In addition to Grace-St. Luke's outdoor service having begun on September 27, our first indoor service of Holy Eucharist since March 15 will be November 1 at 10:30 a.m. Advanced signup will be required for a limited number of household groups to attend and virtual offerings will continue indefinitely. For more information, visit www.gracestlukes.org/worship.