An Open Letter from Rev. Clarence, 5/22/21

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Dear Members and Friends of St. James,
Although constrained this week by only two Zoom meetings, this week has not been without a truly exciting and positive development.  On Thursday, 20 May, our diocesan and suffragan bishops posted a Pastoral Letter and Updated COVID-19 Guidelines to all clergy and congregational and diocesan leadership.  As this is a Pastoral Letter, I am bound by Canon Law to read aloud and/or post for public parochial reading their communication.  Rather than insert it in its entirety into my own weekly correspondence to you, I indicate how you may gain access–here

Additionally, both wardens, our treasurer, and our representative to Diocesan Convention have received this communication.

As the letter affects us directly regarding advancing to in-person liturgies, I advise you strongly to read it.  But I take also here the opportunity to include in this email the salient items:


  • Effective immediately, and until June 30, indoor, in-person worship should be limited to 60% of building capacity. This six-week phase allows for continued expansion of vaccination rates, and the observation of any consequences following swift re-openings in other contexts. Capacity restrictions will be fully lifted July 1 unless statistics warrant a revision to this plan.
  • We urge you to continue to observe physical distancing between households to protect those who are not yet fully vaccinatedPer CDC guidelines, those who are not yet vaccinated should continue wearing a face covering and maintain physical distance. We encourage all worshipers to maintain these precautions in order to protect one another.
  • Outdoor services are strongly encouraged; no attendance limits are prescribed for such worship.
  • At the Passing of the Peace, physical contact is discouraged. A slight bow or a hand to the heart remains the safer option.
  • In the sharing of Holy Eucharist, please use wafers for the distribution of Communion in one kind only. Refrain from using the common cup; individually pre-packaged wine may be used, if desired. While we hope for a future revision of these restrictions, they remain in effect until further notice.
  • Indoor singing by fully vaccinated people wearing masks has been deemed by the CDC to be a safe activity. Accordingly, singing may be permitted by those fulfilling these conditions. Outdoor singing is permitted. Continued physical distancing, indoors and out, is important for anyone singing.
  • We hope that congregations will continue to offer virtual opportunities to gather, even when in-person worship and formation resume. This is not only to protect those who are not yet fully vaccinated, but also to benefit from our experience of the past year in reaching a broader circle through online worship and fellowship.

Churches no longer need to submit a plan for regathering; however, we count on vestries and regathering teams to strategize about how best to respond in your specific context. We want to support you in those conversations, so feel free to e-mail Canon Bill Parnell to arrange a consultation with a regathering shepherd.


  • We continue to urge vaccination against the coronavirus for all our members as soon as they are eligible.
  • We reiterate, however, that our congregations must not require vaccination, nor documentation thereof, for attendance at worship services.
  • It is within the authority of the rector or priest-in-charge, in consultation with the wardens, to require vaccination (or a medical exemption) of church staff, musicians/choristers, and volunteer leaders of Christian formation (especially with children) and other programs. For the protection of those most vulnerable, we strongly encourage you to do so.

Fellowship and Pastoral Care

  • Coffee hour and other events with food and drinks may resume. We ask that you plan carefully about how food and drinks are served. Individually wrapped foods and designated servers, as opposed to potlucks or buffets, are a safer option.
  • Continue to exercise caution when making in-person pastoral visits. Brief visits with minimal physical proximity are safer, especially for those who are most vulnerable due to illness or age.

Christian Formation and Childcare

  • Christian formation classes and events for all ages may resume, though we ask that you carefully consider ways to reduce the potential for spread of the virus among young children, since they are not yet eligible for vaccination. You may wish to consult with your local schools or daycare providers about the practices they are observing.
  • Nurseries and childcare may resume provided thestandards established by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care are observed.”

As the wardens, vestry, and I discuss further our specific needs for in-person regathering in our space (as indicated above and from the input of our regathering shepherd/liaison), I shall announce to everyone for whom I have a current email and postal address when our first in-person Eucharistic Celebration shall take place, and under what physical conditions.  I wish once again here, as I have noted many times prior, to state without equivocation: Under no circumstance should a parishioner feel compelled to return to in-person worship and nor shall I or anyone within our congregation resort “to shaming” a reluctant member.  I remind everyone that our junior warden, already at the beginning of the pandemic, had applied signage for distancing and had provided face-coverings and means of personal sanitation.

For me personally, as I hope for you all, collectively and individually, this is a most wonderful gift on this eve of the Feast of the Pentecost.  As a fellow priest voiced this week during our Zoom meeting, returning from a sabbatical during which he was able to participate in the Mass and be a recipient of the Body of Christ, if Christianity is about anything, it is about sharing in community and to reaching out to those on the outside also a hand of welcome.  We go now forward.

Let us pray:

The Collect for Pentecost:
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

For Joy in God’s Creation:
O God of Creation, who has filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For this Parish:
Almighty and everlasting God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family.  Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent.  Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

A Benediction at Pentecost:

Know that the ever-present mystery we name God
is in your past forgiving you, is in your present loving  you,
and in your future meeting you.

And may the blessing of the Source of life, love and hope,
the Word of life, compassion and wisdom; and Breath of life, grace and truth
surround, sustain, and surprise you, this day and all your days

Your fellow traveler in The Way,