At our Board of Elders meeting, we discussed the possibilities of easing some of the pandemic-related limitations we have all become accustomed to for the past year. The CDC recently issued a statement that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing in most settings, and the State of Illinois will go to Stage 5 reopening on June 11. On that basis, the Elders have made the decision to change some of our COVID protocols. Of course, the health and safety of St. John’s members and guests is our top priority in these decisions.
The following changes will take effect next weekend, June 5th and 6th.
First of all, for the sake of people who are uncomfortable with fewer restrictions at this time, the Saturday evening service will be unchanged – until further notice, masks will be expected, seating will be socially distanced, and Holy Communion will be conducted as it has been for the past year.
Secondly, in the 8:00 and 10:30 services, for people who are fully vaccinated, wearing a mask will be optional. Sitting in designated pews will still be encouraged, but not required. People who are not vaccinated should continue with COVID protocols, that is, wearing a mask and social distancing. Above all, we ask everyone to act responsibly and be respectful of other worshippers’ health and feelings.
In the 8:00 and 10:30 services, Holy Communion will be served as it was pre-pandemic: on the first Sunday of the month, communicants will come forward by “tables” and kneel at the altar; on the third Sunday, Communion will be served in a continuous way. The Communion bread will no longer be in plastic bags, but the elder will have some in plastic bags that are available upon request. For now, the Communion wine will only be served in individual cups; at a later date, the chalice, or common cup, may be used again. The pastor and elders will no longer be wearing masks or gloves, unless one of them chooses to do so.
Thirdly, worshipers may resume greeting the pastor (or other worshipers) with a handshake if they wish. The pastor, however, will wait for the member to initiate it. If you do not wish this contact, simply do not extend your hand.
Finally, we anticipate that choirs and the “coffee hours” will resume in September. We also are continuing to stream the service on YouTube for those who are still worshipping from home.
The Board of Elders understands and takes very seriously the need to meet the hopes and expectations of all members, as much as possible. We also realize that these decisions may not be exactly what every person had anticipated. As we implement these decisions, we may see the need to change them from time to time. Please be patient as we try to do what is best for the greatest number of people, and also feel free to share your thought with the elders or staff, preferably in writing.