“Summertime, and the living is… frustrating.”
Traditionally, as we move from Spring into Summer, the rhythms of life change: school is out, schedules relax, the kids go to camp, and folks travel to the beach, the lake, or the mountains. Summer at the Chapel is different too: the pace in the office slows down, we gear up for Vacation Bible School, some Sunday School classes take a break, and we notice a little dip in attendance. However, in 2020, life is far from traditional or normal. COVID-19 has suspended or fundamentally altered much of our common life, including our ability to gather physically at our beloved Chapel of the Cross.
I am very proud of how our leadership, volunteers, and staff have creatively engaged with this challenging chapter: we offer worship via Facebook on Sundays and Wednesdays, several classes and committees meet via Zoom, our children have enjoyed lessons and stories from our clergy, catechists, and PDO teachers, parishioners are calling each other to make sure folks are OK and don’t need anything, and we send out multiple emails a week packed with resources and content. A fellow priest remarked to me the other day, “y’all at the Chapel are just so busy!”
And yet we hope to do more. We heard that some folks aren’t getting the aforementioned emails, so are sending a postcard to every household asking folks to update their email address. Emily continues to post and share photos of our new construction, and Amy Barker and I will be filming a video tour of the new space this weekend. Will and I will be blogging more, and sharing some additional reflections via Instagram Stories. And we will host a special food drive for Stewpot – keep an eye on your email for what items are needed and when to drop them off. And when you do drop them off, a priest or two will be there to say thank you (from a safe distance).
However, none of that answers the $64,000.00 question: when can we gather in-person once again, especially for worship at the Chapel of the Cross? And the answer is: we don’t know (yet). The Bishop has gathered an excellent committee of folks to consider how we will reopen, including Will and Dr. Stephen Stray, a Virologist and Assistant Professor of Microbiology with the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. And they hope to publish a plan very soon – perhaps in days – for how the Episcopal parishes in Mississippi will reopen. The Vestry and I look forward to receiving that plan, consulting other guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Governor Reeves’ office, and Church Mutual, our insurer, and determining how we will apply these guidelines at the Chapel. As soon as all that materializes, we will let you know. And as soon as we can safely and smartly gather as a community of faith, we will do so. That day will be better than Christmas.
We can share one very sad decision: Vacation Bible School will not occur this summer. We will so miss all of the young ones running all over campus, enjoying fellowship and growing in faith. Stephanie and our VBS volunteers will be communicating with parents about whether they would want at-home VBS kits. We look forward to VBS returning next summer.
These times are difficult to navigate. I am so thankful for our wardens, vestry, ministry leaders, committee chairs, staff, and so many others who have stepped up to make church happen and enable the Chapel to continue to thrive. We are indeed blessed and the Holy Spirit is among us. I can’t wait to see you very soon.