What We've Done So Far and What's Planned

from Peter Vanderveen

“How might we lean into these days and find in them something more than raw endurance? Or, to put it another way, what would God have us know?”

                                                                        The Right Reverend J. Neill Alexander

Dear members of The Redeemer community:

Bishop Alexander’s statement could have served as the primary theme of almost every conversation I’ve had in the last two disruptive weeks: normative breaks that show no signs of abatement, and which may continue for many more weeks.

I meet with the full church staff daily: We revisit anew what we are doing, how we are doing it, and what needs to be done in the coming weeks in order to remain a dynamic community of faith and vision. I’m grateful for their dedication in keeping to the course through many unexpected adaptations. Most of all, however, I’ve been deeply impressed by their diligence in exploring ways we can remain a witness to the whole community and can work out, through conversations with you, the best practices for maintaining ministry.

We realize all too well that “business as usual” no longer holds. Consequently, we have prioritized being creative and formulating new ways to operate in both form and content. I hope, given our efforts to date, that many of you have discovered new ways to pray, just as we are continuing to prepare new modes for worship that can connect us, even as we are physically separated.

Palm Sunday and Easter are approaching,  and though we will not be able to observe Holy Week and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection as we are accustomed, I’d like you to know what we are planning and why, with the hope that what we can accomplish together will not just be a simulation of our traditional worship, but will be a new revelation of the Easter event itself, shared differently, intimately, and corporately.

What we have done so far:

Though we have closed our offices and suspended public worship and programs, the church remains open from 9:00 AM until 9:00 PM. We have seen a steady flow of visitors, many of whom are not members of the parish. We are providing a much- needed place outside the established confines for people to collect their thoughts and offer prayers.

While many campuses in the area have closed down to the public, we invite people to walk our grounds, where they can be off the streets and in a place that encourages contemplation.

Each day we distribute by email Prayers for the Morning, which include a brief meditation by one of the clergy. Every day we are receiving notes of thanks for this service. People have written us from across the country and overseas. Some have stated that they print and carry these prayers with them through the day as a source of strength and hope.

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 7:30 AM, members of the parish are invited to join together in Morning Prayer via Zoom. In our conversations with church members, they have been clear that what they need and want are occasions when they can be together, check in with one another, and, as one, offer prayers for all.

Each night at 9:00 PM parishioners may join with the rector in the service of Compline via Zoom. This brief service will be conducted from the church and will provide an opportunity for all to inhabit that space, if only digitally, in the quiet of the evening and as a way to prayerfully finish the day.

On Sundays, we have distributed an audio recording of the service from the same week of Lent three years prior. This is a record of our true worship, with a full congregation, together with clergy and choir, present and participating. The full liturgy, with the exception of the sermon, is what we would have experienced if we were able to gather publicly now. To this we have added a sermon, in print, for our current time.

Our aim in all our worship offerings is to facilitate personal interaction in real time. Community doesn’t exist in the imagination. It’s experienced when we choose to gather in the moment and be subject to one another — when we are present, however we can manage that. Zoom is currently the best and easiest format option we have, though it presents definite difficulties for the experience of worship. Unison reading gets garbled. Music gets automatically cut out. But we can see one another, and speak to one another, and, most importantly, we can see what response arises from our interactions, in smiles, in tears, in laughter, in sighs. That’s a profound grace.

We have been asked about live-streaming services, which is, at present, beyond the capabilities of our communication systems. At present, we are working with a number of computer and video technicians who will be able to provide us the hardware and software upgrades that would make live-streaming possible. Importantly, live-streaming would allow us to offer another type of experience; one that is primarily visual rather than aural. A major drawback to consider is that live-streaming is passive, not active. It shifts worship from something that invites real-time participation between persons, to an event that is principally watched. As we move forward, we’ll keep you informed.

Classes and meeting are being held via Zoom. These are being posted to the church calendar and can be accessed by clicking on the event.

We are collecting masks, gloves, and medical gowns that will be given to local hospitals. Many masks for use in construction or repair will also be gladly accepted.

What we are planning for the coming weeks:

March 29

Tomorrow, we will have our first Sunday liturgy from the church at 9:30 AM. Parishioners are invited to join via Zoom, by clicking on the link in the church calendar. A pdf copy of the service will be available in the parish-wide email distributed Sunday morning.

The service will be an adaptation of the Liturgy of the Word from the Eucharist Rite II, followed by the Prayers from Morning Prayer. Michael Palmisano will be the officiant and homilist.

The service will be followed at 10:00 AM by a forum, led by Peter Vanderveen. Due to the nature of the times, the forum will principally be a question and answer period for parishioners.

Palm Sunday, April 5

With the caveat that personal restrictions may be further tightened, we hope to make possible a number of worship options for this day:

  • Palms will be available at the church. We are creating a liturgy for individuals and families who may choose, throughout the day, to come to the church and campus to walk and pray through a guided Liturgy of the Palms.
  • A liturgy will be offered through Zoom at 9:30 AM, with sermon.
  • Because this service, more than all others in the church year, engages readings with choral responses, a prior year’s service will be posted in audio format.

Easter Sunday, April 12

At this time, we are planning on the following opportunities:

  • Much of Easter is a table celebration. Families gather for an Easter meal. We are considering creating an Easter liturgy whereby the usual Eucharist can be altered so that collectively we can celebrate a liturgy around our own tables. As Jesus first came to his disciples who were hidden away in a locked, upper room, we’d like to give Easter Day that intimate feel for the whole congregation.
  • A full and joyous recording of a prior Easter service will be posted on the web site.
  • Every Easter the churchyard will filled with children racing through an Easter Egg hunt. We’d like to invite individuals and families to experience the same ground in a new way, remembering the greater community of saints of which we are all a part.

To conclude, circumstances change. This has become the new, strange rhythm of our lives — at least for a time. Bishop Alexanders question is worthy. What would God have us know in this time? Formulating a response requires more than trying to do the same things in new ways. It requires our collective efforts to be together in ways we hadnt imagined before — some of which may be deeply traditional, but long forgotten. I know that, so far, the best answers Ive received have come from the interactions Ive been able to have with you. Being with, talking with others has been revelatory. We hope to continue that across many different modes.

We look for and depend on your input. Wed be glad to hear from you. What is listed here may be amended according to what you have to say, and what the news of the days may bring. We will continue to be constant in faith, in hope, and love.

Last Published: March 28, 2020 3:30 PM