The Future Planning Committee, in hopes that the spread of the coronavirus would continue to be in winter months, as low as it was in the summer months, began to study the possibility of small group in-person gatherings and worship in the building. A survey asking questions of parishioners’ interest and comfort level with in-person small group indoor gatherings was sent to you in October. Over 60 people responded. Thank you!
 
In the interest of open communication, the Future Planning Committee wishes to share the highlights of the responses. If you wish to see the full data, please contact the parish office to see a copy, 207-725-5342.
 
We are pleased to offer you this summary of the survey results. Keep in mind, it was sent and responded to before the surge in the spread began in Maine at the end of October. Thank you, Paul Womer, Pat Ryan, Susan Tyler, Myrna Koonce and Rev. Katie Holicky for your help in creating this summary and the St. Paul’s Indoor Building Use Policy.
 
SUMMARY
Interest in in-person weekday service split almost evenly at 33%: Very interested, somewhat interested, not interested. The overwhelming majority of respondents indicated that using a reservation system was not a problem, either on-line or with a phone call.
 
Virtually all of the comments regarding the weekday service came from respondents who were not interested or were somewhat interested. The majority of the concerns were about risk of infection, leery of a closed environment, waiting for a vaccine, their own compromised health, etc. A few noted their concern for the church itself, others explained that they did not normally attend a weekday service, work schedule, preference for Sundays, etc. However, most of the concerns that were COVID-related reflected what we’ve heard elsewhere: risk.
 
Regarding 9:30 Sunday Family worship, responses as to why they did or did not attend ran the gamut: children spending too much time on the computer screen, instability of the internet connection, pleased to see young people involved in the service, enjoy it, enjoy the interaction, look forward to it, has not attended but thinking about it.
 
Regarding the 10:30 spiritual eucharist, comments were mostly favorable. They enjoyed it, found it peaceful, acknowledged the occasional glitches but were not put off by them. (One person wished more would tune-in and wondered where they were – apparently, s/he did not realize that you can watch without logging in or registering a comment.) Others acknowledge the risk of in-person worship and accept the need for on-line worship. A few comments expressed a need for a more professional (i.e., more polished technically-smooth) broadcast.
 
Some of the more representative comments are included:
 
 “I have really missed the in-person Sunday 10:30 am Eucharist service like many others. I would be so grateful to be able to attend in person with PPE and social distancing during the week if possible. I would not be able to join until after December as will be away. Thank You so very much.
 
Greater efforts to restore regular services needed.  Do not let members dwell in fear.  Greatest threat is to older parishioners, protect them. There is always danger, and the threat of this virus must be balanced with the threat of the Church slowly dying in self-imposed darkness. Difficult decisions – there are benefits to many for restoring services, threats to few. Live streaming is not a viable substitute for much longer without running the risks of losing critical support.
 
Despite my best intentions, I find it too easy to skip worship in order to do something outdoors. Having some kind of worship where we are physically together at St. Paul’s would mean a lot to me.
 
We need to see each other’s faces. There are fellow parishioners whom I have not seen since January. Live streaming does not satisfy my need for the sense of community I need so desperately.  Watching services week after week with no sense of anyone else being there feels so empty to me.
 
In the beginning of the pandemic we attended the Facebook live 10:30 service regularly, but as time went on, the format became repetitive and so our attendance dropped off.  At the moment we try to stay in touch with the parish through the small group gatherings, volunteering for the fairs, and reading the weekly email communications. To be honest, we have not attended the “spiritual eucharists.” I think moving to small group worship/eucharist on weekdays is a good idea now.
 
We know that the adjustment to exclusively digital platforms for worship has been difficult.  Still, we are learning so much more about reaching people outside of the church doors, and we will continue to utilize digital platforms after we are reunited in worship again.  Right now, we know that electronic connection does not completely satisfy the need for in-person worship for many of us. That longing is clear from your feedback. My friends, there is good news! Our longing for each other is a true indicator that we are a beloved faith community.
 
Yours in Christ,
Carolyn+
The Rev. Carolyn H. Eklund, Rector
St. Paul’s Policy for Indoor Building Use Distancing Precautions, 11.12.2020
 
BACKGROUND
As cold weather sets in and a dangerous spike in the spread of the coronavirus has emerged in Maine, St. Paul’s leadership has created a policy for indoor use of the building. The building was closed on March 15, 2020, and remains closed. The St. Paul’s office has been open with limited office hours, and one staff member present at a time. Members are encouraged to notify staff members ahead of time if a one-on-one in-person meeting is needed.
 
The Great Hall is utilized weekly for Sunday Zoom Family Worship at 9:30 a.m. by our assistant rector only, and the Nave is utilized for live stream digital spiritual eucharist. Masks are required in all places and for all occasions when in the building.
 
Bishop Brown communicated in a video his guidance for precautions during the recent alarming spread of the coronavirus in Maine. No in-person worship is to be offered. Digital live feed worship is allowed in the building with no more than six people participating. All people must be at least six feet apart and wearing masks at all times during worship. Only one person, masked, is permitted to sing. St. Paul’s is complying with his guidance.
 
We continue to keep up on the emerging epidemiological data and scientific discoveries of this virus and have urged members and staff to take the precautions of thorough and frequent hand-washing, mask-wearing and distancing of six feet or more when interacting with others.
 
POLICY FOR INDOOR BUILDING USE
Precautions to reduce the threat of coronavirus spread when using the building of St. Paul’s:
No St. Paul’s ministry groups or outside groups are permitted to meet in-person.
Those in the building for worship each Sunday must wear a mask at all times and sign the contact tracing log when entering the building.
No more than six people may be part of the digital worship on Sunday in the Nave.
All must be at least six feet apart.
If a group has a need to meet in person on a one-off basis, please arrange entry with a Susan Tyler or other staff member, stpauls@stpaulsmaine.org.
For information on daily Facebook live feed prayer visit the website: www.stpaulsmaine.org or contact Parish Administrator, Susan Tyler, stpauls@stpaulsmaine.org, 207-725-5342.
Please contact Susan Tyler if you are a choir member and wish to schedule a recording session in the sound room.
Staff will keep reduced but regular hours in the parish office.
The building remains closed and locked.