Guide to Gathering in Person


A Guide to Gathering in Person: The Diocese of Olympia's Phased-In Plan for Resuming In-Person Worship and Activities

From the Rector

Dear St Thomas Family:
           Bishop Rickel and the diocesan staff have now issued guidelines for a phased, gradual reopening of our church buildings. The document is called:
A Guide to Gathering in Person: The Diocese of Olympia’s Phased-In Plan for Resuming In-Person Worship and Activities. It is included below. 
         The guidelines contemplate a four phase reopening that mirrors Gov. Inslee’s four phase plan for reopening the state’s economy. You will note that in-person worship of 50 or less does not begin until phase three and the best current estimate is that it will be at least late June or early July before this happens. Some of us have been asking about drive-up worship, which is now permitted, although the restrictions imposed on this (no getting out of cars, no singing, no distribution of food, i.e., the sacrament, no distribution of written materials, no passing of offering plates) make it impractical for a liturgical church like ours. Bishop Rickel put it very succinctly at a clergy Zoom conference when discussing drive up worship with these restrictions: “What’s the point?”, he said. I agree. My view is that our online Sunday worship is going well, and we will continue to refine and improve that. Indeed, we are finding, like many churches, that our online audience exceeds our pre-Covid-19, average Sunday attendance. So we will keep this going even when we are able to physically gather in church.
             Like all of you, I am so eager to return to the church building and to all our in-person gatherings that so enrich our lives at St Thomas. But that’s not going to be possible until our public health authorities give us the go-ahead. In the meantime, we will continue to work hard to maintain and grow our interrelationships in this beloved community. And you are a huge part of that. Reach out to someone you haven’t heard from recently. Check in with them. Be the church for them. And if you are lonely, reach out and share that. We are all companions on this strange voyage, but we can be assured that Jesus is in the boat with us. Hear his voice saying, “Do not be afraid.”

Blessings and love,

From Bishop Rickel

For the original source of the following information, visit the Diocesan website CLICK HERE. 

To the Good People of God in the Diocese of Olympia,

We live in interesting times. That might be one of the greatest understatements I have heard lately, but no doubt it is true. These have been especially interesting days for the church. We have learned a lot. We still have lots to learn. We have gained perspective on things we often took for granted, and we have learned of things that are not that important after all. In the face of all of this, we still have each other, and most importantly, an amazing God who loves us all and wishes only the best for us. I put my hope in those two things right now – each of you and our God.

This document has been worked on by our diocesan staff, with review by others in the diocese with expertise in these areas. It is loosely but carefully mirrored off of the four-phase plan offered by our governor this past week. It is offered to all of you as a roadmap to what our future might look like in the days ahead as we phase-in our return to face-to-face encounters. I think it is very safe to say, this will not be fast. As our governor has said so well, this will not be like turning on a light switch, but more like slowly turning the dial – and the turning will be going on for a while. It also might be two turns forward and then one back. This is new for all of us. I am blessed to be walking through it with all of you.

This will probably be stated several times in this document, but to assure you – we are trying carefully to use words in it that help you determine if these are mandates, suggestions, encouragements, or requirements. We all hope to be conscious of the importance of those words, but if, in the course of reading you find anything that does not seem clear, please do not hesitate to ask.

This document has four main sections:

  1. Who and What Will Be Deciding Factors in Our Decisions in the Diocese of Olympia Regarding Reopening Our Churches? Use this section to inform yourself and others as to how our decisions are being made and why they are being made.
  2. Questions and Actions You and Your Congregation Should Be Addressing in Preparation for Reopening. Use this section to prepare your congregation to move into future phases and prepare for the possibility that we may move in either direction depending on the circumstances.
  3. The Four Phases. Use this section to understand and plan how to change the gathering and distancing behaviors of your congregation based upon the current phase.
  4. Bibliography, Resources, and Additional Reading. Use this section to understand the methodology behind this plan, find resources for your congregation, and read more from experts and researchers who have analyzed the current situations.

I have every belief that this document will evolve. In other words, what we see in it today, may or may not be what we are following tomorrow. There may be adjustments, and we will attempt to communicate that to you in every way we can along the way.

Until then, stay together in Spirit. Know that we are united in Christ, even when apart.

Bless you all,

The Rt. Rev. Gregory Rickel
VIII Bishop of Olympia and Chief Steward

A Guide to Gathering in Person PDF