Late yesterday afternoon, Bishop Phoebe Roaf made a decision to suspend in-person worship throughout the Diocese of West Tennessee for at least the next several weeks. Her decision is effective immediately, and does include Christmas Eve. We will not have in-person worship on Christmas Eve.
The Bishop’s decision is a direct response to the recent surge in COVID-19 infections and the over-capacity conditions being experienced in almost all of the hospitals in our region. In making this incredibly difficult decision, the Bishop took into account Governor Lee’s statement from this past Sunday evening, the Shelby County Health Department’s orders from yesterday afternoon, and the advice and counsel of medical experts and diocesan leaders, including myself. Though this decision breaks my heart, I support it fully.
The parish staff met virtually this morning to discuss how we could best reconfigure our Christmas celebrations now that we are not able to gather in person. Your ministry team continues to impress me with their flexibility and creativity under the most challenging circumstances. Though we will not gather for in-person worship this Christmas, we are adding a number of new Christmas offerings that will actually increase our opportunities for engagement, albeit online.
Here is what you can expect:
- Clergy Gifts and Greetings on Christmas Eve: Your clergy team will be in Holy Communion’s front driveway from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, greeting parishioners and passing out printed service leaflets, guides for in-home worship, and small gifts of Christmas cheer. Please drive through so that we can greet you and share some tokens of love from Holy Communion on Christmas Eve.
- Livestream Worship at 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve: As planned, our 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Christmas Eve services will stream live to our website and Facebook platform. Each has a full and unique musical program and will be archived for those who wish to view them later. I will preach the Christmas Sermon at the 6:00 p.m. service.
- Late-Night Prayers with the Rector at 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve: In place of our traditional 11:00 p.m. service, I will stream late-night Christmas prayers live from my home at 11:00 p.m. on our website and Facebook platform. Whether you are a Midnight Mass regular or just staying up late to assemble Christmas presents, this service is for you!
- Online Service at 10:00 a.m. on Christmas Day: As planned, our Christmas Day worship service will be online at 10:00 a.m., broadcast from the home of the Reverend Hester Mathes at 10:00 a.m.
- Christmas Day Fellowship Hour at 11:00 a.m. on Zoom: We are adding an interactive fellowship opportunity after our Christmas Morning service. Gather with clergy and fellow parishioners on Zoom at 11:00 a.m. on Christmas Day. Please sign-up in advance so that we can send you the Zoom information.