Safety Guidelines during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Last updated August 25, 2021
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” ~Colossians 1:11-12
Beloved in Christ,
As we approach the Resurrection of our Lord and the freedom from sin bestowed on us, it is only fitting that our current COVID restrictions move in the direction of freedom as well. After a long, dark period, we are grateful for the opportunity to step more into the light. Under the direction of our Holy Metropolis of Atlanta, in consultation with parish leadership including our Parish Council and our Parish Nurse, and checked against current local governmental recommendations, we are pleased to make the following changes to our COVID-19 Safety Measures:
Maintaining Safe Numbers
• While maintaining distancing is still an important part of fighting the pandemic, we are modestly increasing capacity of our parish from about 50 to about 75.
• This will partly be done by creating a non-distanced section for those who have been vaccinated to stand together. Vaccinated parents may stand in this section with their unvaccinated children, but we recommend unvaccinated spouses do not (either to stand separately, or to stand together outside the vaccinated section).
NOTE: this is not a special privilege bestowed only upon some, but a way to increase capacity and enable greater attendance for all. Seating in this section will be on the honor system: no one will be made to present or display proof of their vaccination.
• Beginning on Palm Sunday, the Alternating Group schedule (A-L and M-Z) will end—all will be welcome and invited to attend the divine services every Sunday.
• Concelebrations on the altar will continue, and the number of altar servers may be increased.
• Live-streaming of services will continue for the time being, which can be found on our Facebook page and on our YouTube channel.
• Once again, we ask everyone to do their part in maintaining safe distancing.
• As always DO NOT come to church if you have any possible COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell), but instead seek medical attention. Likewise, do not come to church if you have been exposed to COVID-19 within the last 14 days AND have not been fully vaccinated.
• We ask any and all who are entering our church building, for whatever purpose and regardless of vaccination status or any other factor, to wear a mask. Clergy, servers and chanters will not wear masks only in performance of their liturgical duties.
• Temperature checks will be discontinued, although contact tracing (i.e. keeping a log of attendees at each service) will continue for now.
• Service books will be made available once again for those who would like them. After the service, leave your service book on your chair and the ushers/cleaners will pick up and sanitize them. (Fr. Stephen notes: service books can be helpful, but also can be a distraction from truly participating in the worship. You never have to take a service book!)
• Bulletins may also be distributed again. A new Sunday bulletin is forthcoming.
• Physical veneration (i.e. kissing) of the icons, gospel, and holy objects may resume by those who are comfortable doing so. To venerate, remove your mask briefly, venerate, then put on your mask again. Icons will be gently cleaned after each service.
• At all times while in the church, follow CDC directives, which currently include: washing of hands thoroughly and frequently, covering your coughs and sneezes, avoiding sharing personal items, avoiding physical contact, and maintaining a safe distance.
• Use the provided hand sanitizer upon entering, as well as upon leaving.
• If you have a pledge or donation to give, place it carefully in the offering plate on the candle stand. The offering plate will not be passed during the Liturgy. Remember that pledges and donations can be mailed to the church at any time, as well as given online at our tithe.ly account.
• The Holy Eucharist will be distributed in the same way: the clergy and servers will wear masks, and communicants will come forward and briefly remove their mask to receive. Refrain from wiping your mouth on the red cloth.
• Antidoron will be passed out during Communion by a masked & gloved priest or altar server, as well as after the Liturgy. As always, be mindful of holy crumbs.
• As always, make all necessary spiritual preparations to receive, including fasting, confession, and praying the Pre-Communion Prayers.
• Multiple chanters at one chant stand are allowed to resume, but all will face forward and remain properly distanced from the congregation. Masks are required when not chanting.
• Choirs are also allowed to resume, either masked or distanced; we are still in the process of determining how best to implement this.
After the Service
• Other items—such as palm crosses, flowers, red eggs—can and will also be distributed.
• A volunteer Cleaning Crew will clean and sanitize the church after each service, including but not limited to wiping down surfaces and seats, straightening chairs, and ensuring sanitizer and soap are stocked.
• His Eminence, Metropolitan Alexios, not only gives his blessing for fellowship meals to resume in a safe way, but encourages it.
• On Palm Sunday, we will try our first fellowship meal in over a year.
• We will have a picnic outside (weather permitting), and each family/member is invited to bring their own food. If necessary, food can be stored in the kitchen during the services.
• Beverages will be provided by the Parish Council.
• While outside, masks (except while eating) and/or distancing should be practiced. If sitting inside, masks AND distancing should be practiced, and eating should not take place both for safety and for cleanup logistics.
• We hope to have our second fellowship meal picnic on Pascha following Agape Vespers, and will fine-tune its logistics after the Palm Sunday picnic.