Re-Gathering Update from the Bishop’s Office

July 30, 2020
Dear St. Thomas Community,
In an email from the Bishop’s Office yesterday (click here to view), Bishop Haynes, in conjunction with her advisory staff, have encouraged congregations who have begun regathering (in our region of the diocese) to consider another suspension of in person worship due to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in our area. This includes all congregations in Convocations 1-5 which encompasses the entire 757 area code. 
In conference with the vestry at our last meeting we agreed to submit our regathering proposal for approval to allow us to gather when we felt that conditions made it safe to do so. We are in ongoing conversations about what that might look like.
We have submitted our plan and it has been approved so the question arises, “Now what?”
To that end, here is another link to another iteration of the Readiness to Return survey. Once you have received the link, you will have until 11:45 pm on August 5, 2020 to add your answers to our data set. Please fill out the survey as completely as possible. These answers will be especially helpful in crafting our metrics to assess in making a decision about if and when to regather as a community, which is something that we all are eager to see happen. That being said, caution is an important part of how we will determine when it is timely and safe to regather in the sanctuary. 
Given that Chesapeake General is very near capacity and cases continue to be on the rise in our community, we are not yet comfortable talking specific dates for regathering. We, along with the Bishop’s Office, will continue to track local metrics as well as state and national trends, emerging research and treatment options as well as the search for a vaccine before we make any solid plans regarding a target date. 
I realize that the uncertainty is challenging and it can feel like the goal line is continually changing. In the midst of that reality I bid you remember that God is God and we are not. I would further echo this part of last Sunday’s reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans,  “38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”–The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ro 8:38–39). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
As we turn toward August, stay tuned for a couple of opportunities to gather (cautiously) to bless one another and the challenging times we have faced thus far and to gather strength for what September will bring for us as in our various callings, especially for teachers, students, parents and health care and public safety workers. 
May God continue to bless us with the Divine Presence, walk with us in the abiding presence of Jesus the Christ and with the encouragement of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. 
                                              –The Rev. Warren Hicks