Updates Regarding COVID-19 Precautions

Reopening Process - 05/28/2021

 

Emerging from fifteen months of COVID restrictions has been interesting. At this point,  it is appropriate to clarify where St. Brendan's stands.

•  No reservations are now required to attend our Sunday services at either 8:00 or 10:00.

•  We continue to ask that children under 12 not attend services just yet. At this month’s Vestry Meeting, Pr. Julie presented a detailed plan for re-introducing children to church over the course of the summer; she will share more information about that program soon. (NOTE: The Parish Picnic is an exception to this policy; the kids are welcome to join us there.)

•  Masks are still required in church and we will continue to seat people with an eye to distancing, though the minimum distance will be reduced. We hope soon to have ushers back in the building to assist with this task.

•  Congregational singing is now permitted but you must not remove your mask in order to sing.

•  If COVID numbers continue to improve (vaccinations ↑ new cases ↓), we plan to introduce a simple Coffee Hour (hopefully outdoors) in July.

 

Thank you!

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Further Steps Towards Reopening at St. Brendan's - 05/12/2021

 

Dear Brendanites,

 

At its meeting on Monday night, the Vestry endorsed the idea of continuing the slow but steady path towards reopening our building for all of the activities that we recall so fondly from pre-COVID times. The virus has hardly vanished into thin air, of course: last week alone, more than 200 people caught COVID in Allegheny County, over 25 of them in McAndless Township. But with vaccination numbers climbing and (hopefully) summer weather around the corner, there is good reason to believe that we can safely join the rabbits and the cicadas in emerging from our burrows!

 

Here then are a few changes to our ever-evolving procedures:

  • Those who wish to attend the 8:00 a.m. service no longer need to notify Katie of their plans. In lifting that requirement, we are relying on the fact that the "Eight O'Clockers" typically number 20-25. If the numbers climb in the coming weeks, we might need to reinstitute a list of who plans to attend--but hopefully not.
     

  • We continue to ask those who wish to attend the 10:00 Eucharist to please contact Katie and receive an email from her confirming that they are expected at the service.
     

  • Small groups that would like to meet at church again may ask to do so. Everyone is expected to follow the current CDC guidance on masks and distancing. Outdoor meetings are particularly encouraged; the Book Club already put in a request for such a meeting in early June. (However, we should all avoid the area to the south of the building--especially the Outdoor Chapel area. We have been told that the massive tree that was struck by lightning three years ago is now unstable.)
     

  • What is important is for groups who would like to meet at church to please inform Katie first so that each meeting can be put on the parish calendar. We are not yet ready to have multiple groups meeting at the same time and we may have to ask people to change their plans if a clash seems unavoidable.
     

Thank you all for your continued patience as we take another step forward!

 

Tim Austin

Senior Warden

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Re-Opening Update - 4/25/2021


Dear Friends in Christ,


Mid-March 2020: the Vestry heeds the request of the Diocese and closes St. Brendan’s in the face of the worsening pandemic. That was a difficult decision, but everyone accepted the change with grace, and we quickly  concentrated our efforts on moving the 10:00 a.m. service online. 

 

Easter Sunday 2021 (almost exactly a year later): we take the first cautious steps toward welcoming limited numbers of worshipers back inside the church.


Today: we, like everyone else, must work out what the new “normal” is going to look like and gauge what reasonable, incremental adjustments will move us along the path towards that goal.


This afternoon, sixteen Brendanites met on Zoom to discuss some of the more immediate steps. Those on the call included members of last year’s Reopening Working Group and its successor, the Reopening Committee; members of the Stream Team; our Rentals Coordinator; the leader of the Altar Guild and the coordinators of our lectors and stewards; our two clergy; and our Parish Administrator. We had a thoughtful discussion and arrived at several decisions.


1. On May 2, Bishop McConnell will join us at the 10:00 a.m. Eucharist for his annual visitation. At this very special celebratory service, as Fr. Regis has explained elsewhere, we have over fifteen Brendanites who (i) have asked to be baptized, confirmed, or received into the Episcopal Church or (ii) plan to reaffirm their faith commitment.

 

After much calculating, we decided that the candidates for baptism or confirmation should be encouraged to invite a limited number of guests from their own households. Those being received who would otherwise have to attend alone may bring with them one guest from their household, but where two candidates already come from a single household, they will have to constitute one another’s guests. These decisions should result in us staying below the capacity limits currently in place for 10:00 a.m. services: 25 persons or16 households, whichever limit is more restrictive.


In the next few days, everyone on the list for baptism, confirmation, reception or re-affirmation will receive a letter outlining how these decisions apply to their individual circumstances. Unfortunately, however, it is very clear that we will be unable to accommodate any other parishioners or guests in the church on May 2.

 

2. On May 9, we will again have a very inspiring and festive 10:00 a.m. service. For one thing, we have another baptism scheduled; for another, Darrell Johnson will be with us for the first time in his new capacity as a deacon, preaching and serving in other appropriate liturgical roles during the service. 

 

May 9 is also be Mother’s Day and we know that many Brendanites would like to mark that day by worshiping in person; however, it seems likely that the family members and friends supporting Darrell and the candidate for baptism will once again limit the seats available for parishioners. We trust that you will understand if we ask you to participate in this joyous liturgy remotely.


3. Also on May 9, we will resume the 8:00 a.m. Eucharist. For now, the 8:00 a.m. service will be held in the main church, not in the side chapel (where distancing is almost impossible). We plan to take some measurements in the outdoor chapel to see whether that might represent an alternative in the future as the weather improves.

 

Those wishing to attend an 8:00 a.m. service must contact Katie in advance, since the capacity limits currently in place for the 10:00 a.m. will also apply at 8:00 a.m. Masks must be worn, and social distancing maintained throughout the service. The 8:00 service will not be streamed.


4. On May 16, we will resume inviting parishioners to the 10:00 a.m. Sunday services. Attendance limits will still be observed, though we plan to continue to monitor the situation nationally, statewide and locally to see whether those caps might be raised in a few weeks. We also continue to ask that those present not sing (as hard as that may be for some).


5. Finally, we did discuss two additional desirable steps: (i) arranging some activity that would begin reintroducing children to St. Brendan’s and (ii) resuming Wednesday evening services. We all agreed that both were important to pursue, but each requires additional discussion and planning with those who would be responsible for organizing them. With so much activity already on our plate, we deferred those decisions for another day.


This has been long letter—another long letter! Reopening church, it turns out, is a lot more complicated than closing it ever was. On behalf of the whole St. Brendan’s community, I want to express my thanks to all those who have made vibrant weekly worship possible throughout the past fourteen months; to those who worked together to develop a coherent and responsible plan for reopening; and to those who are now implementing that plan with all appropriate care and attention.


Yours most sincerely,


Tim Austin
Senior Warden

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Re-Opening for In-Person Worship - 3/16/2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

At a meeting yesterday evening, it was decided that we will carefully and incrementally reopen St. Brendan's for in-person worship. The recent improvement in key COVID statistics, the increasing numbers of our members who are fully vaccinated, and the recent lifting of public health restrictions by Governor Wolf all contributed to this decision.

Here are the key details:

  • The first service to which we will invite a limited number of our members will be the 10:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist on Easter Sunday.

  • In addition to this posting, announcements will be made as an email blast to members of the parish, as a notice in this week's Little Log, and as a pre-recorded announcement at the Eucharist this week and again on Palm Sunday.

  • Those who are interested in attending in person in the coming weeks are invited to submit their names, their preferred means of contact (phone, text, or email), and the size of their household groups to Katie by 5:00 p.m. on Palm Sunday. [Email: StBrendansKatie@gmail.com; telephone at church: 412-364-5974.]

  • At this early stage, we will allow children over the age of 12 to attend with their parents.

  • On Monday, March 29, we will draw at random between 10 and 15 names from the list (depending on the size of each group).

    • The individuals or groups selected for Easter Day will receive personal invitations to attend the service and directions about the practices they will need to follow.

    • Those on the list whose names are not drawn for Easter Day will be eligible for the drawing for the following Sunday (and so on, assuming that we are able to remain open).

  • Our practical experience and the comfort level of our stream team with their own safety each Sunday will determine how many invitees we select for the following service.

  • Prior to Easter Sunday, the church furniture will be reset in the way to which we are all accustomed. (We will be using the upholstered wood chairs and not the plastic chairs from the Social Hall, since the current guidance from the CDC suggests that transmission of the coronavirus via contaminated surfaces is "uncommon.") However, the use of masks and hand sanitizer and the maintenance of appropriate distancing will remain absolute requirements for all who attend our services.

  • The way in which Holy Communion will be distributed at the service is a matter for our clergy to determine.

  • Above all, perhaps, it must be clearly understood that we will continue to monitor with care the COVID-19 statistics for our region. Any deterioration in the indicators may be grounds to abandon this plan before its implementation on Easter Day or to close the church once again after we have reopened. 

Anyone with concerns or questions is very welcome to contact me at any time (austover@gmail.com or 508-688-9554). May our Eastertide this year be blessed in a particularly special way as we embark on the next stage in our voyage as St. Brendan's.

Tim Austin

Senior Warden

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Re-Opening for In-Person Worship Deferred - 10/21/2020

 

With very mixed emotions and after studying  the most current COVID-19 data available, we have decided that St. Brendan’s will not re-open for in-person worship on Sunday, October 25 as planned. When we originally targeted this coming Sunday for the resumption of services, the pandemic seemed to have plateaued; this is simply no longer the case.

 

We know that, for some Brendanites, worshipping together in our beautiful building is important for spiritual reasons, besides being socially desirable. We respect everyone’s desire to return to a more “normal” life—indeed, we share that sentiment. However, we cannot in conscience allow the liturgies at St. Brendan’s to contribute to the steadily growing number of COVID cases in our region.

 

We have arrived at this decision after consulting in recent days with the Vestry, the Worship Committee and the members of the team who have been live-streaming our services for almost eight months. A clear majority of those we spoke with support a deferral.

 

We will continue to monitor the figures on a weekly basis. When the numbers drop once more, we will be able to set a new target date for returning to in-person worship. For now, we project that the earliest possible date for a resumption would be November 29, the first Sunday in Advent. We will keep you informed as developments occur.

 

In the meanwhile, opportunities are always available for individuals and families who would like to receive Holy Communion at the church by appointment. You can contact Pr. Julie or Fr. Regis or call the number at the bottom of this page to reserve a timeslot. Those who have already taken advantage of this possibility are warmly invited to request a second appointment.

 

We pray, as always, for God’s continued care for God’s people—in our parish, in our surrounding communities and in the country. May God help us to discern how best to continue to worship under these increasingly challenging circumstances.

 

Yours in Christ,


Regis Smolko, Priest-in-Charge

Tim Austin, Senior Warden

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Plans to re-open limited, in-person Sunday worship on October 25, 2020

 

Dear Fellow Members and Friends of St. Brendan’s,


After seven months of holding services exclusively online, we are ready to begin regathering for worship in
person—albeit on a limited basis. Our current projection is that, on Sunday, October 25, we will begin inviting
limited numbers to our weekly celebrations of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 a.m. in the church at 2365 McAleer
Road, while still live-streaming every service on YouTube as we do now.

Expressing an interest in attending


Initially, attendance will be limited to 18-20 persons over the age of 12 (in addition to the celebrant(s), the
Music Director and those responsible for running the live-stream). At St. Brendan’s, as you know, we love our
children dearly and eagerly look forward to their return to church as well, but in the short run we need to
establish how worship “works” for adults and teens.


Anyone who would like to attend a service in person in the coming weeks may contact Katie Cervone (at
StBrendansKatie@gmail.com or (412) 364-5974) as soon as they wish. Please be sure to let us know your name,
your contact information, and how many adults and teens from your household will be in your group.
Once we know how many people wish to attend, we will probably need to set up a rota, with families /
individuals attending every second or third Sunday. We will distribute that information to those that have
indicated an interest as early as possible.

Expectations


It is important to recognize that for those who do decide to join us for worship in person, the experience will not
be at all the same as we remember. The sanctuary itself will look different: the cloth chairs will have been
replaced with chairs from the Fellowship Hall to allow for easier sanitizing, and those chairs will have been
placed in a pattern recommended by the CDC (instead of in rows). Family members will of course sit together,
but they will have to maintain the appropriate distance from other families and individuals around them.
Here are some other requirements that you will be asked to comply with if you attend in person:


• Masks will be mandatory for everyone. There are legitimate medical exceptions that primarily have to
do with difficulty breathing; however, if breathing is a concern for you, perhaps it would be better to
continue to follow the service on the live-stream until face-coverings are no longer necessary.


• As noted above, physical distancing must be maintained. We will be asking you to remain at least 6 feet
apart as you enter and leave through the Narthex and the seating will be arranged to ensure 10 feet
between families and individuals in the Sanctuary during the service.


• You will be shown to your designated seat and we ask that you remain there unless directed to move by
an usher. At the end of the service, the usher will dismiss the congregation at intervals so as to maintain
appropriate distancing.


• There will be music during the service, but those attending should not sing themselves. Several studies
have suggested that singing significantly increases the risk of infection.


• Please, by all means bring your smiles and cheerful hearts with you to church; we need them more than
ever this fall. But leave your handshakes and hugs—even your fist- and elbow-bumps—at home for now.
The Peace will be exchanged with nods and smiles and waves. After all, it truly is the intention that
counts.


• It has been a long time since we could be together, but we still cannot stand around and chat after the
end of the service. For everyone’s safety and health, when the service is over, please leave the building
and head directly to your cars.

Changes in plan


If we have learned anything about COVID-19, it is surely that we should remain alert for potential surprises! The
virus has a truly devilish capacity to catch us unawares and derail our best-laid plans. If circumstances change
and we have to roll back this limited re-opening, an announcement will be released in the same three ways that
this letter is being shared: (i) as an email blast to those on the parish’s email distribution list, (ii) as a posting on
the Web site www.stbrendans.org, and (iii) as a posting on our Facebook page. Any such announcement will be
posted and distributed no later than 12:00 noon on the Saturday before the service in question.

Concluding thoughts


Please know that the decision about whether or not to attend worship in person is yours alone to make. Nobody
at St. Brendan’s will infer anything from what you decide to do; as we have all learned in the past seven months,
there are no “right answers” in the world of COVID, just prudent actions based on a whole host of important and
often very personal factors. If you are simply uncomfortable with being in groups just now, that alone is an
entirely understandable reason for waiting to come back until the context changes.


There is one critical exception to what we have just written, and it is this: If you feel unwell in any way or have
recently been ill, please join us on the live stream rather than in person and focus all your energies on getting
well as soon as possible!


We very much look forward to seeing everyone again—some of you sooner, others in the weeks and months to
come. Remember to contact us soon if you would like to be among those attending in person in the near future.


Yours in Christ,


Regis Smolko, Priest-in-Charge

Tim Austin, Senior Warden

_______________________________________________________

Letter to St. Brendan's Family about Reopening Survey, 6/11/2020

St. Brendan’s Family,

 

As we work to develop a plan for the eventual reopening of St. Brendan’s for in-person worship, we need your input. At the end of this note, you will find a link to a survey that will help us better prepare to reopen St. Brendan’s.

 

Before you fill out the survey, please review some of the rules parishioners and visitors will have to abide by when we do open our doors for in-person worship:

  • Anyone who is feeling sick or showing symptoms associated with COVID-19 (such as fever, coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, or a recent loss of taste or smell) should not attend in-person worship. Anyone who has tested positive for or has come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 should refrain from coming to in-person worship until they have self-quarantined and received a negative test.

  • Social distancing measures will require individuals/families to maintain a distance of 10 feet from other individuals/families while in the building.

  • Masks will be required. (Please bring a mask with you).

  • Prayer books and hymnals will not be used.

  • Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the building, and you are encouraged to use it.

  • Only a specified number of people will be able to attend service in the sanctuary.

  • There will be no congregational singing. (Music will be provided by the music director).

  • The nursery will be closed. (Sunday school is closed for summer break, and will remain closed until it is deemed safe to resume).

  • Hospitality hour is canceled until further notice.

The working group will develop a list of procedures—to be approved by Fr. Regis and the Vestry, and announced later—around entering and exiting the church, donation collection, the sign of peace, communion, sign-ups for attendance, cleaning between services, and other important details about the service to keep our churchgoers safe. Your survey answers will help us develop these comprehensive plans.

 

Please only submit one survey per household.

 

Thank you for blessing us with your valuable input as we prepare to welcome the St. Brendan’s family back to a safe worship environment.

 

Sincerely, 

The Working Group to Reopen St. Brendan’s

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Letter to St. Brendan's parishioners from Rev. Regis Smolko on Saturday, 3/14/2020

Dear Parishioners and Friends:

It’s with heavy yet confident hearts that we SUSPEND PUBLIC WORSHIP at St. Brendan’s Episcopal Church until this health crisis has abated. Every Friday at noon going forward, we will inform you all of the Worship status for the upcoming Sunday. We will be live streaming our liturgical worship weekly, and all will be able participate (even if you’re not on Facebook) in our weekly liturgy. It will feel like being at church while you are (in your PJs) at home. We will provide music and singing and spiritually nourishing sermons. We will follow the liturgical flow of the service with all the moving parts. 

We will be in contact about a whole lot of other ways we wish to continue our connectedness as the Body of Christ. All the meetings I have scheduled for the next weeks will take place as scheduled, but either virtually or by conference call. (For marriage prep, please have a computer/device/printer nearby so you can receive forms, sign them and return them.) 

There are two ministries currently forming that will need volunteers: one is a focused Ministry to Sick, Elderly and Shut-Ins during this challenging time; the other, a Ministry to our Healthcare Providers. (We have nearly 10 physicians and at least 12 nurses and other hospital workers who attend St. Brendan’s. They will be expected to work longer hours and will have needs that the Episcopal Church asks us to support in a special way.)

Some other cancellations that were not reported in our previous blast are the following: CRIES Meetings, Stitches & Strings, Brendan’s Boots and Highway Clean-up. (CRIES’ regulars will be notified by email soon.)

Since streaming communication will be available, let us know if you have creative, perhaps fun ways we can stay connected? How about an hour’s worth of real time life in our homes, like “The Jokes the Bertuccis Tell at Mealtime” or “How Regis and Ken Agree on What TV Programs to Watch,” perhaps, “How Judy Flick is Still Cleaning Up the Ashes She Received on Ash Wednesday” or “The Snyders', Their Courting Chairs:The Real Story.” Can you imagine what fun we can have?

So, dear Brendanites, we will make it through. We will learn a lot, develop all sorts of new ways of doing things, and learn to love and trust God more. We will get through this. We will come out of it better and bigger. We are St. Brendan’s!

All good to you,
Regis+ and Tim  

Here is a prayer written by the Bishop of Maryland that you may want to use throughout this crisis:

 

O God of compassion, giver of life and health, we pray your healing mercies upon all who are in any way affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Comfort and sustain those who have been stricken; relieve their pain, and restore to them your gifts of gladness and strength. Grant to all in authority the courage to make wise decisions that are essential for the common good, and strengthen them to lead institutions that care for those whom they serve. Watch over all first responders and those in the medical professions whose duty it is to care for the sick; guard them from all danger, and keep them safe in the knowledge that is through their sacrifice and service that the health of the whole community is promoted. Mercifully accept these our prayers, O God of all comfort, and our only help in time of need. Amen.