Return to In-Person Worship (March 6, 2022)
Dear Members & Friends of the Congregational Church of Austin~
I am delighted to tell you, on behalf of the Deacons, that our sanctuary will be open for in-person worship this Sunday, March 3. As promised, we made this decision based on Austin moving to Stage 3 in its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines. We will continue to livestream the service for the foreseeable future, while also welcoming those who are ready to return to worship “in the flesh”.
This return will be a gradual one. For example, we will receive Communion this Sunday in individually prepared servings rather than a shared loaf. As long as we remain in Stage 3, we will require masks indoors. Once Austin moves to Stage 2, we will encourage individuals to mask to their comfort level. For those who choose not to wear masks, we simply ask that you take particular care when interacting with others who are masking or who are particularly at risk from exposure to COVID—such as our elderly members, young unvaccinated children, and those who are immunocompromised. We want to balance a sense of liberation with collective care for one another.
The Deacons and I are finalizing preparations to reboot our nursery and children’s Sunday School. We have hired two new nursery teachers—Alexandra Ridulfo and Anne Abel. They both come with training and experience in early childhood development and currently teach at Children’s Discovery Center South during the week. We are so excited for you to meet them! As soon as their paperwork has been processed and they have been oriented, we will begin providing nursery care every Sunday. We also will begin providing children’s Sunday school for our elementary aged kids, taught by Kay Pruett, once all the teachers have been onboarded.
An important part of this reboot will be a change to our schedule. Children’s SS will be taught from 9:45-10:45, and our elementary kids will be encouraged to join us in worship. Nursery care will be available from approximately 9:30-12:30. We hope that parents of our young children will use this hour of childcare before worship to catch their breath, stroll down the Drag for some breakfast or coffee, or find a quiet place to rest while their children are being nurtured by loving teachers and caregivers. This is a ministry we can offer to young families, most of whom are feeling the exhaustion of these past two years of pandemic life.
That’s not to say that only young families are exhausted, grieving, and overwhelmed. Most of us are, in one way or another. As we prepare to begin the season of Lent this Sunday, I invite you to think of this as a season of return—returning to church, returning to God, returning to our deepest selves. The worries of the world and the productivity demands of late-stage capitalism have a way of distracting and draining us. Lent does not need to be a season of fasting or another line on our To Do lists; it need only be a season of laying down our burdens at the foot of the Cross, practicing Sabbath rest, and engaging in God’s life-giving work of renewal—the kind of work that makes our bodies tired and our spirits rested.
I hope to see you Sunday—in person or online.