March 18, 2022

Dear Beloved,

We write to you after a very encouraging Vestry meeting last night. As you well know, we were scheduled to discuss possible changes to our current COVID-19 protocols considering shifts in public health policy at the local, state, and federal levels. The Diocese has also pivoted to a policy that leaves some decisions in the hands of the clergy and Vestry of each parish. Other decisions, like the common cup, remain outside of our ability to change.

There were two major areas to consider when thinking about any adjustments to our current COVID-19 policy. The first was the latest public health data. Are the vaccines doing their job? Do we trust them to work? What do we do with rising cases in other parts of the world as we brace for a potential surge in the coming months? How is Palm Springs doing and what does it mean to be a destination community with people flying in from all over the world? The second piece was the pastoral piece. Are folks psychologically ready for any changes and, if so, what is our responsibility to care for the most vulnerable while also gently nudging folks toward the risk of faith (without stepping off the proverbial cliff of presumption)? What is our responsibility not only to our neighbors’ physical health, but their mental health as well? Both areas were a robust part of the conversation last night.

We also want to say thank you to all those who gave us feedback through written emails, conversations at the door of the church, or over the phone. You really helped us measure the pulse of where we are, not just as individuals, but as a parish community. Ultimately, we are in this together and the Vestry is called to represent not just their own concerns, but the concerns of the church as a whole. We, as your co-rectors, are also entrusted with this great responsibility. We are collaborators as we make decisions about the future of our parish.

We are proud of this 2022 Vestry. Of course they faced their first major test in Lent, the season of testing! We wish you all could have been there as flies on the wall to watch the discussion. What an example of gentle, logical, tender, passionate, and civil discussion! This is no small miracle in a world of inflammatory Facebook posts and yelling through megaphones. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Your Vestry was an example of how being people of faith makes a difference in how we have conversations around issues that hold great weight in the minds of those any decision impacts. We are happy to report that faith makes a difference in how we make decisions. The how is just as important as the what.

After hearing from every Vestry person, after discussing the various reasons, we concluded that this decision is too important to be put to a simple vote. We needed to come to a consensus. The consensus was to consider the following for our worship services:

+ 8:00AM – vaccine and mask required
+ 10:30AM – vaccine and mask strongly recommended

However, the consensus was also that we needed to not make this decision immediately. First, people need time to mentally prepare themselves for any adjustment. We have all experienced the whiplash of opening up and closing down in rapid succession. We want to give people the chance to wrap their heads around this possible change to our 10:30AM service. People need time to consider which service they feel comfortable attending as they weigh liturgical preference and what risk they are willing to take. People deserve the gift of time when possibly changing a spiritual practice that grounds them in these unsettling times. We also hoped, for those who are ready to be done with masks, this would give them a light at the end of the tunnel, a clear end date instead of the “How long, O Lord?” with no endpoint in sight. Second, we want to see what impacts if any will happen with possible community spread as we are still at the height of the busy season. There will be many visitors at our services on Easter morning and we do not want any carrying going on, unless it is folks carrying souvenirs or tans back home from our beautiful oasis. Once we have passed those major milestones and see how Palm Springs is faring, the Vestry will be in a better place to assess any changes to the status quo. We are hopeful, if things go well, we will be able to move to the suggested changes at the 10:30AM service by May 1st.

In other words, given these considerations, we will continue to remain with our current COVID-19 protocols until we have had a chance to see how things are progressing.  The Vestry meets on the fourth Thursday of April. By then we will have more data to help us make an informed decision. In the meantime, we will continue to ask that all groups remain masked who meet on our campus and we will continue to be masked for in-person Sunday worship at both the 8:00AM service and the 10:30AM service. Coffee hour will continue outside. 8:00AM will continue to be vaccine-required and 10:30AM will continue to be vaccine-preferred. Of course, if anyone feels sick or is uncomfortable worshiping indoors, there is always the option of livestreaming the service from the comfort of your own home.

Thank you for your patience as we consider these matters. We are sure that this is joyful news to some and hard news for others. As we said in our last letter, we have made it so far and do not need to rush across the finish line. We are in a marathon, not a sprint, as Lent so readily teaches us. If you have any questions or concerns about the process outlined above, please reach out to us. We are more than happy to hear about what is on your heart as we listen together as a community for next steps. And please pray for us. Pray for the Bishop, Co-Rectors, and Vestry. We have been entrusted in these times with the care not only of your souls, but also your bodies. We do not want to bury anyone before their time. The sufferings of the present are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed. You are deeply loved and nothing in all creation, not even a mask, can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39).

With the love of Christ,

Rev. Dan+ & Rev. Jessie+