Pastoral Update ~ July 6, 2020

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Dear Friends:                                                                                                         Monday, July 6, 2020

I recently shared with you our anticipation to move into the next part of our own recovery beginning July 6.  As you may recall, I also shared that it is safe to say that all of our planning and preparation is based on the presumption that we continue to make progress in the overall health and recovery of our greater community.  If we experience a setback, we will need to respond appropriately and return to greater precautions and protective measures.

Unfortunately, we are experiencing a setback with regard to the spread of Coronavirus in our area with confirmed cases affecting every community we serve.  The State of Ohio now has implemented a 4-Level COVID Public Emergency system.  Currently, Hamilton county is at a level 3 alert with 5 key indicators being reported including the number of new cases.  Hamilton County has seen a high percentage of its cases outside of congregate settings – ranging from 89%-97% over the past three weeks.  Recent non-congregate outbreaks have included workplace, faith-based, restaurant, and retail settings.  A level 3 alert calls for the community to limit activities as much as possible, as well as to follow all current health orders.  The directive from our Bishop is that congregations within a county with a level 3 or 4 indicator need to remain or return to a suspension of in-person worship and high degree of protective measures and precautionary limits.

Following the directive from our Bishop with this increase in health concern, we will maintain our current level of safeguards and delay our return to in-person worship at this timeWorship for Sundays and Tuesdays will remain online.  While we are following the latest information from the Ohio Department of Health, we are also in conversation with the Diocese for our next steps toward reopening. 

At this time, our community continues to connect online through our website and our dedicated YouTube Channel where you can find our services presented for you to pray and worship in your homes.  We also have a dedicated page within our website where you can find the latest updates and resources regarding St. Thomas and our response to COVID-19.  The Church remains open for individual prayer (9am-1pm Mon. – Fri.); and our parish office continues to have limited staff on-hand to coordinate essential ministry services only.

We continue to be hard at work in a time of preparing for the next phase of our re-opening and recovery, focusing on our community, our volunteers and even our guests with what they can expect as we return to a more public life.  When we re-open, it is not a return to the way things have always been.  At the same time, it also not “the new normal,” but simply what is asked of us to respect and live into at this particular time.   We all hope this particular season of COVID could end, but the truth of scientific data tells us to be prepared for this part of our journey to be a little longer than any of us would hope for.  In the meantime, we are getting prepared with new practices, supplies, protocols, even programs as they roll-out in the months ahead. 

While the primary work in these past months of the health crisis has fallen to our staff and leaders, there is great work ahead still to be shared, both collectively and individually as volunteers. Some of this work will be familiar, but a lot still has changed.  We start with how we welcome people safely – we are looking for more volunteers to be greeters & ushers.  Would you be willing to be trained to help us with this essential ministry?

Until then, remember there are things we can all do to help, starting with our own health and safety – it’s not just good manners to keep washing our hands, it’s now our practice, so too are wearing face masks and continuing to physical distance.  Please stay well, stay connected, and may God’s PEACE and blessings be with you and your whole family!

Weekly News and Notes ~ July 1 – 7, 2020

July 1 – 7, 2020

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Next Part of the Re-Opening Plan (after July 6) & Pastoral Update Available

As we look ahead to July, we hope and anticipate moving into the next part of our own recovery. 
This would begin July 6
and take us through the rest of the summer months of July and August.  
It is safe to say that all of our planning and preparation is based on the presumption that we continue to make progress in the overall health and recovery of our greater community.  If we experience a setback, we will need to respond appropriately and return to greater precautions and protective measures.  We are monitoring the situation and remain in close contact with the diocese.  We remain in a time of planning & preparation – preparing the building physically, but now more importantly, beginning to prepare our people – whether with new practices, supplies, protocols or even programs as they roll-out.  This is time we must keep asking, “Are we prepared?”  This includes:

            • How best to return to a more public presence in the community, beginning with public worship

            • Intensifying our Cleaning & Maintenance protocols even further

            • Establishing protocols and new standards for capacity

            • How best to emphasize individual practices for health & safety we can each adopt, including:
                        – Hand washing – yes, but even more…
                        – The use of face masks
                        – Arrangement of seating with physical distance measures

            • Training of new procedures and ongoing communications needed

Anticipating the week of July 6, the next part of our own reopening plan would build from what we have established, adding more basic elements of our ministry into place, such as modified public worship on Sundays and Tuesday evening.  Again, we are monitoring the situation and conditions throughout each week. As we are allowed we will continue our process – all of which with a high amount of protective measures and restrictions, as set forth by the Diocese and following other regulatory guidelines and best practices.  Anticipating beginning July 7, Tuesday Evening Prayer would be at 6:15 p.m.  Anticipating beginning the following Sunday, July 12, St. Thomas would resume public worship with two Sunday Services of the Word – 8 a.m. (Rite I) and at 10:15 a.m. (Rite II). 

More details can be found in the Pastoral Update available on our website at http://www.stthomasepiscopal.org/ and video available on our YouTube channel.  Moving into the next phase requires planning coordination with our Vestry, as well as the Diocese, state and federal guidelines.  As we continue the process, please keep in mind that much of what we’re allowed to offer continues to be different than what we experienced up until March, including no Holy Communion at this time.  We will be living with precautions and protective actions designed to serve all of us, especially our most vulnerable.

Now and even as we re-open more, our community will continue to be able to connect online through our website, YouTube Channel and small groups via Zoom; these will be a matter of “both/and” not “either/or.”  Now, more than ever, we need to stay connected.  If you haven’t been receiving regular emails from the parish and would like to, you can contact us through the website or call the parish office and leave a message so we can get back to you as quickly as possible. The Church remains open for individual prayer (9am-1pm Monday – Friday); and our parish office continues to have limited staff on-hand to coordinate essential ministry services.

A Prayer for Independence Day

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Financial Dollars & Sense

Your own commitment to support our outreach and ministry with your pledges continue to make a real difference!  Thank you!  In an effort to be better stewards, we are moving to electronic statements within these next several months.  Part of the email statement features a link to make a pledge contribution or other contribution online – as one more convenient way to help support St. Thomas.  This feature is always available on our website at http://www.stthomasepiscopal.org/  As always, thank you for what you do to help keep us connected and supporting the ministry we share! 

Prayers and Readings for The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

Proper 9A

The Collect of the Day

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Zechariah 9:9-12 (NRSV)

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (NRSV)

Jesus said, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Parish Prayer List

Alisha, Andrea, Betsy & Bill, Binny, Bob, Carol, Constance, Courtney & Steve, Gary,  Hunter, Kendra, Kim, Maddy, Mark, Nancy, Sara, Shelley, the Ayers family, and our shut-in parishioners and their care-givers; those serving our community and nation, including Will, Steven, Harrison, Matt, Becky, Jeff, Jennifer, Steve, Phillip and Perrin, as well as all those affected by natural disasters and human tragedies, everyone affected by the Coronavirus, the first responders and the aid and relief efforts that continue around the world.

A Prayer for the Whole Human Family

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us, unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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Seeking to keep you up-to-date on the latest news from St. Thomas.

Need to contact us? Email or call (513) 831-2052, and we will get in touch!

Outreach ~ Faith into Action

A Message From Our Deacon

The Toilet Paper Challenge for Thomaston Woods, Meadows and Affordable Living Communities

Living into Jesus’ new commandment to love that we read in John 14 is embracing opportunities to not only walk with, but at time step-up or step into action.  One such opportunity is with us now:  The Toilet Paper Challenge for Thomaston Woods, Thomaston Meadows and the other Affordable Living Communities of ERS.

No doubt you have read or heard about the fact that during the unprecedented times of COVID-19 quarantine, low-income individuals are suffering greatly.  Many lack support systems to help them access critically needed supplies and necessities.  Others, particularly older adults, fear the risks associated with going into public places. Even when they do venture out, they often find certain staples to be sold-out.  For the low-income seniors and families residing in Affordable Living by ERS, including the communities of Thomaston Woods and Thomaston Meadows – both communities were founded by Terrace Park parishioners of St. Thomas Episcopal Church and is still a proud outreach ministry partner – the services accessed and provided by ERS, parish and community partnerships are a true lifeline.  Toilet paper continues to be an item that is difficult for our residents to purchase and low-income individuals are not allowed to spend food stamp dollars to purchase this necessity.

An anonymous donor has committed $5,200 to fully fund 2 months of TP needs of the residents in our Affordable Living Communities served by ERS.  The donor has asked other friends of ERS to come forward and collectively match this gift to provide for the months of July and August.  St. Thomas Episcopal Church has committed an additional challenge to church members and the community of Terrace Park: St. Thomas will match additional gifts, up to $2,600, to fulfill this challenge. You can you help us reach this important goal and help some of our most vulnerable neighbors by donating online directly by visiting: https://www.episcopalretirement.com/corporate/donate/online and designate  your gift to “Emergency Response Fund” and enter “St. Thomas TP Challenge” in the comment section.  Or simply mail a check to: ERS Foundation, 3870 Virginia Avenue, Cincinnati, OH  45227 (memo: “St. Thomas TP Challenge”).  If you’d like more information, please contact Susan Cleverly, Manager of Foundation Relations and the Annual Fund, scleverly@erslife.org or call her directly at (513) 979-2309.

Card Ministry remains something your whole family can participate in. All the seniors and residents of assisted living and supported communities are presently unable to receive visitors, have no personal contact with their family and friends and have reduced group activities. They are feeling quite isolated. If you would like to write a short note of greeting and encouragement to them, this is your chance.  Oasis Senior Advisors Cincinnati continue to coordinate a card campaign for the seniors who are presently sequestered in their Assisted Living situations. Oasis can drop off blank note cards to you, along with instructions, and then pick them up again, “contact free.” Oasis can then then deliver the cards to an assisted living community in the area. The personnel of the community will distribute them to the residents.  If you would like your cards to go to specifically residents of Thomaston Woods, let us know and we will make sure that happens. You can find more information on our website or either email Oasis at: KRobinson@youroasisadvisor.com  or call them at (513) 302-6957 with any questions or to get started.  Thank you for your willingness to help our vulnerable seniors!

Habits of Grace

As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry invites you to join him each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.’ A new meditation will be posted on Mondays through May.

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