Reopening Restoration: Phase Alpha

Preamble

Our last corporate worship service in our facility on N. Quincy Street was March 8, 2020.  Since that time we have gathered almost daily by Zoom and YouTube Live.  The Holy Spirit has been with us.  He has not been restricted in His work of redemption, conviction, and hope.  We have missed each other and our sense of community is strong.  As we anticipate beginning to reopen our facility and to gather again on N. Quincy Street, the Holy Spirit will be with us in that as well-  even if we are in masks and needing to sing quietly.  God is at work and we do not need to be afraid. 

What is our goal in reopening the facility? 

We want to gather as many people for worship, as soon as it is wise, while being consistent with lawful guidance, and demonstrating clearly to our neighbors and members that we are concerned for their welfare.  We will not be at the vanguard of those reopening.  We hope to learn from others who are going first as we follow the phased approach that our governor is prescribing. 

We will choose to restrict ourselves for the sake of demonstrating love for our neighbor.  Specifically, we will wear face-coverings and limit congregational singing during Phase Alpha.  We acknowledge the challenge of this.  We miss ‘seeing’ each other and we miss ‘singing’ together.

We intend to start with one, in-person, hour-long worship experience for approximately 50 people on July 26.  That number could increase over the course of Phase Alpha (July 26 to September 13).

Executive Summary

We intend to have congregations of 50 persons in our sanctuary on July 26, Aug 2, 23, 30, Sept 6, 13.  Congregations will be determined by registering on Sign-Up Genius.  We ask people to only sign-up for one service in Phase Alpha and to choose a service that is not within 2 weeks of returning from travel or vacation.

We will also stream our service over YouTube Live each week.

Everyone on Restoration property who is 10 years or older will wear a face-covering.

We will ask the congregation to not sing before August 30.  We will re-evaluate the safety of congregational singing after that.  The congregation will be invited to fully participate in the spoken parts of the liturgy.  

We will not have Eucharist inside the sanctuary during Phase Alpha.

The first Sunday that is open for kids 5th grade and below to attend is August 30.  

We have followed every requirement and best practice that has been provided by the Governor of Virginia (these guidelines are appended to the end of this post for your review), yet we know that it may be some time before you are comfortable or able to worship in our sanctuary.  We miss you and we want to stay connected to you!  Please use our streaming options and please stay connected to our clergy, staff and volunteers through email, phone, and text.

What is our timeline?

June:  

  • Bishop John will comment on proposal.  DONE
  • Vestry will receive written proposal by June 23 in anticipation of discussion on June 30.  DONE
  • Vestry will vote to approve reopening plan.  DONE

July:  

  • Send plan that has been approved by vestry and Bishop John to the congregation.
  • July 12:  We will provide 4 outdoor prayer services (no Eucharist) that are led by David, Beth, Nathan, Scott in 4 locations at 4 different times.  We will also broadcast a pre-recorded service over YouTube Live at 10am for those who are not able to attend in person or in case of inclement weather.  
  • July 26:  Adults-only (16 and up) congregation of 50 people or less alongside YouTube Live.

August and September

  • Aug 2:  Adults-only (16 and up) congregation of 50 people or less alongside YouTube Live.
  • Aug 23:  Adults and APEX-aged kids in congregation of 50 people.
  • Aug 30, Sept 6, 13:  Anyone can attend in congregation of 50 people.
  • The majority of our congregation will still watch on YouTube Live.  

Kathy Kenyon will create sign-up genius for attendance and serve as overall seating master.

We will ask people to sign up for just one in-person Sunday during Phase Alpha.  We will post any left-over spaces in the e-news on the Friday before that particular Sunday. 

Assumptions about Reopening

  • YouTube Livestream will be an on-going part of Restoration worship for the foreseeable future. 
  • We will offer only 1 ‘in-person’ service per Sunday with YouTube Live.  This removes the need for quick cleaning turnaround.
  • We will not do Eucharist on Sundays during Phase Alpha.  We will continue to provide yard Eucharists through the summer. 
  • Everyone who is 10 years and older inside our building will wear a face covering.  
  • All interior doors will be propped.  
  • The exterior doors by the parking lot will be propped for congregants in high risk populations or who need to use the elevator to enter the building before the service. We will ask people to use the propped Upper Narthex doors for normal entry and exit.
  • No shuttle in Phase Alpha.
  • Bathrooms will be available.  Hand washing is strongly encouraged.  Single use barriers (paper towels) will be available for entering and exiting the bathroom.  We prefer that people use bathrooms one person at a time and to use those on the second floor in order to minimize any first floor activity.
  • Out of an abundance of caution as we start to reopen, we will ask the congregation to not sing before Aug 30 and then singing will be TBD after.  The music team will sing behind their plexiglass barriers so that we can offer musical worship to the congregation in the sanctuary and through YTL.  The music team will lead fewer songs (3 or 4 as opposed to 5 or 6). 

Actions to be taken before July 26 (1st Sun)

Consultative Role:  

  • Designate 2 or 3 health professionals who will provide COVID-19 guidance as we prepare to reopen.

Signage by July 26

  • We will use big easels (similar to KSG chalk boards) by our entrance.  
  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted in the establishment.
  • Post signage that face coverings shall be worn, covering nose and mouth, at all times for everyone who is 10 years and older.
  • Post signage to provide public health reminders regarding social distancing, gatherings, options for high risk individuals, and staying home if sick. 
  • These warnings will be included in all emailed communication about the worship service.

Building Prep by July 26

  • Restrooms are available with single use barriers (paper towels) for opening doors.  We prefer that people use bathrooms that are on the second floor, and to do so one at a time, in order to minimize any first floor use. 
  • We will remove Bibles, BCPs, Welcome Cards, Name tags, and Service Guides from pews and store in bins in sacristy or in shed.   
  • The building will be cleaned three times a week.  We will have it cleaned on Sunday/Monday.  We will request that pews and door handles are specifically wiped down and disinfected.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be placed by entrance door and in upper narthex.  These have been ordered and should arrive before July 26.
  • The parking lot at the church will be for people with physical disabilities only.
  • All congregants (including music team and staff) will be asked to use the parking lot over I-66 and to walk to the building.  There will not be a shuttle.  Congregants aged 10 and older must be wearing their face covering before they arrive on Restoration’s property.  They do not have to wear their face covering while walking from parking lot.  
  • There are 17 pews on each side.  For at least the first few services, the first five pews will not be used for congregants.  The remaining 12 pews will be used alternatively-  6 pews on each side will have people in them.  Each pew can hold 2 multi-person households or 4 single-person households with six feet of social distance.  In this configuration, our sanctuary would max between 50 and 100 persons with 6 feet of social distance.
  • We will encourage seating to start at the front of the sanctuary and then work back so that people are not walking past each other as often in the sanctuary.  Ushers will dismiss congregants from the back and move forward.
  • Over the course of Phase Alpha, we will move YouTube Live streaming equipment so that people have unobstructed views.
  • Restoration will purchase 2-3 Floor Standing Clear Plastic Sneeze Guard Shields that are 6’x4’ and will be on the stage in front of the musicians who are singing without a face covering.  (usually Endel and 1 female vocalist)

Volunteer/Congregant Prep by July 26

  • Sunday building flow. There will be 2 entrances to the building:
    The ‘main’ entrance will be the second floor, upper narthex doors. 
    The ‘alternate’ entrance will be the first floor door off the parking lot.  The alternate entrance should only be used by adults in high risk populations and those who need the elevator.

    We will begin admitting people at 9:40am.  If people arrive earlier, we will have queue spots along our building going back to the HVAC then curving around the parking lot.  They will be at least 6 feet a part.  People should wear a face covering while in the queue. 

    If the door is open when you arrive, please do not congregate outside.  Please walk directly into the building and go directly to the sanctuary.  Ushers will guide you to either end of an open pew.  Please choose the most forward pew possible.  Please stay in your seating area the entire time you are in the building.  At the end of the service, ushers will dismiss you.  Please use the 3 upper narthex doors to exit, unless you need the elevator.  Everyone should exit through the upper narthex doors and then walk down the stairs.  You are welcome to socialize outside after the service with 6’ of social distance.  We recommend that you wear your face covering as well.

    Please arrive no later than 9:50.  If you arrive after 10am, please enter the sanctuary quietly under guidance from the ushers.  The ushers will probably ask you to wait until we have a video transition in the YouTube Livestream.
  • Ushers will be at side door entrance by 9:30am to manage the queue in the parking lot and to enforce face covering adherence as people enter.  If people arrive without a face covering, they will be invited to wear a Restoration provided disposable mask or they will be asked to leave.  No one (age 10 and older) can enter the building without a face covering for nose and mouth.

    The doors to the upper narthex and the doors by the parking lot will be propped for congregants to enter the building before the service.

    Ushers will also be in upper narthex to request hand sanitization, to enforce no congregating in narthex, and to guide people to their seats.

    Ushers will prop the Upper Narthex and parking lot doors for congregants to exit the building at the conclusion of the service. 
  • Worship Team and staff will be asked to do a self-check every week.  If they are showing any symptoms of illness, they are instructed to not attend or participate in the live worship service that week.  There will not be a temperature check on-site at Restoration.  If any volunteer or staff person is exposed to COVID, we will follow the leading of the health department and ask them to quarantine.
  • Kathy Kenyon is creating a sign-up genius for each service.  This will allow us to manage our capacity (the SUG shows how many people can come each Sunday).  Congregants will be asked to sit in designated areas at either end of an open pew, starting in the front of the sanctuary.  Ushers can assist with social distancing, should that be necessary.  Ushers will enforce compliance with face covering usage during the service.   
  • We will create a video for the congregation that demonstrates all of the changes we have made and what to expect when they return.  We would like to send this out on July 16 and July 23, at least. 

Liturgy Prep by July 26

  • Need to have screen in sanctuary for people to follow.  (No paper worship guides)
  • Service needs to be an hour (or less).
  • Microphones and stands are 1 per person at all times.  No shared mics or stands.  
  • We will not offer Sunday, inside sanctuary Eucharist during Phase Alpha.  We will continue to offer outdoor, yard Eucharists.
  • Out of an abundance of caution as we start to reopen, we will ask the congregation to not sing before Aug 30 and then singing will be TBD after.  We include 3-4 songs in our liturgy.  There will be a clear shield in front of the unmasked music team.  All of the congregants will wear a face covering, with a pew between them.  
  • We will not collect a physical offering during Phase Alpha.  In future phases, we will consider boxes in the rear of the sanctuary that could be used by those in attendance.  For now, all giving will be encouraged through our on-line portal or through the mail.
  • Kneeling during prayer is fine.  The kneelers are the only cloth in our sanctuary and so they contain a mild risk for transmission of COVID-19.  We think it is not a high risk.  
  • We will not offer After Service Prayer on-site during Phase Alpha.  We will continue to offer it via Zoom.

KIDS PREP BY July 26

  • What is the first Sunday where kids 5th grade and younger can attend?  August 30.
  • What is our messaging to families with children who normally use nursery-5th grade Kids’ Small Groups? Kids are welcome and expected to sit with their families in the sanctuary. There will be no kids’ small groups (nursery-5th grade) and there will be no extra spaces available to walk around or play. [Louise Brooks will call families and check-in with them to go over the expectations before the Sunday they will attend.]
  • What is expected of children who are in the sanctuary? Can they get up in the middle of the service? Prefer that they not, but if they must, only with a parent. 
  • Can they use the restroom? Yes, but they need to go with a parent.  
  • Must children wear a face covering? In Phase Alpha, all children who are 10 years old and over must wear a face covering.  We recommend them for children over age 2 as well, but they are not required.
  • Can parents hang out in the upper or lower narthex or anywhere else in the building with their children? No. Both the upper and lower narthex, along with kids’ small group rooms, and the Fellowship Hall will be unavailable to those who are in the building.
  • Can parents take their kids to play outside of the church during or after the service? Children must be supervised by a parent at all times. If a parent chooses to be outside with their child where others are present, they must maintain 6 feet of physical distancing.

    We would like to make the playground available.  In order to do this safely, we would like to offer Clorox wipes and a hand sanitizer station.  Both of these have been very difficult to procure.  Thus, we will keep the playground closed until we have the supplies to set up these stations.  When the playground opens, we will ask everyone using it to wear a face-covering.

Guidelines for staff in Phase Alpha

  • All Restoration staff have been given permission to work from home.  All staff interactions, including ‘weekly all staff meetings’ and ‘weekly supervisor check-ins’ can happen by Zoom or telephone.
  • On Sundays, Isaiah, Ryan, Endel, David, +1 other clergy, are expected to be in the sanctuary.  No other staff is expected onsite.  One clergy is always asked to NOT be on-site and to serve as a ‘designated survivor’, should their be an outbreak of COVID-19 among those who are serving on Sundays.  
  • If staff are working in the building and sharing a space with co-workers, they need to wear a face covering.  ‘Sharing a space’ is defined as in the same room.  ‘Same room’ includes sanctuary (even at greater than 6’) and the mezzanine office area (no doors).
  • RILA staff have been given permission to use our facility during the week.  They must wear a face covering and be socially distant at all times.   

Questions that are still in process:

When would we need to consider multiple services on a Sunday?  Based on survey results that indicate a mixed desire to return to sanctuary before a vaccine;  and because multiple services on a Sunday create an exponentially greater cleaning cost and burden;  and because we are offering YouTube Live:  we do not intend to have multiple services in Phase Alpha and probably not for the remainder of 2020.

What procedure needs to be followed for sanitization following each service?  We are working with our cleaning crew on this.

Will bathrooms be open?  Yes.  We prefer that the upper narthex bathrooms be used (one person at a time) to minimize traffic on the lower level.

When does Eucharist come back on Sundays?  Not in Phase Alpha.  We will keep working on ways to do it safely inside and will consider it for Phase Beta.

Will we collect a physical offering?  Not during Phase Alpha.  Considering boxes in rear of sanctuary for future phases.  All offering for now will be on-line or through the mail.

What will be communicated if someone tests positive for COVID-19 and attended worship in our sanctuary?  Because we are using a sign-up genius for these worship gatherings, we will inform everyone who attended (and only those who attended) worship with that person the following:  “Someone who attended the in-person worship service on DATE has tested positive for COVID-19.  We have informed the health department about who was in the sanctuary on that date.  We encourage you to follow the guidelines that are recommended by our health department.  We are following normal cleaning procedures in the sanctuary.”

Forward Virginia Guidelines for phase 2

MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS:

  • Occupancy shall be limited to no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy of the room or facility in which the religious services are conducted.

    The Certificate of Occupancy for Restoration’s sanctuary = 384 total people. Restoration’s sanctuary can accommodate 192 people at 50% of sanctuary occupancy load.  But social distancing of 6 feet will probably cut that number in half, closer to 100 people.
  • Individuals attending religious services must be seated at least six feet apart at all times and must practice physical distancing at all times. Family members*, as defined in Executive Order 61, Order of Public Health Emergency Three, may be seated together.  *Family members include blood relations, adopted, step, and foster relations, as well as all individuals residing in the same household.  Mark seating in six-foot increments.
  • Individuals attending religious services are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth at all times (See CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings guidance for more detailed information.).
  • No items must be passed to or between attendees who are not family members as defined in EO 61, Order of Public Health Emergency Three. 
  • Any items used to distribute food or beverages must be disposable and used only once and discarded.
  • A thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently contacted surfaces must be conducted prior to and following any religious services.
  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted in the establishment.
  • Post signage to provide public health reminders regarding social distancing, gatherings, options for high risk individuals, and staying home if sick (samples at the bottom of this document). 
  • If any place of worship cannot adhere to the above requirements, it must not conduct in-person services.  Other suggested guidance for faith communities and funeral directors can be found below. 

BEST PRACTICES:

  • Designate a health coordinator and/or health equity team who will be responsible for COVID-19 planning and preparation for your place of worship.
  • Conduct thorough cleaning before and between services.
  • Use separate doors to enter and exit the establishment when possible. 
  • Allow interior doors to remain open to limit touching of door handles.
  • Provide sanitizing stations throughout the building, particularly at entry and exit points. 
  • Consider installing touchless door entry systems or providing single-use barriers (i.e., paper towels) for use in touching door and sink handles in bathroom facilities. 
  • Use messaging boards or digital messaging and social media for announcements to eliminate use of bulletins and handouts.
  • Members are safer at home.  Continue to provide and encourage use of online streaming and drive-in options for people who can utilize these options. No place of worship should feel obligated to return to in-person worship before they are ready to do so.
  • Consider holding multiple services, with time for thorough cleaning in between each service, to allow for greater distancing during services.
  • Suspend the choir as part of services.
  • Consider shorter services to avoid the need for people to use bathroom facilities.
  • Consider limiting or suspending youth services until a safer time.
  • Consider holding small group or separate services for senior citizens and other high-risk populations
  • Consider making this the first service of the week, after thorough cleaning and disinfection of facilities have been performed. 
  • Ensure the use of face coverings and physical distancing is maintained between individuals at this service.
  • Ensure social distancing in parking lots or common areas.
  • Consider discontinuing use of common items (e.g., microphones, books, hymnals, scriptural texts) that may be shared between people and are difficult to clean. Consider assigning religious books to a family or individual that they can bring to each service, or use a projector for the display of sacred texts, scriptures, and songs.
  • When oils, water, ashes, or other materials are applied to a person’s forehead, self-application should be used, to the extent possible. 
  • Discontinue shared meals and other activities where people may gather in groups (e.g., limit or suspend coffee stations, shared food, meet and greet time before and after services etc.), with the exception of essential food services for low-income residents.

Rector’s Update: June 25, 2020

Dear Restoration,

This week we finished our series on 1 John.  We have been preaching through it since Easter and it has provided deep theology and rich vocabulary for what it means to know that we know the living God.  

The final verse in the letter is “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5: 21)  

It’s an important and interesting way to wind up a book.  

On the one hand, John has been saying this for 5 chapters.  Don’t give your trust and worship to anything besides God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We have eternal life!  Christians live every moment in a relationship with God that has already begun and will continue forever.  We are His children.  Jesus has defeated the power and consequence of sin.  The Spirit is in us.  

The other way of saying this positive exhortation is the sentence he uses to close-  keep yourselves from idols.  At this moment in time, we are experiencing the exposure and limitations of lots of idols.  I invite you to pray and listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to you about the idols that are active in your own life. 

In case you missed the end of my sermon from Sunday, here are my reflections on the idols that are failing us in this cultural moment. I hope you will watch it again or for the first time.  

On Sunday I invited you again to consider purchasing The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby and to reserve the evenings of July 8, 15, 22 for a 3 week conversation on racial injustice and the church.  You can find the book, here, at one of our VA, independent booksellers.

Some of you have asked why am I inviting us to read this particular book and to have this particular conversation?  Here are a few thoughts:

First, I want to be clear on what I am not doing.  My agenda is not to heap guilt and shame on white people (like myself).  Christians have been set free from guilt by the finished work of Jesus on the cross and shame never moves people in a direction for real and lasting change.  

Instead of guilt and shame, it may be that God moves us to feel grief and lament.  These have always been the Biblical precursors to real change and amendment of life.  The good news is that God always joins us in our grief, for Jesus promised that those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).  Thus, lament is a place to meet God.  I want us to meet God as we have this conversation.

Second, let me tell you about Jemar Tisby.  Mr. Tisby is a Christian, black, historian, who was trained in the evangelical tradition (he has an MDiv. from Reformed Theological Seminary) that trained most of the pastors Restoration people already trust.  Mr. Tisby is writing about church history from his academic work (he is a PhD candidate at the University of Mississippi) and from his lived experience as a black follower of Jesus.  Unless you have read other Christian, evangelically trained, black historians, I would encourage you to read this.  It will help you to understand the way many, many black people view the church’s role in bringing us to this particular moment in the summer of 2020.  I am not asking you to agree with that viewpoint.  I am inviting you to learn from it and to talk about it.

Third, I want to have this conversation because the direction the ‘church’ (that’s ‘church’ for any racial hue) should go from this point in time in regards to racial injustice is not at all clear.  Although there have been many policy suggestions over the last few weeks that will require each of us to decide what we think about their merit, the church has not yet offered guidance for how Christians should move forward together.  I would like to hear from you and to discuss with you how the church should respond-  how our church should respond.  In order to have that conversation, I submit that we need to know the history that got us to this conversation in 2020 and Mr. Tisby’s book is a helpful resource to engage the sins and the transgressions of the church over the last 400 years.  

So, I invite you to read it.  I invite you to attend all 3 Zoom conversations.  I invite you to pray for the church, for our church, and for the conversation we need to have about moving forward in reconciliation, justice, and hope.  I am grateful to be on this journey with you.

-David     

Warden’s Report: April 2020

Vestry March 2020

The Wardens’ Report: highlights from monthly Vestry meetings, designed to provide information about our growth, finances, priorities, and progress in our strategic plan.

The Vestry on April 28th had its second socially distanced “meeting,” again via Zoom. We opened by sharing how we all were doing apart, as our rector, David Hanke, asked us to consider what we are lamenting in this time. It is hard with little to look forward to; loss of normal transition times in the day can be disorienting and exhausting; and we struggle to live both in close quarters and without normal friendships or the ability to truly see extended family.

Our staff report was submitted by Endel Liias, director of worship, updating us on his work, plans, and needs. Please join us in thanks and prayer for him.

We formalized our earlier decisions setting up a Benevolence Fund and committee and allocating $15,000 for the Anglican Relief and Development Fund as our Easter Offering. Both decisions were necessary between meetings as we adjusted to the disruptions in our normal life. So far, the benevolence committee has received only two requests (both were approved). If you attend Restoration and have a covered need, please do ask. Further information is here.

Brad Jones, our Treasurer, reported that April giving appears to be on budget (as was March), and that the church’s finances remain sound. Thank you for your faithful giving to God’s work at Restoration in these disrupted and uncertain times. We briefly discussed how best to assess attendance now. David reported that the clergy are working on a virtual ‘New to Restoration’ information gathering for May.

We devoted most of the meeting to assessing how best to guide Restoration through this unpredictable season of uncertain length. David framed the discussion by having us read “Leading Beyond the Blizzard: Why Every Organization Is Now a Startup,” by Andy Crouch and others. We are an organization that gathers people to build them up and send them out, yet we cannot physically gather, so how do we adjust consistent with our mission and core characteristics? We had a full discussion, likely the first of many.

As always, we welcome your questions and feedback. You can read an archive of past Wardens’ Reports on our website or Vestry Meeting minutes on CCB, under the ‘Files’ tab in the ‘Entire Church Group’

– Kevin Marshall and Johanna Montague, Wardens

Hosanna

The Passion of Jesus Christ

Hosanna

 

This is the text of Restoration’s Palm Sunday sermon, preached over Zoom, by The Rev. David Hanke.  Hosanna! means ‘save us!’  When the crowds shout Hosanna!  They are asking to be saved.

[8] Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. [9] And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” [10] And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” (ESV)

Matthew 21:8–10

Intro and Frame

I want us to start with the shout of Hosanna that greeted Jesus as he arrived in Jerusalem.

With great sincerity, the people wanted to be saved.  “Hosanna!  Save us!”

As the crowd lives the week to come, salvation is the topic that most frequently comes up.  Hosanna will be whispered and shouted and acted out. 

Who will save whom?  And what will salvation be?

Hosanna is the fundamental cry of humanity:  We want to be saved.  We want to be released and delivered.  We want to be rescued, set free, and led by someone else.  The cry of our soul has not changed.  But the object of our hosannas is myriad.

Matthew 26:36-27:54

Can I die without dying?

It starts with Jesus, in the garden.  Jesus begins with his own hosanna.  He’d like to save himself.  

After their last supper, Jesus knew the narrative of saving was put irrevocably in motion.  Judas had dipped his bread and slipped out the back.

As He prayed, Jesus was clear-eyed in his vision and He could feel the coming loss and abandonment deep in His gut.  He asks his Father if he can save himself. 

If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.

If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.

If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.  

3 times.  Jesus was in for the project of salvation.  He was open to being the savior.  But He was asking-  is there a way to save without the physical torture and the crushing abandonment?  Can I die without dying?  

The question lingers in the damp air of Gethsemane.  Jesus strains to hear through the silence.  Can the hosanna be for me?  Can I save myself?  Ultimately he was IN and He drained this hosanna cup to the very bottom.

Almost immediately, Judas comes on the scene, intent to save himself from his decision to follow Jesus.  At some point he had said yes to Jesus, just like the other 12.  Now he was trying to say no-  with a kiss and a ‘change fee’ of 30 silver pieces. 

He is able to escape from ‘friend of Jesus’ to ‘betrayer of Jesus’, but he’s never quite able to get away from himself.  His hosanna is to throw the money back and to throw his life down. 

Not much saved.  Much lost.

The disciples try to save themselves. 

Their hosannas start with a drawn sword.  One of them cuts off the ear of Caiaphas’ servant. 

Jesus rebukes that disciple by saying, I don’t need you to save me with your sword.  Put it away.  If I wanted to be saved, I could ask my Father for 12,000 angels and he would send them.  YOU are not going to save ME and definitely not with that.

Their next hosanna occurs as Jesus is led away:  the disciples, the whole team, tries to save themselves by leaving Jesus, by running away. They fled.  (26:56b) 

Peter would give that hosanna words in the courtyard of the high priest.   “I do not know what you mean.  I do not know the man.  I swear-  I do not know the man.” 

Hosanna by dead sprint, by distance and disassociation.

Caiaphas wants to save his campaign.

Frederick Buechner quote.

Caiaphas’ math was unassailable.  Jesus’ math was atrocious.

Caiaphas’ hosanna was to find false witnesses to accuse Jesus.  And eventually one of the accusations sticks:  ‘This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in 3 days.’  (Matthew 26:60)

This was outrageous to Caiaphas-  Have you no answer to make?? 

Jesus remained silent.  The assumptions they had built about him were given oxygen to grow and death was the judgment.  One would die to save many from Rome.  Caiaphas got his hosanna, kind of.

Pilate wants to save himself from his troubled conscience and the tossing and turning dreams of his wife by offering Barabbas, by pleading the innocence of Jesus, and by washing his hands.  Pilate’s hosanna is to offer the crowd a choice.  A choice that seemed so obvious. 

Yet, when he offers the crowd a choice of who to save, they choose Barabbas. 

It utterly confounds him. 

His wife has told him to have nothing to do with this righteous man. He, himself, has found nothing wrong with Jesus. 

Instead of courageously disagreeing, Pilate actually turns to the ‘wisdom’ of the crowd and asks in bewilderment:  “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”   It is the crowd, our voices thrown in for good measure, that decides he should be crucified.  “Let him be crucified!”

Hosanna for Barabbas.

It was this crowd that had started all this… with their tree branches and cloaks.  Those who shout hosanna will treat him with derision.  Hosanna will take the shape of contemptible scorn.

Those who had shouted hosanna will say, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Matthew 27: 40

And of course he couldn’t.  He wouldn’t.  He didn’t.

The crowds walk by within a few feet of Jesus, deriding him, wagging their heads, words dripping with mockery.  ‘You talked a big game, Jesus.  You were so pompous.  If you could destroy the temple and rebuild it in 3 days, can’t you save yourself?’ 

Come down from the cross.  Can’t you hosanna yourself?

No.  I can’t save myself and save you.  Salvation costs.  This is your hosanna, not mine. 

My blood.  My broken body.  My utterly forsaken soul.  My completely abandoned loneliness. 

This is your hosanna, not mine.

Holy Saturday and the Salvation of Christ

As we walk through this week together, I draw your attention to the space between Jesus’ death on Friday and his resurrection on Sunday.  I draw your attention to anticipate Saturday as the culmination of your hosanna.  On Sunday, we will give an Easter shout: Alleluia!  Christ is risen! 

But Saturday is the day for ‘hosanna’ in all its consummation.

My friend, Travis Pickell (WM alum, Falls Church fellow) published an article in CT this month about Holy Saturday called, ‘Before Christ rose, He was dead’.  It presents this argument that Saturday is our hosanna. Saturday confirms to us that Jesus was really dead and defeating death.

Christ the Victor

Maestà – Passion: Descent To Hell, 1308-1311

by Duccio di Buoninsegna

It is on Saturday that Christ was the Victor 

A 4th century monk, Rufinus of Aquileia wrote,

“It is as if a king were to proceed to a prison, and to go in and open the doors, undo the fetters, break in pieces the chains, the bars, and the bolts, and bring forth and set at liberty the prisoners.” 

In the Maestà altarpiece from the 13th Century, Jesus has broken the bronze doors of Hell, He tramples the devil underfoot.  One bishop has written:  that [Saturday reminds us] ‘Christ descended into hell not as the devil’s victim but as Conqueror.’ 

Hosanna!  Christ the Victor!  Death, Hell, the Devil defeated!

It is on Saturday that Christ was the Sufferer

Gregory of Nazianzus, writing in the 4th century, said, ‘What has not been assumed by Christ has not been healed.’  CS Lewis picked up this idea in the mid-20th century when he wrote, ‘Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.’ 

Jesus must experience everything.  All of our humanity.  Our spiritual healing requires that Christ suffer not just biological death but also the agony of death:   When Jesus cried out, ‘My God My God why have you forsaken me?’ it led him to Saturday: the terrible abyss of feeling forsaken and estranged from God.

Every aspect of being human (including death) has been assumed by Christ. 

Hosanna!  Christ the Sufferer.

It is on Saturday that God was most absent and most present. 

The logical end of all of us this comes out in 2 Corinthians 5:19 which says that “God was in Christ- reconciling the world to himself”.  If indeed God is in Christ, God was in Christ even while Christ lay dead in a tomb. 

Hosanna.  God experienced what it is to be dead. 

Travis writes,

‘This (admittedly inconceivable) thought forces us to think at deeper levels yet, of who God is and how God works…  If God was in Christ in the grave, than death cannot be wholly alien to God, and neither can it be wholly alien to the human condition….  Whatever else ‘he descended to the dead’ means, this phrase proclaims that God’s solidarity with the human condition extends at least 6 feet under the earth.  Even in the grave, Jesus is still Immanuel, God with us.’

If God is present in Jesus’ death THAN God is present even when he seems most absent (dead). 

AND In His absence and death, God is doing his most creative and life-giving work. 

Come down from the cross.  Can’t you save yourself?

No.  I can’t hosanna myself and save you. 

Salvation costs.  My blood.  My broken body.  My utterly forsaken soul.  My completely abandoned loneliness.  My death.  My Saturday.  This is your hosanna, not mine.  Amen.

Good Lord Deliver Us

Good Lord Deliver Us

Friends,

I am reproducing the reflection I shared at the beginning of morning prayer last Sunday, March 29.  Many of you have asked about the prayer of deprecation.  Thank you for your interest!

-David

29 March 2020

Good morning!  This week, a friend sent me a reflection from a university president who, like all of us, in this season of coronavirus, is trying to make sense of what is happening and what God is doing in the midst of it.

Interestingly he began by reflecting on a section of The 1662 Book of Common Prayer’s Great Litany. 

You may recall that in 1665, over a quarter of the population of London had died because of the Great Plague.  And in 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed a third of the city and left over 100,000 people homeless-  in just 5 days.  It was catastrophe upon catastophe.  In the midst of that kind of heartache, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s prayer- the litany- would have been so apropos.   

“From lightning and tempest; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder; and from sudden death…”

Good Lord, deliver us. 

Here is the reflection of Alexander Whitaker, president of King University in Bristol, TN

A deprecation, such as that above, is a prayer to be spared from disaster.  The Latin root means to repel or avoid physical calamity by prayer. We rarely hear the word deprecation in this 16th– and 17th-century sense anymore. 

We rarely pray words like these and if we did, they would probably land far from our most heart-felt concerns… especially before March 2020.

Whitaker goes on to say,

“Many of those things Archbishop Cranmer lists do not particularly frighten us or cause us to seek protection, from God or otherwise—at least not in any regular fashion. Many of the things that once were routine exposures to death, to mortality, are now militated against by experience, by medicine, by technology, or by engineering.

Indeed, the very notion of being “safe” has been so defined downward (at least on many university campuses) it often now for many has little to do with physical safety and preservation, and instead is used to describe protection from unfamiliar ideas, less-than-pleasant words, or trifling inconveniences.  As profoundly silly as that may be, we should probably be thankful that undergraduates have been fretting over pronouns instead of polio.  Such are the blessings of this age that rarely does one have to worry continually about one’s death or that of one’s family and friends. But eventually danger comes to us all, without exception—as does death.

And yet, there is hope.

If one believes in God’s providence there is revealed in these circumstances God’s calling us: to return to him apace, to trust him wholly, and to do his work resolutely.

Our uncertainty draws us to the certainty of our Sovereign and Holy God.

Our fears cause us to seek God’s peace and protection.

Our deep desire that we and others be spared pain rightly prompts our deprecation—one that God desires.

So that is what we gather today to do:  TOGETHER. 

To return to God, to trust Him wholly, and to do the work He has called us to do, resolutely. 

We gather together for the strength of community-  to see faces we love, to see the prayers of others, to know we are not alone. 

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…”  [Philippians 1:2]

Warden’s Report: March 2020

Vestry March 2020

The Wardens’ Report: a brief summary of highlights from monthly Vestry meetings, designed to provide information about our growth, finances, priorities and progress towards our strategic plan.

The vestry gathered via Zoom for our March 24th meeting given the importance of social distancing while concerns about COVID-19 remain high. It was a different meeting than our typical routine of gathering for dinner and prayer prior to starting our official business; however, it was good to be “together” even when we are physically apart.

Brad Jones, our treasurer, presented an update on our finances and attendance. We are grateful to report that as of the end February, attendance is trending upward, our giving is on track, and our overall financial health is good. The finance team, under Brad’s leadership, is monitoring our financial situation in light of the changes to our life together on Quincy Street. We expect some downturn in giving as 30-35% of our giving comes through the baskets on Sundays and because of the financial uncertainty of this time. These possibilities are not surprising and they make us particularly grateful for our strong financial standing and the generosity of our members. If you do not already do so, we encourage you to consider giving through CCB. Contact Kat Downs if you have questions about how to do so.

After a discussion about how best to provide care for our members and the community during the COVID-19 outbreak, the vestry decided to create a fund to care for potential financial needs of our congregation caused by COVID-19. Details about this fund will be forthcoming in the next few days. We are also extremely grateful for the opportunity to partner with Glebe Elementary School in serving our neighbors through food support each week and will continue to do so in the days and weeks to come. If you are interested in assisting in this endeavor, you can find more details about how to serve on our blog.

We discussed what Holy Week will look like this year as we maintain the social distancing recommendations of the CDC. Expect details to be forthcoming. In the meantime, we invite you to join us for Morning and Evening Prayer at 9am and 5pm for the remainder of Lent (and beyond). You can find the Zoom login in here.

We are currently planning to postpone starting Ven Oramos Alabemos, an occasional Spanish-worship opportunity we were hoping to pilot this Spring. We are still planning to add this opportunity in the future, but will wait until we can gather together on Quincy Street.

We closed our meeting with a time of prayer for our church, our community, and our world. Come Lord, Jesus.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, words of wisdom or encouragement, please know that we are open to your feedback.  You can read an archive of past Wardens’ Reports on our website or Vestry Meeting minutes on CCB, under the ‘Files’ tab in the ‘Entire Church Group’

Johanna Montague and Kevin Marshall, Wardens

Food Support for our Neighbors

Safeway Grocery Gift Cards

We are so grateful for all the ways you’ve helped to serve our neighbors. Thank you!

As we continue to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances during COVID-19, we are updating our plans to support approximately 40 Glebe Elementary School families in need of food assistance. While a food pantry worked well for a time, going forward, Restoration will partner with community residents to distribute Safeway grocery gift cards each week to approximately 40 Glebe families.

Safeway is the grocery store most easily accessible to the families, and distributing gift cards reduces the health and safety risks to both donors and recipients.

If you’d like to help: 

Please purchase Safeway grocery gift cards ($10 and $25 preferred) and mail to Beth Tipps. (Please email beth@restorationarlington.org for her mailing address.) She will confirm gift card receipt and will coordinate with Glebe volunteers for distribution to families. **Please include receipt and your name to ensure all cards are able to be activated.**

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Warden’s Report: February 2020

The Wardens’ Report: highlights from monthly Vestry meetings, designed to provide information about our growth, finances, priorities, and progress in our strategic plan.

The 2020 vestry had its second regular meeting of the year on March 5. We began by gathering for dinner. Johanna Montague then led us in Evening Prayer. During our prayers, we focused on thanking God for Beth Tipps’s gifts to our church in her nearly year and a half with us and on asking Him to continue to guard, guide, and grow her, particularly in her work with Outreach, with RestoWomen, and in spiritual direction. We also, as always, asked that the Holy Spirit fill us with wisdom and unity for the meeting. We welcome your prayers for all the staff, the Vestry, and God’s work here on Quincy Street.

We voted to approve two additional members for the Personnel Team, which advises the Vestry, to replace members who have rolled off at the end of their terms. With these additions, its roster is Lorene Eberhardt (Vestry member and chair), Elizabeth Colosimo, Marlee Kingsley, Santiago Sedaca, and Michael Strickland. We are grateful for their diligent service and assistance.

Brad Jones, our Treasurer, reported that January giving was under budget while February giving was over budget. Overall, half-way through our fiscal year, giving is a tick over budget (by 1%) and expenses are under budget. Thank you to all who give generously; thank you to the staff for good expense management; and thank you to Brad’s Finance Team for its careful oversight. Brad also reported that attendance this year (both in January and February) is running about 3% above the same time last year. We are excited to see steady growth and new members.

We continued to discuss how best to use the remainder of the 10th Anniversary Gift (after having funded Scott Buckhout’s curacy and the redevelopment of our website), informed by new ideas that the staff generated and by our strategic plan. In connection with that, David Hanke reported that our adult confirmation class, led by Nathan Dickerson, Beth Tipps, and Scott Buckhout, is the largest ever, and updated us on the plans for a Spanish-language service on Wednesday nights, led by Beth Tipps and Endel Liias.

David reported on the potential steps he has developed with staff for responding to the novel coronavirus, and we had a discussion. For now, the most noticeable changes will be that communion servers will be washing their hands before communion (you’ll see them sitting on the other side) and that snacks will be individually packaged. Further steps will depend on whether there is an outbreak in our area or on changed guidance from the bishop or local government.

Finally, after David stepped out, the Vestry approved his leave requests for this year and voted to streamline its process for handling future requests.

As always, we welcome your questions and feedback. You can read an archive of past Wardens’ Reports on our website or Vestry Meeting minutes on CCB, under the ‘Files’ tab in the ‘Entire Church Group’

– Kevin Marshall and Johanna Montague, Wardens

Warden’s Report: January 2020

2020 Vestry

2020 Vestry

The Wardens’ Report: a brief summary of highlights from monthly Vestry meetings, designed to provide information about our growth, finances, priorities and progress towards our strategic plan.

January 28th marked the first official meeting of our new 2020 vestry. We gathered for dinner together and prayer before starting the meeting. This month David Hanke led us through our prayer time which focused on asking the Holy Spirit to bless our time together and give us wisdom as we start the meeting and a new year. Additionally we prayed for David and for his work as the rector of our church as he preaches, leads, creates, plans, and stewards this body. We prayed for his leadership of our staff, his preaching and teaching, and for his overall care of our  congregation. And we prayed for his family as they love and support each other day to day. We welcome your prayers for all the staff, the Vestry, and God’s work here on Quincy Street.

At our retreat last weekend, we elected officers for 2020.  Our wardens are Johanna Montague and Kevin Marshall; secretary is Mary Breed; Treasurer is Brad Jones.

On Tuesday, we voted to approve changes to the rosters of several of our advisory teams. These teams offer invaluable guidance and advice to the vestry and include: Finance (led by Brad Jones), Outreach (led by Dan Vogel), Facilities (led by Adam Guzzo), and Personnel (led by Lorene Eberhardt). We are grateful for all who serve in this capacity.

Brad Jones, our treasurer, presented an update on end of year giving and the first quarter of fiscal year 2020. We are grateful to report that attendance is trending upward, our giving is on track, and our overall financial health is good. The finance team, under Brad’s leadership, continues to monitor our financial situation and weigh options for our mortgage. Brad will give a report to the congregation on our financial health at the Parish Meeting on February 25th.

The vestry, in accordance with its policies for such matters, considered four bids for and a staff report regarding a contract to improve our website, which was an item in Good Things Grow Here. After a discussion and some clarifications, the vestry unanimously approved proceeding with one of the bids.  We are excited for what God will do with our church in the next five years and the ways an updated website will aid us in that work.

Lastly we spent time discussing how we could best use the 10th Anniversary Gift we collected around our celebration in November. We are grateful for the generous gifts totally approximately $250K that were collected from that weekend. Thank you to all who so generously gave! The 2019 vestry has already put a portion of those gifts to work through a new website (see above) and hiring Scott Buckhout as our Curate. The 2020 vestry will be discussing and praying over the coming months about how best to put the remainder of this gift to good work.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, words of wisdom or encouragement, please know that we are open to your feedback.  You can read an archive of past Wardens’ Reports on our website or Vestry Meeting minutes on CCB, under the ‘Files’ tab in the ‘Entire Church Group’

Johanna Montague and Kevin Marshall, Wardens

2019 Christmas Eve Offering Recipient

Bethany House

Ever since our first Christmas Eve, Restoration has had a tradition of choosing a local organization to be the recipient of our entire Christmas Eve Offering.

We do this for a few reasons:  First, we are grateful for the excellent work that is done by so many in our community and we want to support it whenever we can.  Second, we want to be generous.  Third, we recognize that lots of people visit Restoration on Christmas Eve who want to give a financial gift as a part of their worship but may not be deeply connected to the mission and work that God is doing through our specific church.  So, for these reasons, we decided at the very beginning of our existence:  Christmas Eve is a special service, let’s worship Christ the newborn king with our financial gifts, and let’s give all of those gifts away to an organization in our community that is doing work we admire for the King and His people.

This year we are giving our Christmas Eve offering to Bethany House of Northern Virginia.  

The mission of Bethany House of Northern Virginia is to provide a safe place of healing for women and children who have experienced domestic violence. While providing confidential, secure shelter, counseling, life-skills training, and transition support, we share the knowledge and love of Christ – the only true “safe place” and provider of every need.

We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and faith in his death and resurrection is the only way to eternal salvation. As revealed by God through His Sacred Word, we believe that every man, woman, and child who enters through our doors is worthy of love, hope, dignity, care, and mercy. We believe all people are precious in the sight of God and that He has a special plan for their lives.

I hope you will join us for our Eucharist Service of Lessons and Carols on December 24 at 3, 5, and 9.  We invite you to join us in giving generously to the work of Bethany House in Northern Virginia as they provide a safe place of healing for women and children who have experienced domestic violence.

-David

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