What to Expect, Re-Opening Saturday June 6, and Sunday June 7th (Holy Pentecost)

Dear brothers and sisters,

Christ is risen!
I’ve included a word from our Vicar, Fr. Andrew Barakos, below about the “reopening” of parishes in our region (which includes Arizona and Nevada).
Also, there is a description following which will give you and idea of what to expect when we return to the Church.

The Process for Reopening Parishes of the Metropolis of San Francisco (GOA)

A word from Fr. Andrew Barakos, Vicar of our Region:
“On May 15, Arizona lifted restrictions which have been serving to mitigate and slow down the spread of the coronavirus. On Sunday, May 17, many local Churches opened including some Orthodox parishes, in a limited capacity. This update is to introduce you to the process being adopted by all the parishes within the Metropolis of San Francisco which includes, California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, Hawaii and Arizona.
The Metropolis of San Francisco has put in place Guidelines for Opening Parishes (http://assumptionaz.org/covid19response) stating that local parishes within the same area must work together to implement them. I ask for your patience in allowing the Parish Councils of the local churches to coordinate their efforts to begin to put in place all the guidelines outlined by the Metropolis.
Increase in Safety Standards
We have seen businesses change their safety standards since the initial shut-down, the boldest being Costco requiring masks for everyone. As more information about the virus has become available, such as research on the virus being aerosolized, new strategies were implemented to mitigate its spread. As an Orthodox church with a participatory form of worship which encourages congregational singing, a choir, touching things, kissing things and embracing one another – we find ourselves in a very unsettling situation knowing now what we did not know in early March. This means that we can gather to worship, but even with extensive precautionary measures, the risk of coming into contact with the virus remains.
We know there are risks everywhere and anywhere and scripture instructs us not to be guided by fear—and this we shall not be. Rather, our strategy is to be prudent and not rushed given the sheer velocity in which information is changing and the reality that medical professionals will have vastly more data in a matter of weeks. As the metaphor goes, measuring twice in order to cut once is the right thing to do on a topic where the information available today is substantially different from what it was a month ago, and the information that will exist in a few weeks will be much different from what it is today as I write this.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t be more excited to be working toward this next step of gradually reopening the church.”
– Fr. Andrew Barakos, Vicar, Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Scottsdale, AZ

Regarding our efforts to “re-open” at St. George, I’ve included some details below.

How many people can attend at one time?
In Arizona, worship is recognized as an “essential” activity and not subject to closure (Executive Order 2020-18 & 2020-33); however, according to the CDC and our local Public Health officials, social distancing is required of six feet between persons in order to mitigate potential for the spread of the virus.
We have arranged chairs in the church to provide the appropriate amount of spacing.
The center aisle will be utilized as a “one way street”. Parishioners will enter the Narthex, sanitize their hands and move forward. At the time of Holy Communion they will approach to partake of Holy Communion and then exit through the door on the left in order to re-enter the church through the Narthex to get back to their seats.
Eventually, while these safety guidelines remain in place, we may be able to accommodate around 40 parishioners at a time. However, in the first phase of reopening we will be restricting attendance at Liturgy to 20 souls with the intention of allowing for more as the weeks progress. 
  • (Also, please keep in mind that perhaps 6 of the parishioners at every service will be those who have an assigned role to fulfill (Ushers, Chanters, Altar Server, Priest, etc…) When you go to reserve a place at Liturgy (as described below), this is why there will be only 15 places available, although 20 parishioners will be present for the Liturgy.
  • This First Phase of only 20 souls is outlined in the Metropolis Guidelines as a time to work out any logistical issues. The second phase will allow for expanded attendance moving from 25 – 40.
Also, in order to allow for more frequent participation of our parishioners in the Liturgy I am planning to offer (at least) two Divine Liturgies every week (one on Saturday, and one on Sunday), as needed.
As an aside, we should remember that each parish is subject to local and federal regulations in applying the Metropolis guidelines. A side benefit of the phased-in approach is that we can more easily adapt as we continue to monitor and study the national and local health data. Again, we’ll know more at the end of phase 1 than we do at its beginning.
What does worship in the initial partial opening phase look like?
  • – Families and individuals will make an online reservation to attend liturgy at signupgenius.com in order to assist myself and the Parish Council in planned seating and headcount quota management. 
    • (Those of our faithful without access to the internet will be contacted individually in order to help them reserve a place, and to explain what to expect.)
  • – Attendance will be checked at the door
  • – Masks will be required for everyone two years or older. 
    • However, anyone who has trouble breathing will not be required to wear a mask. (Masks have been shown to protect one’s self to a degree, and, to a degree, to reduce the possibility of transmission to others.)
  • – No Choir – (Instead there will be one or two chanters at the front of the church)
  • – No coffee hour following service.
  • – At risk parishioners are strongly encouraged not to attend services, at least during this first phase.
  • – Refraining from any physical touching of others.
  • – Six feet of spacing between individuals. (Those who live in the same household can, of course, sit together.)
When is it time open?
As of today (May, 27th) we are planning to begin the initial phase of re-opening (20 persons in attendance at Liturgy) on Saturday June 6th, and Sunday June 7th (Holy Pentecost).
We will continue to communicate with you in the coming days providing instructions on how to use the online sign-up service.
In Christ,
Fr. Jeffrey