Suspended until further notice
Suspended until further notice
Important New: St. Paul's to begin outside services soon!
Dear St. Paul’s Family,
It has now been about six months since a congregation has gathered for worship at St. Paul’s. This has been a trying time for families, individuals, for work and school, and certainly for our church community. We have been immensely blessed by the brilliant work of our technology team, which has enabled us to remain connected in corporate worship, practice spiritual communion even when we cannot be together physically, and connect with one another through Scripture, prayer, song, and joy in Christ our Savior.
Christians, however, are the “people of the incarnation,” a people who meet God among us in the real stuff of everyday life: bread, wine, water, oil, human language. We do not believe in a distant and far-off God, but a God who shows up, who comes to dwell with us as one of us in Jesus Christ. And God continues to meet us in this way. Christianity is an embodied, earthy, physical faith, and our distance from the fullness of our sacramental life, that physicality—that life of incarnation—is a painful loss.
The good news is, while we are a eucharistic community and are tied to the sacraments in our pursuit of God, God’s pursuit of us is not tied to anything! God is free to love and meet us in every aspect of our lives no matter the situation, and perhaps we have met God among us in new ways during this period. That is something to rejoice in. Christ’s incarnate presence with us hasn’t gone anywhere—this is what it means to be the Church, to be a people indwelled and led by the Spirit.
I have found great beauty and fruitfulness in the ancient practice of spiritual communion, while at the same time feeling the loss of not gathering in the fullness of our incarnational and sacramental life together (and let’s face it, you’ve gotten to “go to church” in your pajamas with coffee in hand while I’ve been looking out at empty pews and cameras!).
A few weeks ago the Diocese of Massachusetts released a document outlining strict regulations for how churches could gather again to receive communion in a safe and secure way. Well over half of the churches in our Diocese have now regathered or are in the process of regathering. At St. Paul’s we have been cautious. While desiring to fully live out our life together as the Church, to be “one body because we all share in one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17), we also know that looking out for the wellbeing of that body is a central part of our calling to love one another and our neighbors. So, moving forward in this “new normal” we wanted to make sure we did not rush into anything or make any changes that could threaten that call to love.
I have said to the Vestry and Executive Committee (who is also functioning as our Regathering Committee) that I did not want to move forward with in-person worship until we were certain we could do so in a way that is safer than going to the grocery store! We believe that, with the new Diocesan guidelines, we have a creative solution for a partial regathering that more than meets that requirement. When Dr. Anthony Fauci met with the Episcopal bishops he made the point of the danger of the “all or nothing” approach—of thinking the options are either sustained total shut down or unsafe and negligent ignoring of precautions. With that in mind, we think we have developed a way forward that would allow those who are not self-isolating or vulnerable to the pandemic to gather to receive the sacrament again while at the same time not diminishing the experience of our worship together for those who cannot yet return.
With full approval of our plan from the Bishop and Diocesan officers overseeing the regathering of churches, we will soon begin open-air, outdoor, celebrations of the Eucharist (which we are affectionately calling “Mass in the Grass”!) Sunday through Thursday, enabling the maximum number of people to receive the Eucharist in the smallest gatherings possible and in the safest possible environment (receiving in one kind—bread only). People are also welcome to attend and come forward for a blessing if they do not wish to receive. We will also use an online/call in sign-up system to ensure that our numbers never exceed more than expected and we will rely upon the extensive safety regulations from the Diocese for distribution of communion (attached).
The second aspect of this plan is that our Sunday 9am online/TV service of spiritual communion with music, hymns, sermon, and our full liturgy will remain exactly as it is. I think it is critical that we do not regather in a way that will hinder our video streamed services or diminish that service due to regathering regulations, which would potentially exclude members of the congregation who cannot yet return or scale down their experience of worship from home. Our plan is to leave the 9am Sunday Eucharist exactly the same and move outside to the back yard of the church at 11am on Sunday for a short communion service that moves straight through the readings and liturgy without music or sermon, taking about 25-30 minutes. At noon Monday through Thursday we will also hold these short outdoor Eucharists. This ensures that those who are unable to return at this time or are uncomfortable doing so will lose nothing from our current experience of communal worship. I believe it would be thoughtless to diminish what we are able to offer to those who are housebound or more vulnerable to the pandemic, and so we are committed to continuing to do the best that we possibly can to keep you connected and support your life of prayer and worship and refuse to take away from it. Many churches have found brilliant ways of doing this, and we believe our multi-service outdoor plan with continued video streaming is the best way forward for St. Paul’s.
I think it is important to recognize those of you who are vulnerable and self-isolating and therefore unable to return at this time and say that no one should feel guilty about not being able to come to receive communion, nor should anyone feel pressured to come. We all long to receive the sacrament, to join together in worship, and move forward in this way, but we also long deeply to care for one another with grace and patience in the best way we can given all of our particular situations. This care includes both continuing our Sunday broadcast to the highest standard we are able and also thinking creatively about other ways of meeting your pastoral needs as we move forward in this unprecedented time. We should also reflect on how the grace of the sacrament is good for our whole community, even when we cannot all be present together to receive it.
More information will be coming soon about the nature and start date of “Mass in the Grass,” which we hope to be very soon. I long for the day when we can all gather together again in worship, friendship, and celebration, and this is one exciting step in that direction. In the meantime, be assured of my prayers and affection for each of you.
Summary of Diocesan regulations for distribution of Holy Communion:
- The celebrant washes their hands thoroughly with soap and water before the service and/or use hand sanitizer immediately before the preparation of the Altar. After receiving the sacrament, the celebrant will use hand sanitizer again before serving others.
- All wear clean masks and remained distanced by household throughout the liturgy.
- The bread and wine are to remain covered throughout the eucharistic prayer.
- No one other than the celebrant is permitted to consume from the chalice.
- Communicants continue to wear masks and remain distanced while approaching the Communion station.
- Communion is to be distributed with the people standing, preferably in a place where there is ample space to prevent crowding.
- It is desirable to have hand sanitizer available for use by communicants as they approach and depart from the Communion station (we will make this available, and hand sanitizer will also be used by all at the entrance to and exit from the space).
- The celebrant is to drop the bread or wafer into the opened palms of the one receiving while avoiding touching their hands. Pressing the bread into the palm or delivering it on the tongue is not permitted.
- The communicant should step away from the Communion station at least six feet before lifting their mask briefly to consume the host.
- All remained masked and distanced by household while exiting.
June 1 - A Message from our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry
June 1 - Message from our Bishops
Dear People of the Diocese of Massachusetts,
Yesterday afternoon we stood in Boston with other religious leaders as “Clergy United in Prayer, Protest, Peace, and Justice.” Sponsored by the Black Ministerial Alliance and the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the demonstration’s speakers called “for the swift prosecution of those perpetuating violence on black bodies and killing; for justice in our nation and in our neighborhoods, in…a pandemic that exposes the massive injustice of unequal access to basic physical and mental health care which communities of color have had to endure.”
The demonstration included prayer for the dead, and for the living, “for the broken-hearted and those losing hope.” In devastating wordlessness, we held silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time it took to snuff out the life of George Floyd with a knee to his neck.
That afternoon protest was peaceful, as were several other large demonstrations throughout the day. When night fell, however, the protests turned violent, with significant destruction to property in the area surrounding our Cathedral Church of St. Paul.
We decry every manifestation of violence. This includes the destructive violence which followed peaceful protests in Boston this weekend. If we experience these events as extraordinary, however, we must recognize that acts of violence done to black and brown bodies are anything but. The recent, appalling deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are but the latest in our nation’s 400-year history of violence against people of color, manifestations of our sin of racism and the culture of unexamined white supremacy. Until we understand and acknowledge all of these forms of violence as integrally connected, we can never hope to make our prayers for peace anything more than wishful thinking.
We commend to you Dean Amy McCreath’s letter earlier today [available here ] reporting effects of last night’s violence surrounding our cathedral, and reflecting upon ways to respond.
We commend to you also yesterday’s essay in The Washington Post [available here ] by our presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, who issues this call:
“I see us channeling our holy rage into concrete, productive and powerful action …. Love looks like making the long-term commitment to racial healing, justice and truth-telling – knowing that, without intentional, ongoing intervention on the part of every person of good will, America will cling to its original, racist ways of being. … Now is the time for all of us to show – in our words, our actions, and our lives – what love really looks like.”
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris
June 1 - Message from New England's Episcopal Bishops
June 2, 2020
What President Trump did in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square on the evening of June 1 was disgraceful and morally repugnant. Displaying a Bible from which he did not quote, using as a mere backdrop an Episcopal church where he did not pray, and – more callously – ordering law enforcement to clear, with force and tear gas, a path through demonstrators who had gathered in peace, President Trump distorted for his own purposes the cherished symbols of our faith to condone and stoke yet more violence.
His tactic was obvious. Simply by holding aloft an unopened Bible he presumed to claim Christian endorsement and imply that of The Episcopal Church. Far more disturbingly, he seemed to be affecting the authority of the God and Savior we worship and serve, in order to support his own authority and to wield enhanced use of military force in a perverted attempt to restore peace to our nation.
His actions did nothing to mend the torn social fabric of our nation. Instead, they were a blatant attempt to drive a wedge between the people of this nation, and even between people of faith. No matter where we may stand on the partisan spectrum, we, as Christian leaders called to proclaim a God of love, find his actions repugnant. Jesus taught us to love our enemies, to seek healing over division, and make peace in the midst of violence.
Our church may rightly feel outraged and insulted by having the symbols of our faith used as a set prop in a cynical political drama. The real abomination before us, however, is the continued oppression of and violence against people of color in this nation. Let us reserve and focus the energies of our indignation to serve our Lord Jesus Christ’s higher purpose: to extend love and mercy and justice for all, and especially for those whose life, liberty, and very humanity is threatened by the persistent sin of systemic racism and the contagion of white supremacy.
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan, Connecticut
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop Diocesan, Connecticut
The Rt. Rev. Thomas James Brown, Bishop Diocesan, Maine
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop Diocesan, Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan, Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop Diocesan, New Hampshire
The Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, Bishop Diocesan, Rhode Island
The Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown, Bishop Diocesan, Vermont
The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Bishop Diocesan, Western Massachusetts
Calendar of Events
About St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Newburyport
Enjoy your visit to our beautiful, historic main St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Newburyport, chapel and churchyard. Join us for a Sunday worship service, a music program or one of our many service activities such as the weekly meals program Among Friends. Wander through the gravestones and mausoleums that surround either side of the church, passing by the lives of those long gone and linger a little to see the symbols and poetry created for their passing.
Who We Are
Forming the Spirit
Read our Parish Profile
St. Paul’s Profile is here for you to read!
Music & Concerts
Music at St. Paul’s is located in both our Choral Program and our Music Series featuring artists around the world. Our music program enables parishioners to express their faith through music. What happens when we worship?
Go ye into all the world
The Way of Love.
is a way of life
166 High Street Newburyport, MA 01950