St. Julian's Forward Survey Results and Updates:
May 27, 2020
Dear St. Julian’s Family:
I am writing this lengthy letter to share with you an executive summary of the St. Julian’s Forward Task Force Survey and update you on the work of the Task Force as we move toward resuming limited “in-person” gatherings for Sunday worship. I want to thank those serving on the Task Force. Alongside me, they are: Bea Smith, Jack Ely, Justin Sutherland, Jennifer Cowles, Jennifer Garen, and the Rev. Jonathan McManus-Dail. The team has worked diligently, thoughtfully, and prayerfully. This is a significant endeavor, and I am grateful for their good work and commitment. Please keep us in your prayers as the planning and preparation continues.
I also want to thank everyone who participated in the survey. We had 95 people respond, which we consider an excellent response rate (about 76% of our average Sunday attendance). Though this is an inexact number as many participated anonymously, if one adult from each household responded, the survey results represent upwards of 253 people (adults and children). To this end, we have found the information to be accurate and informative for our work as a Task Force.
The survey contained 4 sections: Demographics, Virtual Church, Pastoral Care/Connection, and Regathering. I have included below our summary from each section and a brief analysis of comments.
Section 1, Demographics:
67.5% of respondents are women.
52.6% of respondents are under the age of 50 and 47.4% are over the age of 50.
53.2% of respondents self-reported to being in a high-risk category for COVID-19 outcomes.
Section 2, Virtual Church:
94.7% of respondents have worshiped with us virtually.
6.4% of respondents worshiped with us for the first time online.
85.2% of respondents find our online worship meaningful or very meaningful.
70.5% of respondents have participated in online church gatherings beyond worship.
76.4% of those who have participated in online gatherings beyond church find these gatherings effective or very effective.
Online Gatherings Beyond Worship with Most Participation (at least 20 people): Wednesday Evening Christian Ed, Ministry Committee Meetings, Virtual Coffee Hour, and Children’s Sunday School Zoom Gatherings.
Comments on Virtual Church (general overview): Overwhelmingly supportive, grateful and complimentary of our virtual offerings and efforts.
Section 3, Pastoral Care/Connection:
91.5% of respondents have been personally contacted by church leadership (94 of 95 respondents).
Phone and Text have been the primary modes of contact.
96.6% of respondents have found the contact supportive/helpful or very supportive/helpful
96.6% of respondents found resources for pastoral care and connection clearly communicated or very clearly communicated
Comments on Pastoral Care/Connection (general overview): Overwhelmingly grateful for leadership’s (lay and ordained) efforts to connect and offer care, and that it has been very meaningful for people.
Section 4, Re-Gathering (limited group size following CDC, OSHA, Governmental, and Diocesan guidelines):
57.5% of respondents are unlikely or somewhat likely to rejoin in-person worship when it resumes with limited group size.
91.5% of respondents are not comfortable or not sure if they are comfortable bringing a friend or family member in a high-risk category to a limited size in-person worship service.
67.8% of respondents are not comfortable or not sure if they are comfortable bringing a child or grandchild to a limited size in-person worship service.
53.9% of respondents state that it is not important or somewhat unimportant that we begin in person limited size worship with Holy Communion.
Activities Most Being Done Outside the Home (50 or more respondents): Picking up takeout, ordering in food from the outside, walk/exercise in neighborhood, essential errands (doctor, bank, etc…), going to the grocery store.
Comments on Regathering (general overview): Of those who commented in the Regathering Section, the majority (20 of 28 comments) urge significant caution and taking our time in beginning in-person worship. Of the 8 comments that generally support regathering for in-person, limited size worship as soon as possible, comments ranged from very enthusiastic (3 comments) to ready but concerned about risk to those in a high-risk category (5 comments).
It is important for me, as your Vicar, to say that in response to the survey it is clear that, though a majority of our community urge caution and a slow time-line for regathering for limited size, in-person worship, there are those who are ready even now. I am reminded, as the Gospel of John states, Jesus came among us to shower upon us “grace upon grace.” It is imperative that we, then, as Christ’s followers, extend that same grace to each other. There are those who will welcome and enthusiastically rejoin us when limited in-person worship resumes; and there are those who will choose to continue to join us virtually until a proven vaccine is widely available to the public (a year or longer). Both choices and every nuance between the two are reasonable decisions born of personal prayer and introspection. We must say “God bless you” to one another and support one another’s agency in making the very personal decision of when to return to church. When you are ready to come you are warmly welcome and, as long as you choose to remain with us primarily on-line, you are warmly welcome. We must offer one another grace rather than the shaming that is so prevalent on social-media and in other venues. Grace upon grace is the lens through which I pray we will both see and approach one another. For in doing so, we witness to Jesus and the love he has poured into our lives through his life, death and resurrection.
I want you to know that your leadership is committed to and currently working on developing a data informed plan for regathering that follows all CDC, OSHA, Governmental, and Diocesan guidelines and requirements. This will result in a limited size (25% capacity) plan to regather in-person for one service each Sunday that includes requirements for social distancing, signage, contract tracing, mask use, singing/music in worship, safely distributing Holy Communion, Children’s Chapel, and other considerations. The plan will be phased with additional in-person offerings and evolving group sizes as the facts on the ground change and in response to those in authority over us.
At this point, we do not have a date for our first in-person, limited size, worship service. There are several critical markers that must first be passed. These include: having our plan for re-gathering approved by the Diocese; a determination, led by the Diocese, of the earliest possible date for any Episcopal Church to regather in Travis and Williamson Counties (as we have many families in both); satisfying the technological requirements in the church to stream worship weekly with high quality; implementing all on-going sanitation, signage, social-distancing, and contract tracing requirements in the physical space; and training our leadership on the requirements stated above.
Though our plan for in-person limited size worship is complete and will be soon submitted to the Diocese of Texas, crossing all the markers I have mentioned above suggests to me that we are looking at mid-July as the earliest possible time frame for our first in-person worship service. There remains much work to do in the physical space (much of which is on back order); the systems for RSVP’s and contact tracing are still being finalized; and, as mentioned, we must train leaders who can help implement the plan above. Moreover, this work is being handled by a church that is primarily volunteer led.
I miss you so very much, and I know you miss each other. I also know that isolation has its own consequences. The creation narrative reminds us that we are made to be with each other and that the God of love is found in the midst of the life we live together. To this end, I hope you will trust that we are working toward physical regathering with all diligence and with the health and safety of all our members, especially those most vulnerable, as our guiding principle. And, as I began, I hope you will keep the Task Force in your daily prayers.
In the meantime, I hope we will all remain committed to being together and worshipping virtually, and I warmly encourage you to join us this Sunday, May 31, for our Pentecost Celebration and Bishop’s Visit. I believe it matters more than we can even know. If I can be helpful in any way, please reach out at the link below. This comes to you with all my love.