Updated: Sep 10, 2020
September 6, 2020
Dear Heavenly Rest Family,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Over the last several weeks, members of the Heavenly Rest community have been worshipping on Sunday mornings in the Courtyard. This service, which was created as a relatively safe option for in-person worship in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, has become a wonderful way to offer praise to God, be in the presence of other members of our parish family, and discover a part of our church campus that was unfamiliar to many of us. It has been a particular joy to hear the voices of our choir in a safe context. At the same time, I am aware that gathering in the Courtyard remains an imperfect substitute for worshipping in our beautiful Nave, which has been the center of our parish’s common life for generations.
Since the rapid increase in the rate of infection earlier in the summer, the number of COVID-19 cases in Abilene and Taylor County appears to have plateaued in recent weeks. Moreover, the return of students to school toward the end of August does not appear to have caused a significant spike in cases. On the whole, members of the community appear to be taking precautions and mitigation strategies seriously.
For these reasons, I am pleased to announce that we will be returning to in-person worship in the church building on Sunday, September 13. We will offer a service of Holy Eucharist in English at 10:30 and a service of Worship in Swahili at 1:00. Worshippers will have an opportunity to receive Holy Communion at the 10:30 service. We will continue to stream the 10:30 service on our Facebook page (@heavenlyrestabilene) and at heavenlyrestabilene.org/live. We will also continue offering the 9:00 service of Morning Worship in the Courtyard. Attendance will be capped at 60 for indoor services and 68 for the outdoor service. Please help us keep attendance at appropriate levels by registering for every in-person service you plan to attend at heavenlyrestabilene.org/registration or by calling the church office. Worshippers are strongly encouraged to wear masks or face coverings on the church campus. Masks have been proven to mitigate the spread of pathogens, especially in enclosed areas with large groups of people.
We will be offering Holy Communion in one kind at the 10:30 service. After donning a mask and sanitizing her or his hands, a priest will bring the host to you in your pew. The priest will drop the host into your hands from a height of several inches in order to minimize physical contact. You may remove your mask to consume the host, but please return the mask to your face as soon as possible. Those who would prefer not to receive may cross their arms across their chest in order to receive a blessing. We will also be making home Communion kits available after the 10:30 service to those who would prefer not to return to the church building at this time. Please call the church office or email the Reverend Karen Boyd (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in picking up or receiving one of these kits.
As lay leaders and members of the Heavenly Rest staff have discussed ways to safely distribute Communion, one of my fears has been that the process would not feel reverent. Indeed, the measures we are implementing to mitigate the risk of infection impact some of the most powerful features of the Eucharist: the intimacy, the expectation, the joy of human connection. At the same time, it is worth remembering that one of the fundamental assumptions of the Eucharist is that God is made known in the humblest of forms. In the words of one of the great hymns of the Church, it is through the Eucharist that our Lord “makes the common holy”, reminding us that everything around us has the potential to be sacred. This is true no matter what our celebration of the Eucharist looks like. The holiness of our Communion, in other words, is not dependent on whether it looks the way we are accustomed to it looking. By making the common holy, the Eucharist reminds us that our efforts to care for and protect one another are powerful signs of the sacred: ways to acknowledge that the people around us are created in the image of God.
As we continue to navigate this challenging time, please know how grateful I am for your flexibility and your faithfulness. I am excited to see many of you on September 13, and I am looking forward to worshiping with the rest of you online. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. In the meantime, be assured of my constant prayers. May God bless you and those you love.
The Reverend David F. Romanik
Heavenly Rest’s Current In-Person Worship Schedule (as of 9/13/2020)
9:00 - Morning Worship (Courtyard)
10:30 - Holy Eucharist (Nave)
This service will be livestreamed on the Heavenly Rest Facebook page and at
1:00 - Worship in Swahili (Nave)
Worshipers must register for each service they plan to attend at heavenlyrestabilene.org/registration or by calling the church office. Masks or face coverings are strongly encouraged for all in-person worship services.