All services are live-streamed on our YouTube page.
Visitors continue to be welcome!
Dear faithful parishioners and friends of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church,
Christ is Risen! Христо́съ воскре́се!
As Washington County is moving to the state's "Yellow" Coronavirus Phase tomorrow, His Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek, has blessed us to open our church to an increased number of people. Specifically, we can have as many people as we can fit while maintaining social distancing, meaning that individuals/families (who live under the same roof) can maintain at least 6-8 feet of distance from each other.
Mat. Janine and I have measured out the church, and we have 22 "spots" marked out, as well as two un-marked, "standing-room only" spots on either side of the choir loft. A picture of the set-up has been attached. Because we have 84 regularly attending families, the parish has been split up, by the first letter of our last names, into four sets of 21 families.
Following the lead of the other parishes of our size in the Archdiocese, we will be having several Liturgies each week, so that those who desire to come can attend every other weekend, and will be able to attend on Sunday every four weeks. All services will be live-streamed for those who wish to attend virtually.
Here is the schedule, by last name, for the upcoming weeks (the calendar continues through the end of June); this pattern will continue until we receive further directives from the archbishop:
Saturday, May 16: A-F
Sunday, May 17: G-M
Saturday, May 23: O-R
Sunday, May 24: S-Z
Saturday, May 30: G-M
Sunday, May 31: A-F
Saturday, June 6: S-Z
Sunday, June 7: O-R
We have also received a blessing to serve Liturgy on holy days. If you desire to come on Ascension, Peter and Paul Day, and other festal liturgies moving forward, please contact Fr. John to sign up, as we are still limited to the 24 individuals/families.
Additionally, beginning next Friday (5/22), on weeks when there is no holy day, we will be having an additional Liturgy for the immuno-compromised and those who particularly concerned about catching the Coronavirus, who are practicing strict social distancing. Please contact Fr. John if you wish to attend. This decision has been made in response to a few parishioners who have expressed particular concern. It is hoped that this will help these parishioners to attend. However, if people do not attend, then this will be cancelled moving forward.
While we should rejoice in the opportunity to return to church in this limited way, please do not feel obliged to do so: only come if you are comfortable exposing yourself and your family to the inherent risk of religious gatherings at this time.
This Saturday, the church will be open as it has been over recent weeks, but moving forward the church will be open for visitation and prayer on Saturdays and Sundays from Noon to 1:00 PM.
To mitigate this risk, we will be observing the following guidelines:
- Due to concerns with singing being a major vector for the spread of the Coronavirus (see this article, or this story of what happened when a choir sang together), we will be limiting our services to a single singer. Many thanks are due to Diane and Lara who are stepping up in this time!
- There are no spots within 15 feet of the singer or from where the deacon/reader read in the center of the church.
- Masks are to be worn at all times, except for at Holy Communion; only Fr. John, the deacons, and the single singer will be without masks.
- Those in the pews - even those with masks - should refrain from singing. Please help up to mitigate this potential risk by letting the singer sing alone.
- As can be seen in the picture below, some pews have a single "spot", while others have two spots. Individuals and couples should take the spots in the pews with two spots, leaving the pews with a single spot for families with children.
- There are two unmarked overflow spots, on either side of the choir loft. If you are capable of standing through a service and we need the extra space, please consider moving upstairs to allow space for someone who needs to sit. If absolutely necessary, a family can stand in the narthex as well.
- A different spoon will be used for each communicant, purified after Liturgy with Everclear alcohol and boiling water.
- The antidoron will be handed out with tongs. If you desire zapivka (the wine after Holy Communion), the same server will pour some in a paper cup for you, which will then be burned after the Liturgy.
- We will have two altar servers, selected from among the families who are attending. Fr. John will be calling these families beforehand. Preference will be given to those 16 and up. Altar servers will be wearing masks.
- The hours will not be read, and the Epistle will be read by the second deacon. If necessary, a reader will be selected from among those present, and they should only take their mask off to read.
- As tempting as it may be, please refrain from gathering together in an informal "coffee hour" in the narthex after Liturgy. The virtual coffee hours over Zoom will continue on Sundays at noon for those who wish to connect with their parish family.
These efforts are hardly fun or ideal, and may upset some of us (especially those of us who have our "spot" in church, as we may not be able to sit in that usual, comfortable spot), but sometimes living as a Christian will take us out of our comfort zone. Let us embrace this discomfort, and use it to focus on the one thing needful in all of this: Jesus Christ. Many thanks are due to all of you for your efforts and willingness to help us to return to church as safely as possible.
For those desiring confession, please contact Fr. John to set up an appointment. This can be done over the phone or in person while maintaining social distance.
Finally, we cannot forget that, as Christians, we must always be evangelical, meaning our faith is never just for us: the Light of Christ is a beacon meant for the whole world. Please feel free - and encouraged! - to invite friends with you when you come, especially people who might be hungry for Christ in this time of crises. Even if every invited family were to show up, we would still have three free slots for visitors. Take advantage of our Saturday liturgies in this: I am anticipating a lower degree of attendance (meaning we have more space!), and those who may already be attending a church are more likely going to be free to try ours on a Saturday morning. As we may not have a formal welcome person, the task of welcoming falls to each of us: let us all welcome anyone new, and help them to follow the safety guidelines laid out for us. If they do not have a mask, please do not turn any visitor away, but suggest that they remain in the narthex instead.
For catechumens and inquirers, please feel free to come for the Liturgy with your last name!
With thanks in the risen Christ,
Fr. John Joseph Kotalik
St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church
601 Boone Avenue, Canonsburg, Penna. 15317
Rectory: 724-745-8216 | Cell: 425-503-2891