Letter from Fr. Aidan: What Phase Yellow Means for Trinity Cathedral

Hello friends,

I pray you are all staying safe and healthy. Today, many counties in western Pennsylvania will go “yellow,” marking the re-opening of the economy. While we are all grateful to God that things seem to be slowly improving, it’s important to remember that we are not out of the danger zone yet. As Bishop McConnell reminded us this morning, “‘Yellow’ means ‘caution.’ The virus is still with us. It is still potent. It is silent and invisible and still possesses the ability to be easily spread, even by those who are not sick themselves.” So, while things are getting better, it is important that we remain vigilant in our efforts to keep ourselves, our families and our neighbors free from illness.

I know that many of you are wondering what “phase yellow” means for the life of the Cathedral. We are all ready to get back to some degree of normalcy and a huge part of that will be returning to physical worship at the church. Unfortunately, for the health and safety of our community, we aren’t ready to gather publicly yet and we do not know when we will be holding physical services again. I pray that it will be soon, but honestly, we need to prepare ourselves for what might be a long wait. The safety of our people is paramount.  Please remember that all the churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh are facing this same reality.

Please know that as soon as possible, we will reopen. We are actively making plans for your return.  Before reopening, all churches are required to submit a plan for reopening to the Diocesan Emergency Preparedness and Response Committee. The Cathedral staff is already developing our plan and once it is approved, it will be disseminated for you to read. Some of the plan will be unique to the Cathedral as a downtown parish, but other elements of the plan will be non-negotiable universal rules implemented for the safety of all our churches (If you are interested, you can read the document “Reopening Churches in our COVID-19 Context” here). We will begin implementing some of the procedures in this document this Sunday. For example, you will see us donning masks in worship for the first time. I have no doubt that this will look odd at first, but once we start holding in-person services again, everyone will be required to wear a mask in the building. We might as well start getting used to it (me included!).

Thankfully, “Phase Yellow” does mean that regulations have loosened a bit. As I’m sure you have noticed, on Sundays we have been having the Service of Morning Prayer. On May 24, we will begin holding services of Holy Communion again. This will not be a “virtual communion,” but rather will be for the purpose of making sacramental visitations to any in the Cathedral community. (For the safety of the community, the blessing of elements and the visitation will occur in accordance with the instructions beginning on page 11 of the document found here.) There will be an email sent out next week with sign-up times for pastoral visitations. We are really looking forward to seeing you in person—even if from a distance.

These are difficult times. In addition to the dangers of the pandemic, some of us are facing unexpected financial pressures and the stress of weeks at home. Feelings of isolation, depression, and loneliness are a real and pose a real danger. Know that you are in my prayers and that if you need to talk about anything, I am here for you. Please sign up for a visitation or join us for Morning or Noonday Prayer. In these small ways we can connect and continue to pray for God’s sustaining grace to carry us through this time.

I am also aware that, even once we begin holding public worship services again, many people may not feel comfortable participating in large public gatherings for some time.  This is completely understandable. So, please know that the Cathedral is actively working to dramatically improve its livestreaming capability and we will continue to offer online services for the foreseeable. I know that worship over a digital medium is not the same as physical corporate worship, but we hope that you have been edified by these services during this strange time. Until we are all back together again, please continue worshipping and praying with us online at facebook.com/trinitycathedralpgh on Sundays and throughout the week. 

We are working to investigate a permanent way to stream our services online. However, we are finding that this quite an expensive undertaking and it was certainly not in this year’s budget. If you feel compelled to help us improve our video and online capability, please make a donation here (https://donorbox.org/trinitypittsburgh). Thank you to those who have already contributed to this cause. It is also possible to make your regular contribution to the Cathedral through that link.  Thank you to all who have continued to financially support the church through this time.

If you have any questions about any of thee things, don’t hesitate to contact me. Even as we remain socially distant, please remember that nothing can separate us from one another in Christ. We are one in him through the Holy Spirit and nothing can ever change that.

I miss you all.