Dear Friends in Christ,
Earlier today I learned that our Episcopal neighbor to the north, the Diocese of Alabama, suspended corporate in-person worship for the next three Sundays. I have spent the remainder of today consulting with several diocesan clergy, the Standing Committee and other bishops. As of now, I ask that our congregations continue to gather for worship this Sunday, March 15, and to do so with the precautions and revisions suggested in my previous communications. If you are sick, have a compromised immune system, or even feel ‘under the weather’ stay home this Sunday.
For those whose best option is to stay home, this Sunday there is an online option for worship with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the National Cathedral. Live-stream will be available at the following link at 10 a.m. Central Time on March 15: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUGZLwnLhUU
I also ask that congregations gather this Sunday with the following directions:
Strongly suggest the use of Morning Prayer rather than The Holy Eucharist.
If the Holy Eucharist is celebrated, then offer communion in one kind, the bread. A small amount of wine should be consecrated but the cup shall not be shared with clergy or laity.
Practice a Lenten fast from serving food at all fellowship events.
Continue feeding ministries and offering space to recovery groups and other important ministries, but take appropriate efforts to ensure the safety and health of all. The vulnerable people in our communities will need our support as they are impacted by closures and unexpected financial costs. So I ask that as you explore different ways to keep your parishioners connected, you also explore ways that you can continue to support those in need in our communities.
For churches with schools, it is advised to follow the local public school systems protocol for potential suspension of activities and classes.
I know that some of what I have just directed overturns suggestions made just yesterday. We must do all that we can to continue to be the church in the midst of this storm. Being together for worship is an essential aspect of that identity, but we must make sacrifices to ensure that we can do so wisely and carefully.
I once heard the following definition of a sacrifice. A sacrifice is giving up what you love for what you love more. I love being together in worship, but I love my neighbor more. Thus, these directives are meant to err on the side of the greater love for our neighbor, especially those most fragile and vulnerable. We are all in this together, including the work necessary to slow the spread of this disease.
To be honest, we may need to take further actions and make greater sacrifices, so please pay attention to future communication from me and from your congregations. In the meantime, I close with the blessing I use:
Go forth into the world in peace; go forth to follow God’s Good path; rejoice in God’s Spirit; live without fear. God made you. God knows you by your name and loves you. And God will never lose you. And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you forever.