Rector's Letter 3/17/2020
As I mentioned in last week’s letter, the Coronavirus situation is fast moving, and we will continue to adjust our common life as necessary. On Sunday, Governor Baker made the decision to limit gatherings to only 25 people. With that reality, Bishop Gates had little choice but to suspend all Episcopal Churches’ public worship. Our typical, daily operations are officially closed through Palm Sunday, but it is my expectation that we will be closed for public worship for a much longer period.
This news comes as a great disappointment to us all. I know that especially during challenging times, we rely on our faith and the faithful people of God to give us the strength that we need to face all that may come. I want to assure you that the church of Christ is not closed, on hiatus, or absent from this crisis. Our life together is just changed, not ended. Beginning this Sunday, we will be livestreaming church services. We have a new website. We now have a new YouTube channel that will stream worship. I may be younger than many of you, but I am not a digital native as my children are. I am learning fast, though. With each passing week, I think I will improve. I will be posting videos of morning prayer (which also serves are morning chapel for my now homeschooled children) and other content. Beginning next week (once we have the proper equipment in place), we will begin posting videos to replace children’s chapel.
If you are in a vulnerable group and do not feel comfortable entering public places, please let me know via email at Rector.firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a small army of people who are willing to make dinners, shop, or pick up medication. Please let me know. You are not a burden. Believe me, our parishioners want to help. These are anxious times and finding a way to be useful is a gift. It is the gift of safety for yourself, and a gift of purpose for someone else. I know New Englanders are tough, hardy folks, who are reluctant to ask for help. This is not a time to show your toughness. It is a time to be smart and to let people who love you help you.
Intention. I want to let you know of a theological principle of which we do not often speak. In our modern world, we do not often encounter the inability to receive the sacrament of communion before very old age. The church has always cared about the state of our hearts, however, not focusing on the inability to come to church as a spiritual detriment. Do you intend to receive communion with all your heart, but due to the difficulties of the world, the Eucharist is not available to you? This intention, this movement of the spirit, matters to God. God will know that you would have been in church were you allowed. This idea is usually invoked due to distance, conflict, or infirmity, but epidemic is a very good reason not to go to church. God knows the state of your heart, and your intention to receive the Eucharist is enough for God. The grace that I found in the Eucharist is what pushed me to be a priest. The Eucharist is powerful, and its grace is lifesaving. The grace and power of God will be with you, even if it is through distance worship, the internet, or simply your intention to receive. Sermons will continue to be found on our church website by clicking media, then sermon archive, or by typing in https://adventmedfield.org/sermon-archive.
Further instruction on LiveStreaming will be coming with this week’s All Parish email. I encourage you to listen to our medical leadership during this crisis. Pandemics do not usually bring the best out of humanity. I know that our church will defy the conventional wisdom and will prove to be resilient and loving.
I will continue to hold you and your family in prayer. I continue to give thanks for this community. Let us hold those suffering from this virus in our prayers, as well as those who care for them. We also pray for all of those suffering economic hardship. May the Holy Spirit push us to greater levels of love and generosity to care for those in need.
Blessings and Peace,
Rector's Letter 3/11/2020
I write to you during a difficult time. We are experiencing more disruption than has been caused by any other disease in decades. My prayers are with those suffering from coronavirus, those caring for them, and those whose jobs have been dramatically affected by the virus. It is during these occasions when the church is more important than ever – providing hope, a sense of calm, and a community dedicated to looking out for one another. God is not in quarantine. God will be with us throughout.
While the church will continue to hope that this will pass over our nation, we will be taking all necessary protocols as called for by our bishops. Some of these protocols we have already been observing with others being new.
1) As instituted two weeks ago, we will not be passing the peace through bodily contact. A simple bow or a smile is enough for the moment. The peace, remember, is the “peace of the Lord” which is always with us. A very present help in trouble.
2) As instituted two weeks ago, we will not share handshakes or other physical greetings upon entering and leaving the church. This does not mean that we must exit the building like it was on fire. I would love to chat even if only for a few seconds.
3) Beginning today, parishioners will no longer be receiving communion in both kinds. The body of Christ will also be given from the crossing and not from the altar rail. This is an effort to limit touching surfaces. I will communicate the Eucharistic Minister, Eric and the choir, the transept side, the pulpit side, and then the lectern side. I know that many people feel very strongly about receiving the common cup. We will be restoring our practice as soon as it is permitted. In the meantime, please know that it has always been our theology that Christ is fully present in the consecrated bread. I will also be washing my hands before communion.
4) Beginning this Sunday, we will no longer be passing an offering plate. For traditionalists, this was a nineteenth century innovation, anyway. We will be using a box - what used to be called the “poor box”. The box has a slot in the top where church donations and offering envelopes can be dropped.
5) When offering blessings, I will not be touching the forehead as I normally would. I will make the sign of the cross over the person and offer my prayer.
6) Coffee Hour will continue, for now, but will require some adjustment from our usual practice. Current protocols no longer permit us to self-serve. Coffee and treats will be provided by a coffee host or other volunteer from behind the counter. Milk and cream will also be poured by the kitchen volunteer. Perhaps we can all become better baristas.
7) If you are sick, please stay home.
8) If you are in a vulnerable group and do not feel comfortable coming to church on a Sunday, please let me know via email at Rector.email@example.com. We have trained Eucharistic ministers along with me who will be available to administer communion at your home. Sermons can be found on our church website by clicking media, then the sermon archive, or by typing in https://adventmedfield.org/sermon-archive/
9) For those who want to practice social distancing, when we include the transept and choir space in addition to the nave, there is plenty of room to get some space.
10) Your mother probably taught you good self-care, but I know we can find it difficult to follow her advice. I encourage us all to really pay attention to our bodies. Get enough sleep, wash your hands frequently, and eat well.
We have a plan, and should it be necessary, further action will be taken. This is an important time to check on vulnerable neighbors who may need help with errands or just a little company across the back fence. Pray for our scientists and epidemiologists who God uses. Please listen to your doctors and nurses. The book of Sirach says, “Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them.”
I pray daily for our parish community, and if our contact becomes more difficult due to a quarantine of some kind, I will be communicating more in writing than I typically do. You have my love, and I look forward with you to the other side of this crisis.
Blessings and peace,