In light of the rapid escalation of concern about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as encouragement from our Bishop, we will not be meeting in-person at our building for worship gatherings for the rest of March (at least). Instead, we will be meeting online.
Why are we doing this? Not out of fear for ourselves, but out of love for neighbor. Experts are telling us that one of the most important ways to prevent deaths is to “flatten the curve” of how many people have the virus at one time. “Social distancing” is the primary way we can slow down the spread of coronavirus, which will saves lives in the long run.
So we met as a leadership team yesterday and decided to
- Replace our in-person Sunday morning worship gathering with an online worship service with “spiritual communion” (details), and
- Move all our Sunday morning DNA Groups online (look for an email from your group leader).
As vital as it is for us to gather to share in Christ’s presence in Word and Sacrament, it seems to us that loving our neighbors in this season means taking these drastic measures to do our part to slow the spread of this virus so as not to overwhelm our healthcare system.
But the lack of in-person meetings doesn’t mean we stop being the Church! This situation has actually presented us with a unique missional opportunity to imitate our ancestors in the faith, who continued to love God and love neighbor in times of pestilence, plague, and persecution.
So while loving our neighbors in a pandemic for us means (strangely) not gathering for worship and practicing social distancing, I encourage you not to “hunker down” in fear. We have an opportunity to be the Church right now, loving our neighbors, caring for the most vulnerable, practicing courage in the face of fear, generosity in the face of greed, gentleness in the face of accusation and blame.
What we’re doing:
- Online Worship on Sundays at 11:15am for at least the rest of March as a place to gather to hear good news, discuss, pray, connect, and coordinate mission.
- We are moving Sunday morning DNA groups online, too (contact your group leader for details), as well as all Table Groups.
- Weekday Eucharist and Morning/Evening Prayer throughout the week.
- We’ll be working to send you updates, resources for prayer, and other communication to keep you connected. Join our email list if you haven’t, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and consider joining our group chat (contact us and we’ll add you).
What you can do:
- Pray with us for the health and safety of our neighbors, especially the elderly and weak in health.
- Avoid large gatherings and wash your hands (a lot).
- Consider hosting an online gathering (a cooking class, happy hour, etc.)
- Offer to help (safely) to friends and neighbors that may perhaps not feel safe to go get groceries because they are in the high risk category.
- Be present and offer support to friends, coworkers, and neighbors that are fearful.
- Be kind to yourself. It’s normal to feel confused and scared. None of us has ever done this before. The situation is indeed serious, but our Bishop encouraged us yesterday to commit to “practicing the sacrament of this present moment.” Trust that God is always present and at work, even in a global pandemic. You need not long for the past or worry about the future. The present is the only time and space where we can actually love God and neighbor.
Please do not hesitate to check in with Fr. Matt or me if you have any questions or concerns. Brothers and sisters, we are all in this together, so be gentle with yourself and others. Practice caring for yourself as you care for others; take time in silence each day to contemplate and pray, limit your social scrolling, get plenty of sleep, and resist the urge to engage in addictive behavior to numb the anxiety. Instead, cast your burdens on the Lord, because he cares for you.
Pay attention to what God is doing in and around you, and let’s use this strange and scary new season to lean into participation together in the life that God shares with us.
Take a moment now to breathe deeply a few times, and pray this “prayer for times of pestilence” from David O. Taylor:
Oh Lord, you who are the refuge of the poor and needy, we ask that you would save us from the pestilence that stalks in the darkness and the plague that destroys at midday. Be our sun and shield. Be our fortress. Be our comfort this day. May we not fear any evil but rather trust in your might to save and your wisdom to guide, so that we may rest always in the shadow of the Almighty. In the name of the One who heals our diseases. Amen.