Bishop’s Pastoral Letter
COVID -19 Further Directive
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Clergy and Parish Leaders,
As each day brings new developments, I must continue to revise my directives to comply with CDC recommendations. For this reason, I am suspending worship gatherings through May 10th (8 weeks) including all Sundays between March 22 to May 10 or Fourth Sunday of Lent through to Fifth Sunday of Easter. This is in keeping with the CDC’s recently communicated guidelines. It is imperative that our church be an example to our neighbors of unity, responsibility, compassion and adherence to directives from state and federal agencies. When their directives change, assume ours will change to match.
I recognize the gravity of this directive. I understand that this, along with those mandated by our government, require us to think of new and creative ways to engage our parishioners and our communities. Parishes are given the latitude to explore responsible ways of offering the Holy Communion/Morning Prayer without in-person or face to face contact. These are extraordinary times that call for creative, responsible and imaginative responses to serve our community. At all times we should maintain vigilance. As a church, we have a God given obligation and moral commitment to ensure our people are kept safe and their health and well-being isn’t compromised. In these times, the church is called to be a spiritual and pastoral presence for all people. The message of the church is the one proclaimed by Jesus, “Don’t be afraid for I am with you always, even to the end of the ages” (Matthew 28:20).
As to the decision on how to respond as a church to this pandemic, some of those decisions are being made for us by our federal and state leaders. Our purpose in response is to develop some user-friendly and spiritual and pastoral care guidelines. Guidelines and/or policies will be done very much conscious of the reality of our role and function in the community – and how does that role look and feel within the context of social distancing?
I am extremely grateful and encouraged by clergy and lay leaders from the three convocations that did some exceptional, conscientious and creative work to articulate guidelines to guide clergy and churches’ approach in pastoral caregiving. These guidelines will be sent out to the diocese by the end of the week. I am confident that at the end of this pandemic, the people of God will be comforted and gratified to acknowledge their church was with them in this time of need, fear and uncertainty. In the words of Julian of Norwich, “all will be well” My beloved, ‘this too shall pass’, and when it does, I pray sooner than later, we will all be a better people and community.
My beloved, how we live into our diocesan mission and identity as a church is imperative to our life as a spiritually strong and courageous community of faith.
You would recall that the Diocese of Easton has chosen as its identity to be a Prayer Centered Church & Mission – Shaped Diocese, and our purpose or vocation as a church is to Welcome All * Share Jesus’ Love * Serve the World.
My beloved, I am relying on our faithful, committed, loving and dedicated clergy and, in parishes where there may be an absence of clergy leadership, lay leaders to helped calm fears, provide guidance and care in these uncertain days and communicate the message articulated in all our communications. The Diocesan Office shall remain open to answer any question and/or offer clarification wherever needed. Feel free to call me on my cell phone: 410-714-9958; email firstname.lastname@example.org or office 410-822-1919. Together, with Jesus our Lord and Healer we shall overcome this temporary interruption in our lives.
Let us pray,
“Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude vs 24)
Together in Christ’s service,