Dear Members of the St. Simon & St. Jude Family,
I’m writing to give you an update on the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus) and our common life at St. Simon & St. Jude.
One of the most common phrases in all of Scripture is, “Do not be afraid.” We live without fear because we know that nothing can separate us from God’s love and that our times are in God’s hands (see Romans 8:31-39 and Psalm 31:15). It is important to keep the promise of God’s love and presence in mind so that we do not panic or make hasty decisions. At the same time, we must be prudent and careful that we do not contribute to the risks to public safety.
After much thought, prayer and discussion with the bishop, other clergy and our Sr. Warden, Blount Shepard, this is my best guidance for St. Simon & St. Jude right now.
1. St. Simon & St. Jude will be open for worship tomorrow.
I say this not because I believe our worship is so precious, but because worship is an essential public witness to the reign of God, the presence of Christ, and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit. Throughout history, people have continued to worship in the darkest of times and harshest conditions. God has been worshipped in foxholes, in prisons, and in POW and concentration camps. Holy Communion has even been celebrated even while orbiting the moon. It is a source of comfort for many and a balm for the anxious spirit. If worship is foolish, then perhaps it is because we are “fools for Christ.” (1 Corinthians 4:10).
At the same time, we need to be thoughtful of our context, that is, who we are as a community. We are a small church that serves as a community center. We serve a great many people outside of our church membership. And while the situation is certainly fluid, for now they need us to remain open. The scouting programs are still active, at least until the schools close. And the AA group continues to meet six days a week, albeit with decreased attendance. Indeed, for many in the recovery, closing our doors would be the worst thing we can do.
2. While we will be open for worship, our worship practices must change.
Although we are “fools for Christ,” we are also called to be “wise in Christ.” There are things we can do to minimize the risks of infection during worship. Therefore effective immediately, we will be modifying our worship service, at least until the end of Lent.
a) If you show any signs of illness, please stay home and let us know. We are very concerned about your health and safety. And if there is anything you need, we want to help.
For those who cannot or choose not to attend worship in person, we will be live streaming our services over the internet. (Go to https://www.facebook.com/SSSJ.Episcopal.Church/ and be sure to “Like” the page. Then look for the live stream broadcast.
b) All children's Sunday School classes are cancelled. Adult and youth programs are still being evaluated.
c) Communion will be distributed on one kind only. This means that while we will consecrate a small amount of wine, it will remain on the altar. I will personally distribute the bread (wafers only). Communicants are asked to remain standing around the rail to receive the host.
We believe that we receive the fullness of the grace of the eucharist through each kind, the bread or the wine, individually and combined.
d) Offering plates will not be passed. Please place your gift into the plate as you come in for worship.
e) All who serve at the altar will wash their hands before worship, and use hand sanitizer during worship. This means clergy, altar guild, Eucharistic Ministers and acolytes.
f) Please refrain from touching at the peace. You may smile, nod, bow, wave or give some other gesture of greeting.
g) We have cancelled all fellowship activities during Lent. Coffee time after service and GEMS are cancelled until Easter.
Our mission is to welcome, to rejoice and to be Jesus in the world. My prayer is that with these measures, we can remain the open and loving congregation that we are, even in the midst of a pandemic. May God bless you and all whom we are called to serve.