(This, and additional instructions, have been shared with our clergy as well.)
March 23, 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Each day seems to bring with it new changes. As we enter into them, let us remember the words of our Lord in Isaiah:
“See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the laity and clergy of this beloved diocese. While this Lenten season has unfolded in ways none of us could have anticipated, we live with the hope of Christ and look forward to that day which is upon the horizon where we can proclaim “Alleluia.”
After much prayer, and further consultation with the clergy, leadership and laity of the diocese, I now provide further pastoral direction related to the worship and spiritual life of our churches:
However, it is imperative our faithful have access to worship. Therefore, in keeping with my previous directive, clergy may lead services with a minimum number of assistants in attendance (not to exceed 10). If you are celebrating the Eucharist you should consecrate, but not offer, the chalice. If you hold a service, you should offer access to it via computer or phone. If you do not hold worship, please direct your parishioners to another church which is doing so. A growing guide to streaming your service and a directory of churches offering remote access to worship can be found on our
Additionally, you can
Please know that I do not make this decision lightly. Over the past week, local, state and national authorities are issuing varying restrictions on the size and number of gatherings and I am told that further restrictions will be issued. This week, the Presiding Bishop wrote that “considering this changing landscape, I believe that suspension of in-person public worship is generally the most prudent course of action at this time.”
I am mindful that the lack of physical access to Holy Communion can be distressing. I will forgo receiving the Sacrament until such time as our churches can safely resume celebrating Holy Eucharist in person. I do so gladly and with full assurance that we are still recipients of the Real Presence of our Lord.
How our Holy Week and Easter celebrations will unfold is yet to be seen but it will be glorious. We currently have a committee formed to develop and offer creative services for these most holy days. We will celebrate together as a diocesan family and if it is from our own homes connected by phone or computer, we will still rejoice.
In the meantime, I encourage you to do the following in regards to conducting services, reaching the vulnerable and connecting with one another:
- Virtual Meetings. Make arrangements to offer your discernment, education, bible studies or other meetings by video or phone conference call. Contact us if you need assistance with us. We are experimenting with new technologies each day and are available 24/7.
- Vulnerable Communities. Please continue to check-in with your elderly, sick and shut-ins on a regular basis making use of phone, video, and written communication as appropriate to protect their health.
- Feeding Ministries. In order to help your neighbors in need, I ask that feeding ministries and food pantries continue to operate, instituting the recommended hygiene practices. If you have questions on this please contact us.
- Food Delivery. If health allows, and abiding with all necessary precautions, consider delivering food to those who are elderly or otherwise homebound.
- Open Worship Space. If you are able to do so safely and in keeping with all health regulations, I ask that you keep a worship space available for private prayer, reflection and refuge. If you are not able to keep the church open for prayer, I ask that you create a small shrine by the door (or other appropriate location) to serve as a focal point for prayer and reflection. It can be simple- a cross, a picture of your patron saint or of Jesus, etc.
- NA and AA. The same encouragement from my previous letter is in effect for AA and NA groups instituting the cleaning and recommended hygiene practices.
- Further Restrictions. In the event that the Governor issues a “stay at home” order or further restrictions, we will abide by those directions and further instructions will be sent as necessary. (For clergy, a list of things to consider is currently posted to the clergy Facebook page and is available here too.)
- Continue Pledging! I also ask that you continue to give your pledge to your church. While in-person activity may be suspended, the church is not closed and we must support those employed. The sextons, musicians, administrative staff, youth ministers, etc., need our continued support at this critical time. We must also not forget those church members whose business has been affected as well as the small business in our communities.
The first Easter was celebrated by a few faithful women and then shared by the rest of the disciples. Let us hold the spirit of that first Easter and the many Easters through the years. Through it, the Body of Christ is becoming stronger and the resurrection is the sign and proof that our faith is not in vain.
As a testament to that truth, on Easter Sunday, I ask we join with our sisters and brothers in the Diocese of Western North Carolina in proclaiming our faith through the sounds of ringing bells. On April 12 at 10 a.m., I ask every church to ring their bells for five minutes as a resounding symbol of our faith in the grace of Jesus’s resurrection and the gift of new life. We are also asking the faithful in their own household to join in and ring a bell, beat a drum or otherwise make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Let southeastern Pennsylvania hear the sound of joy as we proclaim the hope of our Jesus Christ.
As we continue to journey through this time together, take care of each other. Call one another, be kind, check on those who are lonely. Let us love boldly and without reservation. See you on Zoom, through the internet and in my prayers.
Your bishop, shepherd and friend,