Diocesan News | March 18, 2020
A FAITHFUL RESPONSE, GROUNDED IN CHRISTIAN HOPE
On Tuesday, Bishop Sean released a video reflecting on how we can respond faithfully to the COVID-19 epidemic as a people of Christian hope. Watch it here .
COVID-19 UPDATES:
PARTNERSHIP TO OFFER ONLINE WORSHIP FOR HOLY WEEK, EASTER
Earlier today in a video conversation with clergy of the partnership, Bishop Sean announced that the suspension of in-person worship will extend at least through Holy Week and Easter. His decision follows Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's March 17 request  that in-person public worship, including Holy Week and Easter services, be suspended.

Bishop Sean is working with several congregations to offer online worship so that all congregations can gather together virtually. The broadcasts will tentatively begin on March 29 and will include Holy Week and Easter services. Congregations that want to offer online worship before then can consult this guide on the website . A list of online worship opportunities hosted by partnership congregations is also available on the website. To add your information, please email communications@episcopalpartnership.org .

When he initially suspended in-person worship last week , Bishop Sean wrote, "The COVID-19 epidemic is spreading so quickly that I cannot in good conscience permit gatherings that could easily hasten the spread of the disease and contribute to the collapse of our health care system."

The suspension of in-person worship is in keeping with Centers for Disease Control recommendations to cancel gatherings of more than 10 people, especially those that involve people in high-risk populations.

Until churches are able to reopen, Bishop Sean will meet with clergy in a video conference each Wednesday.

PAYING CHURCH EMPLOYEES DURING COVID-19
Effective immediately, the partnership offices in Tonawanda and Erie will be closed during the COVID-19 epidemic. Staff will be working from home. Please contact staff via email as usual using this staff directory . For urgent matters, please ca ll 814.746.6433.

All members of the bishop's staff will be paid during this time, including those who are not able to report to work. Hourly staff are being paid based on their average wages.

Most church employees are ineligible to draw unemployment benefits. For questions about how to continue paying congregational employees while our buildings are closed, please email Canon Cindy Dougan.
SUSTAINING OUR CONGREGATIONS DURING COVID-19
Although church buildings are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of the church continues as clergy and lay employees convene congregations online, support those who are most vulnerable, and continue ministry in our communities. Please support our congregations during this unprecedented time by keeping your pledge payments current if your own income is uninterrupted.

In the near future, the bishop's office will provide centralized online giving so that pledges to any congregation can be paid online. Look for more information in future issues of the newsletter.
PARTNERSHIP COVID-19 UPDATES
Please encourage members of your congregation to   subscribe to this newsletter in order to receive messages from Bishop Sean and other important updates on COVID-19. Updates are also available on the partnership website by navigating to the first item under the Resources for Leaders menu on the home page.
TRACKING "VIRTUAL ATTENDANCE" FOR THE PAROCHIAL REPORT

The General Convention office is advising churches to keep track of the metrics for digital worship services during the COVID-19 pandemic for possible inclusion in the 2020 parochial report.
 
More specific guidance will be forthcoming, the Rev. Canon Dr. Michael Barlowe, executive officer of the General Convention, wrote in an email to diocesan administrators.
 
In the meantime, he recommends, noting "virtual attendance" using whatever metrics an online platform provides.
 
The  parochial report filing site  will remain live beyond the usual May 1 deadline.
STAY UP TO DATE AT THE PARTNERSHIP FACEBOOK PAGE
To get updates from Bishop Sean and news about the partnership and our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, follow the partnership Facebook page, where all new updates, stories and photos will be posted. The individual WNY and NWPA Facebook pages will continue to exist but won't be updated, so stay up-to-date with all the diocesan news, events and postings by liking The Episcopal Dioceses of Western New York & Northwestern Pennsylvania
CONFERENCES & TRAININGS
Conference and training updates will return to the newsletter once the social distancing mandate has lifted.
UPCOMING EVENTS
JOINT DIOCESAN CONVENTION NOVEMBER 6-7 IN NIAGARA FALLS
The 2020 convention of the Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York will be held November 6-7 at the  Conference and Events Center in Niagara Falls, New York . Watch future issues of the newsletter for more information.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, we will publish a general newsletter each Wednesday.

To contribute photos, stories, or event announcements to the newsletter, please see our  submission guidelines .