A LETTER TO THE DIOCESE OF LEXINGTON
From Bishop Mark Van Koevering
We face a significant challenge with the COVID-19 outbreak in our country. There is the virus and there is the fear. Yesterday, Governor Beshear recommended that churches cancel their worship services this week. In a conference call with the Governor, he told us that health experts are convinced that reducing social contact is an important tool in limiting the spread of the virus.
After reflecting on his words, speaking to our clergy and Bishop White of the Diocese of Kentucky, and spending much time in prayer, I wish to convey my support for the Governor’s intentions and suggest the following way forward.
Our journey together through the season of Lent gives us a unique lens in which to address this challenge. It is a time of self-sacrifice and exploration so that we might open ourselves to God’s presence in our lives in new and wondrous ways. Therefore, I humbly invite you to practice a Lenten fast from public worship, meetings, and social gatherings in our churches for the next two weeks as an act of love toward your neighbor, especially the elderly and vulnerable. For those who abstain from the sacraments during this time, I grant dispensation from your obligation and pray that our common worship can be restored very soon. Unfortunately, this means we will need to postpone the celebration of my Investiture and Seating. We will monitor the situation on a week by week basis and keep you informed.
I understand that common prayer is the lifeblood of our Episcopal way and acknowledge that this will be a painful sacrifice, but it could also be an opportunity to speak hope into the public square. I encourage you to imagine ways to reach out beyond the walls of our buildings to Be the Church in new and different ways. Please continue, with all due precautions, to provide the vital ministries of care to the needy and vulnerable. Clergy could invite one or two others from the faith community to say Morning Prayer this Sunday and live stream it on Facebook for your people. Mission House staff have produced a guide to enable this effort.
If you decide that in your context it is appropriate to hold services, I strongly urge you to follow the guidelines
My friends, we make this difficult journey together. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” 2 Tim. 1:7
In God’s grace and care, ever your servant,
The Rt. Rev. Mark Van Koevering