March 20, 2020
As you know, the governors of New York and Pennsylvania have strengthened restrictions on work, meetings and travel within the last two days in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions in the two states differ in some respects, but the necessity of curbing our movements and gatherings on behalf of the common good is regrettably but abundantly clear.
Effective tomorrow evening, church buildings in both our dioceses should be closed except for essential feeding programs. If you wish to record or livestream liturgies, please do so from home. If you ordinarily provide space for recovery groups, please make it clear that participants can join such meetings
online or by telephone
. Please do not travel to your church building unless there is an emergency.
These new restrictions will create hardships for the elderly, for those who live alone, and for those most vulnerable to infection. It is my hope that you and the members of your congregations will take the lead in mitigating these hardships. Please be in touch with members of your congregation to determine whether they are safe, whether they have sufficient provisions, and whether they are in need of pastoral care or other assistance. I know many of you are aware of the medical and mental health resources available in your areas. If you are not aware, please take some time right now to familiarize yourself with these resources.
Many of the familiar ways of caring for one another are closed to us when our movements are curtailed. But new, and sometimes more pressing, opportunities emerge. Please get in touch with local government, medical facilities and ministries to learn how we might assist them in these difficult times.
If you need anything that is currently in one of our churches, please retrieve it by the end of the day tomorrow. And please remember, that while the governors may lift or extend their restrictions, their actions will not change the fact that we will not be observing Holy Week or celebrating Easter in our church buildings.
This is a period of great dislocation and dissonance. As clergy, we are accustomed to looking to the disciples for our example. Jesus instructed them to go, and off they went. It is strange to confront this unusual time in which for the good of our churches and communities we must not go, but stay. It is challenging to realize that many of the ways in which we typically spread God’s love—presiding at the Eucharist, visiting the sick, moving about our communities—must be put aside for a time. But the clergy and people of our partnership are nothing if not adaptable. Please continue your ministries by telephone and over the internet. As exiles go, I believe this will be a brief one, and one in which we retain the capacity to offer loving service to the Body of Christ.