March 16, 2020
Dear Idaho Episcopalians,
It is time for us to join with many institutions around southern Idaho and take action to protect our most vulnerable members and the communities we live in.
As reported in most parishes yesterday,
as of today, I am ordering the suspension of all weekend worship and large gatherings in our parishes and diocese, to last through Palm Sunday, April 5
. At that time we will re-evaluate these precautions in anticipation of Holy Week and Easter. I can tell from Facebook posts and parish websites and emails, that congregations are already creating ways for worship to be shared via social media.
First, for the next three Sundays, we will observe these conditions, both as an attempt to protect the health of our parishioners, but also to help flatten the curve of infection of COVID-19 within our communities. Being together in church might not result in our contracting the virus, but could turn us into carriers of it into our extended families, co-workers, and social circles. Therefore,
- No Eucharist celebrations in parish churches through Palm Sunday
- No large meetings or events over 25 people
- Clergy will have discretion over funerals
- Gatherings of 10 people or less may occur for bible studies, etc.
- Gatherings of 25 people or less may assemble for Morning Prayer, if it is the community’s consensus desire to do so
- However, maintain these safe practices:
- have hand sanitizer available
- do not physically pass Offering Plates or the Peace
- appropriate ‘pew distance’
- no Coffee Hours or hand-made treats for any gathering
- Clergy and/or Senior Wardens will inform the Bishop if such gatherings are considered.
- Parish leaders should consult with outside groups - AA, Al-Anon, and others - about their choices for meeting in our buildings
Second, while we take these precautions within our parishes and others within our homes, this is a time for all to be mindful of the emotional, perhaps even spiritual, demands of such stringent actions. This pandemic will effect the lives of every Idahoan. This gives us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, an opportunity to creatively care for all those in our communities that will become sick, those who remain at risk through the run of the pandemic, and especially those who will face tremendous needs due to closed schools and drastic reductions in the service industries.
As we decide which actions we can take personally or corporately to ease a neighbor’s burdens, we must also remain attentive to our spiritual care and nurture in these anxious times. We have a Bible, a Prayer Book, and each other: let us turn to each in good portions.
Sisters and Brothers, each coming Friday, I will share some practical suggestions for worship, public service, and comments/updates about our diocesan response to the pandemic. Please send along to me any good ideas that you come across that I could share with the Diocese.
Finally today, please join me in prayer for all who will become ill with the virus and all who will suffer economic hardship due to the pandemic.
Yours in Christ,