Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Mark's,
As many of you know, St. Mark's, the Parish House and Church, are now closed to the public. Staff members are working from home, and we are only in our offices for essential materials. If anyone enters the building, they must wash hands with soap and warm water, use provided hand disinfectant and put on gloves also provided. There are signs on our doors indicating that St. Mark's is closed, and only for specific purposes is anyone to be in the building.
Having said that, St. Mark's is more than its buildings. St. Mark's is a community of faith, a community which gathers in the Name of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit. For now, we are not physically gathering for worship, meetings or providing food for those in need. We are following the mandates of our Bishop, our Governor and the CDC as best we can.
For now, we are trying to concentrate on being spiritually connected as a community of faith. What that means is still in the process of unfolding. When we were still 'at Church', it seemed possible to stay connected with live-stream videos but we can no longer continue that method of communication. However, staff members are available via emails, and if cell phones are published in the Directory, they are available by phone. By all means, I am available, and I ask that you not hesitate to call me.
Zoom conferences will be used for the gathering of some ministries, and our weekly staff meetings will continue to be held via Zoom at 1:00 on Tuesdays. We have set-up a schedule for some staff members along with members of the Property Ministry to check on the Church complex every day. Yesterday morning, we discovered that someone had painted COVID~19 on the wall just outside the Chapel. Wendell worked with two different chemicals and Mike Armour has continued to work to remove it. I'm happy to report that it will soon not be visible.
I want to ensure you that our property will be maintained, monitored and kept clean during this interim period. I want to ensure you that the candle in the sanctuary light will continue to burn. That light is a symbol of the light of Christ and represents a kind of eternal flame and indicates the presence of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine reserved in the tabernacle. I want to ensure you that your staff is praying for you, and we are working in different ways of being in contact. On Sunday at 10:30, please, join me for a live-stream Facebook prayer and homily on the Gospel for the day.
Starting Monday, I will offer Morning Prayer at 10:00 a.m. and Evening Prayer at 5:00 p.m. I'm working to discern how we can offer a Scripture Study via Zoom and also a blog of some kind in order to connect minds and hearts.
Mother Sue and the Prayer Ministry continue their ministry of praying for those for whom we have promised to pray, and I encourage all of us to do that. Megan and Pam will continue to do all they can to keep things up and running. Greg is being proactive in staying connected with those in our music ministry. Laura and Jeff are working to continue ministering to children and youth. We will stay connected to our inbound parishioners, those who are in assisted living or nursing homes. Yesterday, I sent out a copy of the text from my message on Thursday along with a cover letter to fifteen of our parishioners. Please, pray for them and for all the sick, especially those suffering from the Virus in our state and throughout the world. A couple of parishioners will engage parishioners with a card ministry, and St. Mark's cards will help us stay connected. Who doesn't love receiving a card? Remember, those things? Physical cards in your mailbox?
As part of our commitment to our neighbors, I have been in contact with and also sent donations to Degage Ministries, the Westminster Food Pantry, Heartside Ministry, Mel Trotter Ministry and Kids Food Basket. Those ministries are doing all they can to tend those in need, and I was pleased to have been able to offer them some support on our behalf. Please, keep them and all the social services organizations in our community in your prayers. Also and importantly, please pray for our medical community whose strength and energy are much needed during these trying times.
It goes without saying, I guess, that we have no full picture of the impact of what we are currently experiencing in life. We know that members of our community have already lost their jobs, and finances are going to be extremely difficult for some of us. Please, be assured that we will continue to meet our financial obligations at St. Mark's, and we can only do that with your continued support.
Next week and believe it or not, an Easter Pastoral Message will go out from me. Yes, we do indeed believe in the Resurrection even in the midst of so much uncertainty, anxiety and suffering. I have consistently preached that it is not in God's nature to abandon God's creatures, and in this time of need, God is with us. God's grace is with us to enable us to stay connected with one another as a community of faith even beyond the walls of St. Mark's.
Jesus said, "I am Resurrection, and I am life. Whosoever believeth in me shall not perish but have everlasting life." (John 11:25-26) As Christians, we are called to believe that and to believe that God in Jesus is with us. In these days, staying connected with God and one another is up to us. Reach out to those you know at St. Mark's. Send them an email or give them a call. Assure them of your friendship, prayer and support. Stay connected. Watch for communications from your staff and do all you can to pray that these difficult and trying times will come to an end.
Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27) This Season of Lent, we are being challenged to find peace in ways perhaps like never before. Let us be united in prayer, seek peace and understand that God is with us and that we are with one another.
May God bless you and keep you safe from harm.