Dear People of Annunciation,
I send you greetings in the name of Jesus Christ on this St. Patrick’s Day. I deeply regret that we are not able to celebrate this evening as we were planning. We proclaim to the world that we are a joyful, hopeful, and welcoming church. Our hope ultimately rests not in the powers of this world but in God. In these days of uncertainty, we place our trust in God’s faithfulness. During this season of preparation for Easter, we find our joy in Jesus who was victorious over the forces of sin and death.
The mission of the church yields to no person or event. It only gives way to God. As St. Paul encouraged his brother in Christ St. Timothy, “Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable…” (2 Timothy 4:2ab). The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been offered under conditions of persecution and on the battlefields of war. To borrow from the Great Litany, Christians labored in the midst of plague, pestilence, and famine.
The ministry of the Church of the Annunciation continues. It is with a heavy heart, however, that I must announce that I am formally suspending normal parish operations. I imagine we all knew this announcement was coming, but it is still a difficult one to write. I am declaring that we are in emergency operation according to our parish disaster plan until Tuesday, March 31.
My discernment regarding this decision includes consultation with both of our churchwardens, Ann Lewis and Robert McKenzie, as well as with Bishop Smith. As you may be aware the Manatee County Board of Commissioners formally declared an emergency for our county yesterday. In addition, the President of the United States and federal public health officials urged avoiding gatherings over ten people. As people who are commanded to love our neighbors, I believe it is prudent for us to heed this guidance for the common good.
As I stated at our liturgies on Sunday, all of us who are active priests are improvising on how we respond pastorally to this pandemic. Religion is that which binds together. Church is the assembly of the called-out ones. Liturgy is the work of the people. How do we do this when we cannot formally gather in our customary ways? Here is my plan, which is subject to change:
- As previously announced, we will have a chance to connect with each other through a conference call check-in this afternoon at 4 p.m. Details about connecting to that call were provided in an email sent Sunday afternoon. This call will last no longer than 45 minutes. It will include prayer, a brief reflection, pertinent announcements, and a structured “coffee hour.” The Daily Devotions from Page 139 of the Book of Common Prayer can be found online at https://www.bcponline.org/DailyOffice/devotion2.html. (You will have to scroll down to “In the Early Evening,” which is Page 139.)
- On Thursday morning, I will invite those who usually participate in our Thursday morning service at 9:30 to gather in the outdoor chapel for a brief celebration of Holy Communion for the Feast of St. Joseph. (We will be outside due to a cleaning and sterilization planned for the air conditioning duct systems of the church and rectory.) We may encounter technical difficulties, but I will make every effort to webcast this service on our Facebook page.
- I will invite a group to join me in a celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. The people I am asking to join this group are a few liturgical assistants necessary for the conduct of a liturgy. There will be scripture, prayer, sermon, and limited music. I will make every effort to webcast this service on our Facebook page like we did last Sunday. I will work on creating a bulletin which will be available electronically.
- I also intend to celebrate the Holy Eucharist our Feast of Title on Wednesday, March 25 at 5:30 p.m. in a similar manner.
- As an expression of our Christian love toward our neighbors and the world, I request that everyone respect the boundaries I am setting around these services. You are welcome to make your spiritual communion as you participate from home. It is our teaching that if one desires to receive the Sacrament but is unable to eat and drink the Bread and Wine, all the benefits of Communion are received, even though the Sacrament is not received with the mouth (Book of Common Prayer, p. 457).
- If you are in good health and would like to receive the Sacrament physically, Communion under Special Circumstances will be offered in the outdoor chapel at designated times. It will be offered in one kind only. This is a brief service, and there will be limited fellowship afterwards. A member of the clergy will be in the outdoor chapel at the following times:
- Sunday, 8 a.m.
- Sunday, 8:30 a.m.
- Sunday, 11 a.m.
- Monday, 9:30 a.m.
- Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.
This is, of course, an evolving situation. I have already learned a few things in this journey, and I am sure there is more for us all to learn. As we travel these difficult days together, I encourage you to be fervent in prayer, engage in good self-care, and reach out to your neighbors in need. Please remain in contact with your fellow parishioners, and please call or text me if you need me. The psalmist teaches that all things come to an end, but God’s commandment has no bounds.