A Letter from Bishop Susan Brown Snook
Dear Friends in the Diocese of San Diego,

Grace and peace to you in the name of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, as does concern over the capacity of our health care system to care for those who are affected. Some new public health developments have occurred just since last Thursday, when I last wrote and spoke to you:

  • San Diego County has banned all non-essential gatherings.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that public gatherings of more than 50 people be canceled or postponed;
  • The federal government has advised that people avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people;
  • Public school districts throughout most of our diocese have closed their schools, and numerous public events have been canceled;
  • The governor of California has recommended that all people over age 65 self-isolate in their homes;  
  • Documented cases of community transmission of the virus have happened in our diocese.

In my letter of last Tuesday, I permitted in-person worship to continue through Sunday, March 15 as long as strong precautions were taken. Many of you made the decision to hold worship via live-streaming rather than public in-person gatherings. Given the latest developments, I am now suspending all public, in-person worship gatherings in our diocese at least through Saturday, April 4. We will monitor developments in public health and communicate further regarding Holy Week and Easter worship. 

Last night, I preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral Evensong and talked about the suspension of in-person worship from a theological perspective. Here is video of that sermon:
You can find the text of the sermon here. I believe that in adopting this Lenten fast from the comforting rituals of our worship, we are obeying Jesus’ commands to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and we are caring for the most vulnerable in our communities. 

Suspending public, in-person worship does not mean that we will not be worshiping together, and it does not mean that we will stop being the church. Below are some things I ask you to consider as we discover new ways of being the church in this time of pandemic. 

Find New Ways to Worship, Pray, and Learn

Many churches chose to live-stream Morning Prayer services with sermon last Sunday. For those who have not yet adopted that strategy, this is a way to keep worship going in your church and give your members a way to stay in contact with their church community. Here are videos that give an easy tutorial in how to offer live-streamed worship. 
How to Live Stream in 4 Easy Steps

Un video de como transmitir usando Facebook LIVE.
If your church does not choose to do live-streamed worship on Sunday mornings, you can direct your members to one of the many other churches that are offering it. A list of the churches offering live streams and links to their offerings are found here. Please email our Director of Communications, Chris Tumilty, at ctumilty@edsd.org, to add your church to the list. 

In addition, during the time of the pandemic, either I or another member of diocesan staff will be preaching at St. Paul’s Cathedral’s live-streamed Evensong each week. Tune into the 5:00 p.m. service each Sunday here. The sermon will be shared on social media afterwards. 

Family Gatherings

Live-streamed worship is not the only way to pray with your church family. I encourage church leaders to train family heads to lead their families in worship, either to view a live-streamed worship service, or to pray through a service provided on paper or pdf format by the church. Encouraging worship and prayer at home might be one of the ways we can actually help increase people’s faith during this time of crisis.

Live-Streamed Christian Formation for All Ages

You can offer live-streamed Sunday School lessons, filmed in advance and offered to your families each Sunday. You can also provide lesson plans that families can do at home. Please see some options on our website here. Youth groups could gather by Zoom or Skype, or start a group text chat. Adult Bible Study and Christian Formation could happen online or by paper studies mailed to members. See a list of Christian Formation resources on our DiscipleshipEDSD.org website.

Pastoral Care for Your People

I have asked that routine pastoral care visits be suspended for the present. Many nursing homes and hospitals are not allowing pastoral visits except for end-of-life care. Clergy may continue to use their judgment to make urgent pastoral visits, with strong hand-washing and social distancing precautions. However, many visits for pastoral care and prayer may be made by phone or video call. 

In a larger sense, this crisis makes it imperative that we find new ways of caring for our people and staying in touch with them. In last week’s letter, I urged you to create a phone tree to stay in touch with your congregation. Now I encourage you to go further, empowering lay leaders to maintain consistent contact with small groups of parishioners. As an example, St. Paul’s Cathedral has created the Circles of Love ministry, assigning lay leaders as shepherds of groups of up to 10 people. The group leaders will stay in close touch with their members to let them know of cathedral offerings, and will alert church leaders of particular pastoral needs. I encourage other congregations to adopt similar strategies to keep people connected. 

Church Staff

I ask all congregations to empower their staff to work at home if at all possible, especially staff who are over age 65. You may need to allow them to take computers or other materials home, set up Internet in their houses, or take other actions to make at-home work possible. Please do all in your power to keep on paying staff in this difficult time. 

Clergy Over Age 65

In accordance with the government’s guidance for people over age 65 to self-isolate, I ask clergy over age 65 to follow this guidance and remain at home (except for essential errands) while the crisis remains in effect. My office will be in touch with the active clergy individually about how to implement this recommendation and continue essential congregational ministries. 

Congregational Day Schools

In last week’s email, I asked churches to follow the guidance of their local public school districts in deciding when to close. As of today, all of the public school districts in our diocese where we have schools have closed. In discussions with public health experts and diocesan leadership, I have to reiterate that it will be our policy to close our schools when public schools are closed. I know that closing will cause financial anxiety to some schools. Please take the following actions:

  • Review your contracts with parents and teachers to determine what they say in case of interruption of services due to an emergency;
  • Communicate to the parents about those contractual terms, in a caring way;
  • If possible, use prepaid March tuition to keep paying your teachers through the end of the month;
  • Encourage parents who can afford to keep paying tuition beyond March to pay that amount instead into a special fund for relief of hardship for teachers;
  • Encourage congregation members to contribute to that hardship fund also, or to my Bishop’s Pastoral Needs Fund, which I can use to help those impacted by the coronavirus. 
  • Ask your teachers to apply for unemployment assistance and any forthcoming federal aid, if you are not able to continue paying them past the end of March. 

You may consider providing online lessons and/or take-home paper lessons for a part of each day, to continue children’s learning and provide activities for parents to do with them at home. 

Congregational Service Ministries and Meetings

Congregational in-person meetings and classes should be canceled or moved to video or phone conferences. 

Service ministries to those in need may be maintained with careful precautions:

  • All volunteers should be healthy and under age 65;
  • Thorough cleaning, hand-washing, and social distancing guidelines should be observed;
  • The ministries should not include indoor meals; e.g., meal programs should be converted to sack lunch handouts. 

Meetings of outside groups such as AA may continue if there is sufficient space to do them in a large room with 6 feet of space between people, strict hand-washing and social distancing, and thorough cleaning before and after the gatherings. Congregations should use your judgment about whether these groups should continue. 

Resources for Use During the Coronavirus

Our diocese has assembled a number of resources for congregations and individual Episcopalians to use during this time, including live-streaming opportunities, Christian formation resources, ways to establish online giving for your congregation, expanded use of the diocesan Zoom account for video conferencing, and more. You can find that list here.

Financial Assistance to Those in Need

I ask members of our diocese to keep giving to your congregations during this difficult time. Many Episcopalians, employees, teachers, and members of our wider communities will find themselves in economic hardship. Your giving will help your congregations continue their essential services, and it will also help them minister to those in need. 

I invite you also to give to my Bishop’s Pastoral Needs Fund. I use this fund to help those in need in our diocese. I anticipate many requests for assistance in the coming days, from members, employees, and people in our communities. Please be generous in helping us help those whose lives are impacted by this unprecedented health crisis. You can give to the Bishop’s Pastoral Needs Fund by clicking here.


Most of all, during this time of crisis, please pray. Pray for those who are sick, pray for those who care for them, pray for those suffering economic impacts, and pray for our church. You can find a Litany for Use During Coronavirus by clicking here

And in all things, remember that Jesus is here with us. The Risen Christ will not abandon us; he has promised to be with us to the end of the age. As a priest friend of mine in Arizona said to his congregation this week, “Jesus didn’t come to relieve us from our suffering. He came to join us in our suffering.” Pray for Jesus’ presence, strength, and comfort during this time of uncertainty. 

I share with you the Prayer of St. Patrick that our Presiding Bishop shared in his weekly reflection today:

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Holy Trinity. Through belief in the three-ness, through confession of the oneness, the creator of all creation. So Christ be with me. Christ before me. Christ behind me. Christ within me. Christ beneath me. Christ above me. Christ on my right. Christ on my left. Christ when I lie down. Christ when I sit up. Christ when I arise. Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me. Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me. Christ in the eye of everyone who sees me. Christ in every ear that hears me. Christ in the heart of friend and stranger.

In Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook

The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego
2083 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., San Diego, CA 92107