April 30, 2020

Dear Friends, 

You are doing great!  And I know it is not easy.  We continue and will continue to live as a community of faith creatively, faithfully, lovingly, missionally, and "socially distant" from one another.  

Below you will find a message from our Bishop regarding our continued need to respect guidelines to help keep us safe in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. I ask that you please take time to read or listen to the Bishop's message. 

The executive committee of the vestry has met and is moving forward to establish a task force made up of members of our Cathedral community who have expertise in the medical, public health, and institutional operations fields.  This group will identify best safe protocols and practices in anticipation of a phased process that eventually leads to gatherings that are faithful to guidance from officials and are effective for our community in our buildings. I know you will be patient and faithful and continue your faithful focus on our mission! 

We will continue to worship together virtually through livestream and Facebook live posts as well as gather for formation and other opportunities for the good and care of our souls. We remain constant in our mission, reaching out regularly with love and in partnership with New Bethany Ministries, our friends in Kajo Keji, and most recently to the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center in Rome, where the needs are dire. Canon Grandfield will reach out shortly inviting you to join him in a food drive to benefit neighbors in immediate need.  There are many many other ways I know you all are reaching out in your daily lives with love, compassion, and courage, thank you! 

 I commend you for "Being the Church". I hold dearly the Easter tide truth of the risen Jesus. This Jesus appears to the disciples when they are locked in fear and tells them to get up and out! He appears to others on a road to Emmaus and their hearts are set on fire with his presence. He appears to his disciples on an early morn to remind them to get to the business of "fishing for lives transformed" and then cooks and eats with them so that they (we) are reminded of his sustaining and life-giving spirit. This is the Easter message and this message both holds us together in this time of continued separation AND stirs us to continue reaching out in love and in action to those who most need to know of the life-giving spirit of our Lord. Keep it up!

Finally, I am grateful for our Cathedral staff, also distant from one another. I am particularly grateful to Canon Grandfield (Dale) and Canon Williams (Stephen) who have been heroic colleagues in creating the most essential nurture for this difficult time, our opportunities to worship and nestle in the hope of our Lord. 

With much love and affection for all of you, 

Tony

The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa
Dean and Rector
Message from Bishop Kevin: Phase Approach to Re-gathering

Posted: April 28, 2020

Surrender! Have you surrendered, yet?

As many of you heard me say in the cathedral live stream Easter Sunday – this particular moment is one where we are called to let go and trust in the Risen Christ –despite our best instincts to do it alone–we must walk together knowing that God walks with us on this journey as well.

This is what the Easter season is about – our thinking anew as to how we are to reach out and bring Christ’s love to a world so desperately in need. This crisis offers us an opportunity to lean into our ethical responsibility for the common good and to address the growing inequalities that that this pandemic has exposed.

I have heard from so many of you just how jarring it is to not be able to gather in community with others. I hear your longing for the Eucharist. I yearn for that time when we will be together again in celebration. And yet, I am so heartened by your innovative spirit – by the ways you are gathering together virtually in coffee hours, Bible studies, creative prayer and worship opportunities and other fellowship moments to stay connected. I’ve heard story after story of people who have overcome their fears of technology to reach out!

Many are anxious and wondering how and when we will return to gathering in-person for fellowship and worship. At this time, I’m calling on all congregations to remain closed to all in-person worship. We must continue to rely on our medical professionals to ensure that we return when we are safely able and have all the proper precautions in place. And though we have been longing for a specific and set date that we could look forward to—when things would suddenly go back to “normal’—what has become clear is that the events that surround us are much too complex to provide us that kind of certainty.

Rather, we are working with the Presiding Bishop’ office, other dioceses, similar organizations and diocesan leadership bodies to develop a phase approach for return.

A phase approach means that we do not set dates for when we return to worshipping in-person, but instead look at the circumstances surrounding us to decide what actions we should be taking in the present, and what actions we should take in the future when circumstances change. With guidelines from the United States and commonwealth governments, and other experts in the field of health, we have created a set of phases that describe appropriate church protocols based on health characteristics in our communities. Our goal is to continue to “be church” safely in every circumstance.

We are currently in Phase I, which is characterized by:
• Widespread community spread of the virus
• Overtaxed health system
• Short medical supply
• Lack of availability of vaccine, therapeutics, and counter measures
• Lack of protective supplies (e.g. gloves, masks, sanitizer) for general public

As long as these characteristics remain, we will continue to be in Phase I, which requires the following protocols:
• Gathering for online worship, formation, and community
• Limiting service ministries to safe protocols dedicated to essentials such as feeding ministries

Once the situation improves, and we see the following changes:
• Fewer than 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people for at least 14 days (determined by regions designated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania– see map)
• Safe treatment of all patients requiring hospitalization without resorting to crisis standards of care
• Testing all people with COVID-19 symptoms
• Active monitoring of confirmed cases and their contacts
• Case-Based Interventions including quarantine while awaiting test results, traced relationships over 14 days, and quarantine for close contacts with diagnostic testing

We will enter Phase II, which means we can adopt the following protocols:
• Church offices open in spaces large enough for physical distancing (in consultation with the bishop)
• Continued online worship, formation, and community
• Small church worship under 25 may restart in spaces large enough for physical distancing (in consultation with the bishop)
• Continued health safety protocols:
• Wear masks
• Wash hands
• Sanitize frequently
• More specific guidelines will follow once Phase II health characteristics are closer to being met.

Once the situation improves so that there is:
• Negative community spread
• Global vaccination
• Widespread therapeutic availability
• Comprehensive testing for virus and immunity

We will enter Phase III, where we will adopt the following protocols:
• Church offices opened
• Missional and administrative capacities created
• Worship in churches
• Increased small group gathering
• Increased missional gathering
• Continued online worship, formation, and community
• Continued pastoral calling
• Return to service ministries with addition of new community relationships

For more information about all the phases, you can visit diobeth.org/COVID19 .
Though it can be difficult to no longer operate with a specific “date-to-open” in mind, this phase approach allows us to safely and effectively plan for the future. And the lessons we learn in our current phase will help us be a more resilient, loving, and missional church in the future.

Please know that you all remain in my thoughts and prayers and that I need to hear from you. Please continue to reach out to our Diocesan Staff, particularly  the Rev. Megan Dembi, if you have specific questions about our phased return to worship and ministry.
Know of my love for you, and that I, diocesan staff, and your friends and colleagues are available to support you through this time. For I am convinced that it is only together that we can walk through this moment and through this moment we will discover that God is building something we cannot yet fully see or know.

The Rt. Rev. Kevin D. Nichols
Bishop of Bethlehem
Nativity Cathedral | nativitycathedral.org