March 12, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
The fear surrounding the novel coronavirus continues to escalate on a level unprecedented in most of our lifetimes. It seems to me that the world has been gripped by fear far more than by the virus itself. I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of the illness. Yet I notice that the Center for Disease Control estimates that since October 1, 2019, there may have been as many as 49 million cases of influenza and 52,000 influenza deaths in the United States alone. We were not afraid of this, and life carried on as usual. The fear surrounding COVID-19 sounds to me suspiciously like the work of the Enemy.
Satan divides in order to conquer. Likewise, the fear of this new virus is pushing us away from each other and into isolation. As I write this (from home) at least two entire Episcopal dioceses have cancelled services until further notice. Schools are shutting down, sports seasons are being cancelled, stock markets are plummeting, and travel is being restricted. In this alarming moment, I am asking God what He would have us to do. The Church was created by God to proclaim His message of hope to the world, and yet the Church has not been immune from the global pandemic of fear. God created us to thrive with community and human interaction, and yet we are being told by the majority of media outlets that such interaction is now dangerous.
They may be right, but I’m not giving in. I hope this doesn’t sound rebellious or cavalier. What I mean is that we need each other during this scary season. The world needs the Church to step forward, not retreat. I keep thinking of Hebrews 10:24,25, in which the author exhorts, “let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good deeds,
not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
With this in mind
, Church of Our Saviour will not be limiting our opportunities to gather together and worship our Sovereign Lord.
I want to emphasize that no one should come to church if they are sick, or if they feel uncomfortable coming for any reason; no one needs to feel any pressure to avail themselves of anything we will offer. You are adults, you know your own situation better than we do, and we trust you to decide for yourselves and for your children what is right for you. In the meantime, the church will carry on, implementing responsible precautions.
We will continue to offer you the opportunity to gather with joy, hope and faith; until further notice, we will take the following measures to promote the safety of all who gather:
- All who enter the church for worship will be asked to take a squirt of hand sanitizer. All who choose to come forward for Communion will again be asked to take a squirt of hand sanitizer.
- The Altar Guild will sanitize the Communion rail before and after every service.
- Our regular cleaning service is undergoing a deep clean this week, and will continue to sanitize pews, doorknobs, bathrooms, classrooms, etc. on an ongoing basis.
- You can be assured that all clergy and laity handling any part of Communion will have washed and sanitized their hands.
- Those who come forward for Communion may feel free to kneel or stand.
- At the rail, please hold up 1 finger if you only want the bread; hold up 2 fingers if you want both the bread and the wine; cross your arms over your chest if you would like only a blessing. Any of these options are absolutely acceptable.
- We will not be drinking from a common cup. If you choose to take both the bread and the wine, the priest will intinct (dip the bread in the wine) for you and hand it to you. We will not place it in your mouth. This will take a little longer than normal, so I thank you in advance for your patience.
- Offering plates will be kept in the back of the church. You may also give online at oursaviourjax.org/members/giving, or by texting ‘oursaviourjax’ to 73256.
- Priests will stand a little further away from the church after the services to ease congestion, and to allow those who don’t want to come through the line an easier chance to slip out.
- Those serving meals in the Great Hall for Lenten gatherings or Sunday morning breakfast will be asked to keep the food in the kitchen, serving full plates rather than buffet style.
- We will continue to offer the ministry of Eucharistic Visitation for shut-ins or the chronically ill. If a shut-in feels comfortable having someone come to their home and would like to receive communion, then I feel we should continue that important pastoral practice. Eucharistic Visitors have been instructed that the first thing they should do upon arriving is go to the sink and wash their hands for 20 seconds.
With such rapid development, it is quite possible that something else will come up and I will feel the need to write yet another letter. Whatever may come, I can assure you I will still feel that we need each other, and the world needs us, in this fearsome time. We will use good sense and informed judgment. Yet with faith in our Risen Lord, we shall not fear, we shall not retreat, we shall not lose hope.
I miss you! And I look forward to seeing you soon.
With faith and love,