Dear Christ Church,
This afternoon Governor Kemp announced a Georgia-wide shelter in place order effective this Friday. As a result, we are suspending Communion Under Special Circumstances. We were planning to suspend this practice this week anyway and were about to announce it when the order was issued. Given the precautions we had put in place, there was a low risk of infection, however, we saw no need to take any amount of risk as the local impact continues to grow. The shelter in place order is necessary to keep people safe in the meantime and we will abide by it without reservation or complaint.
Also, please know that we will not include the Eucharist with our Palm Sunday service this weekend and will instead pair the familiar elements of Palm Sunday with Morning Prayer. We have made palms available at various pick up points on the Island. If you can, pick up your palms tomorrow before the shelter in place order goes into effect- no need to see anyone or interact with anyone as you do. Then send me a photo or video of you with your palms for our virtual procession. You can also use any branches you may have in your yard for photos.
We do anticipate that both Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday will include the celebration of the Eucharist even though we cannot be together. We will decide what Sunday liturgies after Easter will look like in the coming weeks.
There is much theological debate in the circles of church leadership these days about what forms of prayer the Church can and should offer via technology. I won't get into all of the specifics here, although the debate is fascinating. There is a rubric in the Book of Common Prayer that indicates that even when we are not able to receive bread and wine physically, the benefit of the sacrament can still be received. That will always be the case and remains one aspect of the theology of the Church's understanding of the sacrament of Holy Communion. All benefit even when only some are able to receive. That said, we also don't want to return to the pre-Reformation days when only clergy partook of the bread and the wine.
What's also important is to remember that we balance our common liturgical life primarily on private devotions, namely the Daily Office. We will continue to offer Evening Prayer each night at 5:00 pm via Facebook Live, and we encourage you to use the other services of the office as well. In many places and times throughout the history of the Anglican Communion, including at Christ Church, the faithful were sustained by communal Morning Prayer on Sundays, often without a priest's participation. We're not revisiting those days entirely, but we will seek to balance all of these theological and historic insights as we move forward.
The main takeaway in all of this is that we are still one body, one parish, even as we are kept apart by the necessities of public health. No matter what form our prayer takes God receives our prayers as the Spirit moves between us. The invitation of our Lord Jesus Christ to pray overarches whatever methods we use and the rubrics we follow. So we will pray. And we will pray together, often, and as technology will allow. Though many we are one, and as we gather together in the name of our Lord from our homes, or as we pray on our own, knowing that somewhere someone is praying with us, we are assured that Christ is in our midst.
May God continue to bless us all during this time.