Announcement from the Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher
Two-week Suspension of Services:
Be Witnesses of Hope
March 13, 2020

Colleagues in ministry, 

I have been hearing from many of you about the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. Many of you have expressed concerns about gathering for worship, and as I said in my last posting, I support you in responding pastorally to your local needs. Others are finding ways to gather together, with care, and I want to support that response as well. Things continue to change, however, and there is increasing anxiety and fear for many about gathering in person for Sunday worship. Liturgy should not provoke fear and anxiety. Therefore, I encourage congregational leadership to suspend public worship services, and other gatherings of congregants, for the next two Sundays - March 15 and March 22. After two weeks we will reevaluate based on the recommendations of local and state health officials. I encourage all of our congregations to do this, not just those in areas that have positive cases of the virus. If you feel you can gather safely and without anxiety, I support you. This is not a mandate. 

Even as we embrace the need for social distancing, we are called to keep holy the Lord's Day. I invite us all to explore new ways to pray together, using the tools of this age and The Book of Common Prayer . I invite our churches to develop networks to check in on one another and offer pastoral care. It's important that we stay connected to one another as we navigate these days of uncertainty. Our fai th is our greatest gift and best defense when the global community is rocked by fear. We may use these two weeks as a time to go deep in prayer, to reach out to the isolated and fearful among us in creative ways, and to be witnesses of hope.

I have been in virtual meetings with the House of Bishops all week. This was by no means easy or commensurate with the experience of being with my colleagues and friends in person. I know the adaptations we are making cannot replace the power and joy of gathering as God's people, but we take this time apart because of love. As we move forward, may we do it in love for one another, and for this world that God so loves. 

Let us pray:

Living God,
Your love is living water
flowing through us.
In these days of separation,
water the seeds of contemplation
and move us to compassionate action.
For the good of your beloved ones
who wait, and long, and pray,
and for the creation groaning 
with new life beneath the dust, 
in Jesus' name we pray.
The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher
IX Bishop of Western Massachusetts
The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts | 413-737-4786 |