March 13, 2020

Dear ones:
 
As you are likely aware, this evening Governor Scott issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Vermont . While the news from government and public health authorities seems to be in a constant state of change, it has become clear that as Christians, we have a responsibility to do anything we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the most vulnerable among us.
 
At this point, the primary means of slowing transmission is to practice social distancing and avoid gatherings. For this reason, I am urging all parish clergy to cancel public in-person worship until further notice. I also ask that you suspend all in-person meetings and events until further notice, and that you make a special effort to reach members of your congregation who are not online with this news before Sunday morning.

I will consult with public health experts later in the month about the duration of these suspensions.
 
It breaks my heart that we cannot get together to share the Eucharist, hug and comfort one another during this difficult time. Lent is my favorite season in the church’s year, but I never considered my Lenten practice would involve fasting from people. However, for the sake of our health and the health of our communities, we must fast from our treasured rituals and fellowship during this difficult season.
 
Still, while our public, in-person worship will cease, we will continue to worship and minister together as the Body of Christ. During this time, I hope we will take special care of those among us who find themselves most isolated. Work with your parish leaders to make phone calls, send emails and video conference regularly. Make sure congregants have their most basic physical and spiritual needs met while they are observing social distancing practices, or in self-quarantine.
 
It is my hope that the temporary suspension of in-person, public worship will catalyze a deeper exploration of online worship in our diocese. This Sunday, March 15 at 11:00 a.m., I invite Vermont Episcopalians to watch the live stream of Eucharist at Washington National Cathedral , where Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preach and preside. The cathedral is closed until March 25 as part of the Diocese of Washington’s response to the coronavirus, and the service is being held solely for the purposes of streaming it online.
 
Starting Sunday evening, I will be hosting a daily offering of online prayer at 8:00 p.m. Daily online morning prayer will be offered beginning Monday at 8 a.m. Join me this Sunday evening by using this link: https://zoom.us/j/531110497 or by dialing in from any phone using the following information: dial 16468769923, code 531110497#.
 
If you would like to explore offering your own online worship, please refer to our guide on the website . If you are holding online services or prayer gatherings, please send the details to communications@diovermont.org . We hope to offer a webinar on online worship in the near future.
 
Even as we speak of distancing, every member of our diocesan household feels present to me. I am concerned about your health, how you are handling this difficult time, how you are making hard decisions, how you are caring for one another, and how you are trying to live your lives with deliberation and with care. I appreciate your faithfulness so deeply.
 
You are, as always, in my prayers. Please keep me in yours.
 
Peace and blessings,
 

Bishop Shannon