Dear Members and Friends,
Like many of you, I have been attentive to the latest health and government reports about the Coronavirus pandemic. Yesterday I had planned to write to you with the latest policies we would implement to address the well-being of our worshipping community and the hundreds of people who use our parish house each week.
Then in my deepest place of knowing, I realized we needed to treat this health crisis with the utmost care, calm and compassion, most especially for those who are most vulnerable and for health care workers who may become overwhelmed in coming weeks. As Christians our response is not only about protecting ourselves, but helping to slow the spread of the virus for the sake of others. With this in mind, and living into our mission of well-being, I have decided that we need to take an unprecedented pause in our life as a community.
Beginning today at 5 pm, our parish house will be closed for at least two weeks and we will not meet in person for worship, meetings, programs or appointments. The staff and I will be available via email or phone during our normal working hours to address your needs and the business of the church. I continue to be fully available to you as a priest and pastor. You may call my office if you have a need. If it is an emergency, as always, you will be able to reach me on my cell phone.
Outside groups who use our buildings will need to suspend their meetings and programs until we reopen.
We are closing the parish house through at least Friday, March 27. I have made this decision in consultation with our bishop, our executive committee, staff and key lay leaders. We will reopen the building and resume worship and regular operations once our leadership has assurance from the local government and health officials that the spread of the virus has slowed and it is reasonably safe for us to be together again.
This has been a difficult decision to make. We are an embodied church and our faith is based on the incarnate person, Jesus Christ. Our being together in person is one of our deepest joys. Our gathering to celebrate the real presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion is spiritual nourishment.
While we are not physically together, we are planning to offer worship via livestream. This Sunday at 9 a.m. Michael Templeton, and I will lead a service of Morning Prayer. David Brierley is supporting our online worship capacity. Please see your eNews and look on the Website later today or tomorrow for a link and instructions for Sunday's worship. As your staff and leaders adjust to this temporary pause, we have some creative ideas about how we will continue to offer spiritual nourishment and support. Please stay tuned.
We also plan to use online meeting platforms to continue the work of the church. Leaders will be given this information soon.
In uncertain times like these when many of us are experiencing fear and anxiety, our faith in God can give us strength and our church community can offer us support. I was inspired as I read the collect appointed for this third week of Lent. It is the prayer we will pray along with Christians all over the world. A few weeks ago I preached about our need to trust God in the wilderness, just as our Savior Jesus did. I trust that with God's help and the support of each other, that is what we we will do. Here we go.
In Christ and with faith, Jennifer +
Collect for the third week of Lent:
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.