March 13, 2020


As promised in Bishop Hollingsworth’s letter yesterday, here are some notes from today’s Zoom call with Episcopal Relief & Development.

There will be a recording of today’s call available in the next 24 hours or so, and there are lots of resources on the Episcopal Relief & Development website .

Those resources include this prayer, which opened today’s meeting:

God of the present moment,
God who in Jesus stills the storm
and soothes the frantic heart;
bring hope and courage to all
who wait or work in uncertainty.
Bring hope that you will make them the equal
of whatever lies ahead.
Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
for your will is health and wholeness;
you are God, and we need you.
-Adapted from New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 765

The basics of disaster work are in building resiliency, which happens with three things: a sense of agency; accurate information, and connections in community. As we are discerning and responding, keep our hearts, minds, and prayer on these things.

Positive coping is anchored in routine and gratitude. Whatever obstacles we encounter, respond with “Yes, and…” (e.g. Statement: "We can’t worship the way we normally do." Response: "Yes, and maybe as we’re in touch with each other we’ll get to know one another better.”)

We heard from Aaron Scott whose ministry is with a large population of people who are homeless or incarcerated in Washington state. This is already a high-risk population, and he reminded us to not lose sight of the groups with whom we are already connected. They are doing all their meal service to-go, either out the back door or outside. They are visiting homeless as they are able. Shelters will be particularly vulnerable. They are also suspending hospital and prison visits and are communicating via letter, email, etc. instead.

As with all ministry, talk to those on the ground; don’t assume. Figure out how to support people more, not less. For those providing meals, socks, etc., be sure to package items individually.

The next speaker was Thomas Ni, a priest working with new Chinese immigrants in L.A. He reminds us to be mindful of language barriers and those that are facing fear for family very far away, and to be aware of possible hate crimes.

For all of us:
  • There are cultural ways that we share meals that may need to change. Look with fresh eyes.
  • We need to have arrangements pre-made for school pick-up, etc. in case we are quarantined. Have documents prepared. Churches can help in preparing documents.
  • For those who live alone, make sure they have emergency contacts.
  • Be aware of legal resources in case loss of wages brings possible eviction.
  • Those who lose pay if they are off work are likely to assume/pretend they aren’t really sick. How do we help buffer that? (Help with unemployment forms.)

Be aware of the risks of isolation: increase in substance abuse, domestic violence.

For pastoral visits (whether lay or clergy): Think about what the visit means as we get creative. One example: a person sat in their car and “visited” by looking at person through the window while talking on the phone. Most nursing homes are shutting down.

In short, do the best you can the most hygienically way you can; we are going to feel uncomfortable as we figure things out. There is space between isolation for safety’s sake and business as usual; find ways to be community in that space.

And, not included in today’s call, I recently learned that the Prayer Book for the Armed Forces (1988) has a section entitled  When You Cannot Attend Worship . It includes this prayer: 

In union, O Lord, with your faithful people at every altar of your Church, where the Holy Eucharist is now being celebrated. I desire to offer you praise and thanksgiving. I remember your death, Lord Christ; I proclaim your resurrection; I await your coming in glory. And since I cannot receive you today in the Sacrament of your Body and Blood, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. Cleanse and strengthen me with your grace, Lord Jesus, and let me never be separated from you. May I live in you, and you in me, in this life and the life to come. Amen.

I thought it was lovely, and I hope that it may be a source of solace for others.  

Let me know how I can be of help in the coming days and months.
 The Rev. Margaret D’Anieri
 Canon for Mission