March 13, 2020
Beloved in Christ –
After much prayer, and after being in conversation with fellow Church leaders, government officials and a number of you, I’ve come to the decision that, effective immediately, public worship in the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska is to be suspended through April 4, 2020. At that time, we will reassess whether we can safely worship during Holy Week and Easter.
I am keenly aware of the fact that our parish churches come in every shape and size, and that we are planted in communities both large and small across our beautiful state. While this directive may seem like an overreach to some of you, I humbly ask that you join with me in taking this bold step together. COVID-19 is spreading with astonishing speed and it will be lethal to a great number of people, especially the aged and infirm who are a majority of our congregants in many places. The risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus to those who would gather in worship in our parishes is simply too great to continue public worship at this time. Christ’s directive to, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is our clarion call, and we shall do so for the remainder of Lent, by worshiping apart.
One of our most solemn duties as followers of Jesus is to gather in community to break the bread and say the prayers, and in this time and place, attending public worship has become for many Christians the principal means by which they express their discipleship. As followers of Jesus however, there are many ways to deeply live into the promises we make in our Baptismal vows. I imagine and expect that the days and weeks to come will provide countless ways to make an offering to God in sacrificially caring for the marginalized in our communities, praying to God in secret and giving up so many of the comforts upon which we have come to rely.
Others have wisely noted that in the same fashion that we long to breathe when we hold our breath and we long to eat when we fast from taking a meal, we will surely long for the gifts that we receive in sharing the body and blood of Christ in community. I look forward to arriving at the table hungry and together, whenever our Eastertide arrives.
+ Bishop Barker