"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." John 4:18
Beloved of Christ,
The increasing numbers of individuals in the Bay Area infected with the Novel Coronavirus and its resulting disease, COVID 19, has led to heightened health concerns in the Bay Area. As Christians, we live in community with one another and are directed by scripture to walk in love and without fear. From a practical standpoint, this means demonstrating appropriate cautions to protect the most vulnerable among us without causing undue anxiety. As your pastor, I am deeply concerned about the well-being of all of our parishioners and have sought to make decisions about the way in which we at Grace respond to the coronavirus situation based on both scientific and spiritual considerations. To that end, I have consulted information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The Episcopal Church, The Diocese of California, and the elected leaders of Grace Martinez.
On March 7, Bishop Marc Andrus released a series of recommendations for Episcopal churches in the Diocese of California, including refraining from offering wine at Eucharist. Another directive was to monitor and be receptive to information from local health agencies.
Today Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) issued new guidelines for organizations in our area
. Among them are to "Cancel or postpone large gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, celebrations, conventions, religious services and community events where
50 or more people are within arm’s length of each other
and to cancel or postpone events for or attended by older adults or others who are at higher risk for severe illness." Unfortunately, both our planned Lenten Breakfasts and St. Patrick's Day Dinner meet those requirements. For this reason, with regret but also with the full support of your Senior Warden Christina Reich,
I am cancelling the Grace St. Patrick's Day Dinner scheduled for this Saturday, March 14. In addition, we will not hold further Lenten Breakfasts unless or until the CCHS directive is lifted.
I have received several queries as to whether the 10 a.m. Sunday service will be cancelled. It is my belief that one of the functions of churches is to provide comfort and companionship during troubled times. Therefore,
after prayerful consideration I have decided that we will
cancel Sunday services
. As directed by the Bishop and health officials,
I strongly encourage parishioners who are considered at higher risk for contracting the coronavirus, including people who are 50 years old or older and those who have underlying medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or chronic lung diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as well as those who are immunocompromised, to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider whether they feel safe attending services on Sunday. If you decide not to attend church, please let me know.
We will continue to follow the most rigorous health guidelines at our services, including not serving wine, having those who touch the communion wafers thoroughly wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, asking those who are ill not to attend church services, discouraging handshaking, hugging or touching during the peace, and taking extra precautions to ensure our worship space, including our children's area and toys are disinfected.
Since this Sunday is a Family Sunday, we will have a Children's Homily but I will refrain from asking the children to join me at the altar for the consecration.
We will continue to have coffee hour, but will be asking attendees to respect "social distancing" recommendations such as keeping an arms-length distance from one another. We will also require our food preparers to wear gloves.
We hope to begin simulcasting our services
this week so that those who choose not to attend are able to continue to participate virtually with our liturgy. I will provide information about how to access the simulcast in this week's Grace Notes.
I thank you for your understanding and committment to caring for all of our brethren in the most loving way possible. Please feel free to contact me if you have further concerns.
In Christ's love,