We will gather for worship at Faith@Five on Saturday, March 14, and then suspend all services until March 27.
I am writing to you as the coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread, to offer information, strength, and solace.
Gathering for us is essential—it is who we are, it is what we do—but at this moment doing what we normally do puts some people at risk. For example, Bishop Sutton has advised all churches to not offer wine at communion, giving a thoughtful rationale for why receiving the Eucharist in one kind is in fact receiving the full sacrament. Following that directive, I distributed only bread at our Wednesday morning Eucharist yesterday, but found it impossible not to touch almost every person’s hands in that exchange. The intention was good, but the reality challenged the CDC directive for social distancing.
Because the Book of Common Prayer includes a beautiful set of services that do not include Communion, we will offer Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer until we feel sharing the Eucharist is advisable.
Large group gatherings are also problematic at this time. I have conferred with individuals at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the School of Public Health, Hopkins Homewood campus, and GBMC and their directive is that our Sunday 10:00 service should not meet. They advise reducing opportunities for large numbers of people to be together, to mitigate the spread of the virus and to limit demand on health care providers. Governor Hogan has issued a state of emergency and expects significant disruptions and the potential for long-term closures. At the governor’s direction we will stop celebrating the 10:00 service starting this weekend.
Our plan for the foreseeable future is to offer worship in smaller gatherings in this way, knowing things are changing by the day:
- 8:00 Sunday, Morning Prayer with music, in the church
- Noon Monday, Noonday Prayer, in the chapel
- 7:30 Tuesday, Morning Prayer, in the chapel
- 7:30 Wednesday, Morning Prayer, in the chapel
- Noon Thursday, Noonday Prayer in the chapel
- 7:30 Friday, Morning Prayer
- 5:00 p.m. Saturday, Faith @ Five, Evening Prayer with music, in the church
Our hope is that by increasing the number of opportunities for worship, while decreasing their size, we offer a faithful and safe response to the health crisis.
Our choirs will continue to sing, but rehearsals will be held in the parish hall with significant distance between each person and his/her neighbor. In the church, the choirs will also spread out, to provide social distancing.
We will not have Melrose Café, coffee hour, Lenten suppers, or receptions until we are advised the risk has passed.
Sunday School will not meet in person, but instead will be delivered on-line, with teachers following up with families as needed.
We are advised not to touch each other when we gather, which you all know is especially challenging for me and many others. Rather, we are asked to make significant eye contact, while standing at a safe distance to talk. This is a moment to connect on the phone, or while on a walk together, or through texts.
Because of their size, Bible Studies, RYG, 12-Step and other small groups, if they desire, will continue to meet. Women of Wisdom and the Men’s group have decided not to meet.
People who are over 60, or those who have a compromised immune system for any reason, are advised to thoughtfully consider not coming to church gatherings. Anyone who has a fever, cough, or is experiencing shortness of breath should contact their health care provider.
We will continue to make pastoral calls, so please be in touch by phone or email. In addition to clergy support, I am organizing a large team of parishioners to be in touch with every member of our community on a regular basis: to foster human contact and community, to know how you are doing, and to register concerns. Please look for more details in the coming days.
As a community of faith, our primary work is to be the body of Christ, to be God’s heart and hands and hope in the world. We especially need each other now. Please reach out to folks you are close to and stretch to connect with someone who may be alone or vulnerable right now.
We’ll get through this, and we will be stronger and better for the difficult journey.