This is a copy of the email that was sent to all regular attendees on Saturday, March 7, 2020, with a slight revision regarding the offering.
My dear friends,
Watching the world cope with the coronavirus reminds me daily of the inventive, creative, thoughtful, God-given gifts and curiosity of so many people. This virus has shocked and perplexed the world in ways that are stretching us all: politicians, scientists, medical providers, producers of goods and services, teachers, economists…and even priests. All of us are now required to step up into a new normal where we are all going to be praying and working and responding in ways that will help to reduce the chaos and speak God’s peace and hope into an anxious world.
As always, it is the poor, elderly and needy who suffer most; those without sick leave, health insurance or job security; those who are already vulnerable because of underlying health issues; those who have no margin physically, emotionally or economically. As the church we will do all we can in this season to offer comfort, help and prayer. As we navigate our way in the next weeks or months let us do all we can to offer aid to those around us who are frightened, or who end up being quarantined or even get the virus.
And we will all commit to washing our hands, a lot.
(I LOVE this advice from Texas: "Wash your hands like you just got done slicing jalapeños for a batch of nachos and you need to take your contacts out.")
Needless to say, if you have a fever, a cough or are in doubt about your health - please stay home (please text us so we know and can love and support you from afar or bring you groceries)! If this all continues for a while, we may need to think of new creative ways of being in community…
And, in addition, we will make some small adjustments to our Sunday service. For the short term…. and out of an abundance of caution and care for our community...
Greeters and Ushers will welcome people with a smile not a handshake
Josie will help our children’s volunteers take extra care in wiping down toys and manipulatives in the nursery, nook and atrium
We have hand sanitiser at the back of the sanctuary
We will keep our space clean - wiping down door handles etc regularly
We will pass the peace with big smiles, maybe a wave, elbow nudges and ankle-bumps but NO hand-shaking or hugs
We will, for this season, only serve bread in communion. The bread will be placed in your hands. As our Archbishop Foley Beach has said, “Please be assured that receiving only the Bread is understood by the Church to be a full reception of Holy Communion.”
Blessings will be offered without physical touch
The offering baskets will be made available, but will not be passed. If you would like privacy for your offering, there will be envelopes available in the pews.
Prayer at the cross will continue, but the pray-ers will not touch you.
Our Bishop has written a letter in the Mid-Atlantic Messenger which I enclose below.
I’m not sure how long we will keep these measures in place, but, meanwhile, please reach out to me if you have specific concerns or ideas.
So grateful to be your pastor,
Liz (on behalf of the Wardens, Staff and Vestry)
Letter published in the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic Messenger from our Bishop
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6–7).
The global spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus, has become a focus of attention and concern for many of us. I have been reading extensively about it. I have consulted with diocesan leaders, including doctors and scientists with advanced degrees and expertise in virology, immunology and infectious diseases. Drawing on their wisdom, I offer these points:
1. Trust God.
In the midst of uncertainty, we trust God. He is sovereign over human history and over our lives. He is the Lord, "our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). And he is loving and merciful. Psalm 100:5 assures us, "For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations."
We witness to our Christian faith when we resist panic, knowing that our times are in the Lord's hand (Psalm 31:15). No one can snatch us out of the Father's hand (John 10:28-29). And so, "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
The Book of Common Prayer offers on page 269 a list of suggested Psalms on many helpful themes, including God's sovereignty, providence and mercy, trust in God, and living faithfully in times of trouble. If reading from the Psalms in not a part of your daily prayers, I'd encourage you to turn to one of these psalms each day to keep your heart focused on the Lord and his presence and care.
2. Be informed.
There is much on the internet from unhelpful extreme perspectives that encourage either panic or complacency. Neither is appropriate. Pay attention to health advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your state and local governments. Experts in our own diocese are tracking and helping us to implement, as needed, recommendations from these and other sources.
The CDC website provides a wealth of information about the disease and appropriate steps for individuals, churches, schools, and businesses to take.
You may wish to subscribe to the CDC's COVID-19 newsletter to get regular updates. Go to their newsletter subscription page and choose the newsletter entitled, "Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)."
The Virginia Department of Health website also offers resources and information, including up-to-date statistics on the number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia (there are none) and even the number of people currently who have been tested or are being monitored. Other states and some local governments have similar websites, as well.
3. Be prudent.
Wash your hands! Wash them frequently and thoroughly, for a minimum of 20 seconds using soap and warm water. There is no substitute for this. While alcohol-based hand sanitizers can kill bacteria, they have not been shown to be adequate against COVID-19 or other viruses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently warned that an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is not an effective agent against viruses such as COVID-19.
For cleaning surfaces, such as doorknobs, telephones, countertops, etc., the CDC and our experts recommend using bleach (1 part bleach to 100 parts water).
If you have symptoms of a cough, disease or a fever within the last 24 hours, please stay at home. An infectious disease specialist in our diocese emphasized how vitally important this is, though COVID-19 can also be spread by people who have not developed symptoms of illness.
If you are returning from known areas of higher prevalence of COVID-19, we encourage you not to attend church for two weeks. The list of affected areas and the period of self-quarantine will likely change in the weeks ahead.
Prudence and care, especially for those who are susceptible to this and other viral illness, may lead to temporary changes at your church. I have written to our clergy and church wardens with specific steps for your church to consider, particularly in worship. They have my permission to make these changes as they deem appropriate, and this may result in adjustments in, for example, your church's pattern of passing the Peace and administering Holy Communion.
The World Health Organization now reports that the mortality rate of COVID-19 is many times higher than that of influenza. While we will know more in the coming weeks, the present circumstances warrant steps beyond what we do in a normal flu season to prevent the spread of disease. If we wait until there is a local outbreak, it will be too late for the effective preventative action.
Know that the plans being considered will be undertaken wisely, prayerfully, and in compliance with governmental directives and in consultation with local physicians and scientists.
4. Act in love.
Reach out to your neighbors, particularly the elderly and those who are vulnerable or alone.
And pray. Pray…
for those suffering from COVID-19 around the world;
for doctors and nurses and other medical personnel who care for them;
for researchers seeking a vaccine to prevent it;
for wisdom for public health officials and other government leaders;
for peace and for deliverance from fear or anxiety;
for the witness and ministry of the Church to those in need.
Faithfully yours in Christ,