Dear Beloved Family in Christ,
This morning I write to you to offer my assurance, prayers, and a few guidelines for your worshipping communities during this season of increased potential for the spread of contagious diseases, including the flu, the common cold and most recently the coronavirus.
The first thing that I would stress is that we be prepared, but that we not allow ourselves to become panicked. Preparation anticipates the possible, but it does not paralyze us. When we get into our cars to travel from one place to the next, we fasten our seatbelts in order to protect us and minimize injury in the event of an accident; but we don't stay put in our houses and abandon our travel plans for fear of that accident. Likewise, as we worship together in communities where infectious illness can spread, we take measures to protect ourselves from the spread of those illnesses; but we don't stop worshipping together.
Here are a few guidelines to consider during this season:
Frequent Hand-washing is counseled as the number one preventive strategy for contagious diseases. Additionally, avoid touching your face, especially the eyes, mouth and nose through which germs can gain easy access to your body.
Holy Communion: Those engaged in the preparation and distribution of Holy Communion (altar guild, clergy, and lay Eucharistic ministers) should exit the altar just after the Peace to wash their hands thoroughly in the Sacristy. Hand sanitizer should be available throughout the Church for those who wish to use it. Taking Communion by dipping the bread in the wine should be avoided unless the Lay Eucharistic Minister does that for you. And Clergy are exhorted to remind the people that Communion in one kind is entirely sufficient and people may bypass the Chalice if they prefer.
The Peace: While liturgically, the Peace is part of the service, the rubrics allow for the greeting of one another to be voluntary. Rather than shaking hands, greet one another verbally, or with some other greeting besides a handshake that does not involve actual contact (a nod, a bow, a side hug, an elbow bump, etc.) Be especially respectful of people who do not wish to pass the Peace.
Coffee Hour: Those who host Coffee Hour, of course, are reminded to follow all food preparation guidelines, especially the washing of hands.
Church Attendance: As I reminded all who assembled at Council this weekend, faithful church attendance is one of the ways we keep our first Baptismal Promise (BCP p. 304). However, if you are sick, loving your neighbor as yourself (Baptismal Promise No 4 BCP p. 305) suggests that perhaps the loving thing to do is to stay home. If you choose to stay home, please connect with the community in one of the following ways:
- Listen to Morning and Evening Prayer with The Audio Office at www.thaynes.org. This is a ministry started by the Rev. Thomas Haynes (my husband) when we were in Northern Indiana and features readers from all over North America and Canada (both clergy and lay).
- Tune into worship live-streamed by the National Cathedral, Trinity Wall Street, or the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta - or watch a delayed broadcast via YouTube.
- Pray Morning and Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer or accessible online at www.dailyoffice.app, a website offered by the Brotherhood of St. Gregory, which provides texts for Morning and Evening Prayer, Noonday Prayer, and Compline.
- Give a quick phone call to someone else in your church, just to stay connected.
- And finally, take care of yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep, good nutrition, exercise, leisure. Remember that prevention is worth an ounce of cure!
These are just a few suggestions about how to stay connected. Here in the Diocesan Office, we are working on an expanded list of resources which we hope to send to you soon and to have posted on the website. We as Christians have work to do. We should not permit our fear to keep us from doing it. God has given his angels charge over us to guard us in all our ways.
"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." (Matthew 5:34)
Blessings and Peace in Christ,
Additional resources and a printable version of the Bishop's letter can be found here.