Dear St. Marians,
A lot can change in 48 hours.
At the encouragement of Bishop Gutierrez, in consultation with our wardens and vestry, having listened to the recommendations of the CDC, and having said a whole lot of prayers, we will cease holding all in-person church activities, including public worship, at St. Mary’s through March 31st. After that time, we will reassess our strategy going forward.
To keep ourselves connected to Christ and each other during this time, we will be trying new ways of gathering electronically through Zoom and Facebook. For Sunday, March 15th, I encourage you to stream tomorrow’s 11 AM service at the National Cathedral, with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaching. You can access that service by clicking here.
Our plans for 3/22 and 3/29 are still in progress, but will most likely be spoken Morning Prayer at 11 AM via Zoom. A link, Zoom tutorials, and more information will be sent to you next week as this is finalized. Deacon Barbara and I will be working on other virtual worship opportunities using the Daily Office during this time, so please check your email and the St. Mary’s website for updates. In a way, this will be a very helpful intensive course on how to use the Book of Common Prayer, which had been our focus during our Sunday adult educations time in Lent. If you do not have a copy of the BCP, you can find an online version here at bcponline.org
I did not make this decision lightly. Before our bishop made his request, the University of Pennsylvania asked all groups to suspend activities on campus, local schools including the St. Mary’s Nursery School canceled all classes to limit gatherings, and many in our community had been instructed to work from home to limit contact. I think it is wise to join in these measures to protect those most at risk, and as a public witness and companion to the sacrifices that so many are making in our community in the best interests of all of our neighbors.
-The vestry will meet remotely via conference call for its March 24th meeting, and we will communicate directly with the members about that.
-We will continue to pay our staff. I respectfully ask that you keep up with your pledges and donations as you are able. I will be checking our mail regularly, and you can make online contributions fee-free here.
-If you have any pastoral needs, please call me at (267) 648-9064.
-Brittany and I will be working mostly from home. I will be going into the office as needed to collect mail and do other tasks that can’t be done remotely. If you need access to the building for any reason, please feel free to call me. Pat will continue to clean and disinfect the church buildings throughout this time, but the other space users (except for UCHC*) have all canceled activities and closed their offices.
-UCHC will continue distributing food to our homeless and food insecure guests as takeout meals at 6 PM on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Noon on Saturdays. Small groups of 2-3 volunteers will assemble meals in our kitchen using appropriate safety measures.
*If you are not in any of the CDC specified risk categories for COVID-19 (over 60, immune-compromised, or with an underlying health condition) and would like to volunteer to help with these efforts, please contact me directly.
Please know that I continue to pray for each one of you, by name, daily. I hope you will continue to pray for me too.
This prayer is particularly relevant today:
God of the present moment,
God who in Jesus stills the storm and soothes the frantic heart,
bring hope and courage to all who wait or work in uncertainty.
Bring hope that you will make them the equal of whatever lies ahead.
Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
for your will is health and wholeness;
you are God, and we need you.