As you may have seen in her letter last night, Bishop Perry in concert with the other bishops in Michigan has issued a further pastoral directive to cease all public, in-person worship services, any Sunday, Saturday, and weekday in-person gatherings, including weddings, funerals, memorial services, Bible studies, prayer meetings, and non-emergency baptisms, and to place all of the groups that gather at the congregation on hiatus for the next eight weeks, or until May 10th, following the CDC’s recommendations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These next eight weeks, of course, include Holy Week, Easter, and a number of other important gatherings to which we all were looking forward.
If you are stunned and heartbroken by this news, you are not alone; I am still grappling with it myself. I am grateful, however, for our bishops’ bold leadership in the face of this crisis, for modeling and helping us Episcopalians to care for our neighbors and ourselves in deliberate, faith-filled ways. It speaks to the utter strangeness of the moment that the best way to do so is not through drawing together physically, but through enforcing social distance.
The staff, vestry, ministry leaders, and I are working together to navigate this shift and create connection in new and meaningful ways. While you may expect more frequent updates in the days to come, here are a few things to know right now:
- Our in-person gatherings of any kind are suspended until at least May 10th.
- The office remains open during most of our usual hours, although only to essential staff, whom I have directed to stagger hours and to work at home as much as possible. If you need to access the building, please contact the staff or me ahead of time. If you need to drop something off, please mail it, or if absolutely necessary to come in person, please ring the doorbell and let us meet you outside.
- Our facilities manager and others who look after the building’s exterior and interior will continue to do so as frequently as possible. All surfaces are being sanitized and all rooms are being deep cleaned.
- All meetings, discussions, and classes will take place through Zoom video conferencing. Whenever you need to schedule a meeting, please contact Beth Ann or me and we’ll set you up with access. Zoom is truly easy to use, and really does feel like we’re all in the room together! It’s so great to get to see one another’s faces!
- Sunday services and special services such as Deep River will be broadcast via Facebook Live and YouTube, and I welcome any ideas, concerns, or needs you may have as our worship life continues in creative ways. We’re all experimenting together!
- In the next weeks, we’ll also be exploring ways to observe Holy Week and Easter domestically and virtually, rather than publicly and in-person.
- Please continue to support our common life by paying your pledge and otherwise contributing to the church, whether online or by mailing a check.
- Please also consider supporting our partners down the street at the Pope Francis Center, who have set up outdoor tents in order to continue caring for our mutual neighbors throughout this crisis.
As things have shifted so dramatically in the past few days, I know that some of us suddenly may be experiencing additional burdens in our home life–caring for kids, parents, or other relatives; losing work, business, or other income; carefully looking after our own health–and some of us may find ourselves with unexpected extra time on our hands!
I’m curious to know how you are, and I will be trying to get in touch personally with each of you. In the mean time, I encourage you to drop me an email or call or text my cell phone. (With more limited hours in the office, it will be harder for me to answer the office phone or pick up voice messages there.) If you are experiencing any kind of need or concern, please let me know immediately. If you are able to offer assistance of any kind, please let me know that, too.
In this surreal, painful, isolating, frightening, and unprecedented time, may we understand more acutely than ever our connection with one another, and place our trust always in the God who creates us, sustains us, and loves us, and, as we prayed last time we were in church together, “whose glory it is always to have mercy” (Collect for the Second Sunday of Lent, BCP 218).