|March 13, 2020
Dear Clergy, Leaders, and Congregants of the Diocese of Christ our Hope,
As we all know, we face a pandemic in our world. No one yet knows what this will mean for our country, churches included. As difficult as this may be, the Lord has purposes for us and our neighbors if we seek him through this.
This morning’s appointed Psalms speak powerful words of assurance to us:
The Lord sits above the floodwaters, and the Lord remains King forever.
The Lord shall give strength to his people, the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
I wrote in my journal:
In this context, in the context of our world reeling toward chaos, we know the King, and we know his ultimate purposes, our place in his care, and our final end. Therefore, while we live in this chaos, we have:
- Strength to face reality head-on and do exactly what he calls us to do.
- Peace – the blessing of personal and corporate peace – with which to serve the people we meet with love and attentiveness.
So Lord, please give me strength to tackle my priorities and responsibilities, to do what I am called to do, and to serve well. And Father, please give me peace so that I can love others well out of a soul that is at rest in you. Amen.
I’m grateful for this word from the Lord, but it is certainly not intended to be “the whole truth or the final truth.” It’s one small gift out of a treasure-trove of truths that will sustain us as we go through the days ahead. Our individual task is to set apart time with the Lord, to hear his word afresh, and to be open-eared to direct, personal spiritual truths and perspectives made alive by his Spirit. “Strength and peace as we wait upon the Lord . . .”
Let me summarize facts and implications as they continue to come into focus.
- While the number of diagnosed cases of coronavirus is growing rapidly, there are likely many more active cases than are being reported. Testing capabilities are not coming into play nearly fast enough. Many are likely walking around with active contagious conditions.
- An aggressive response is not “panic:” it is proactive wisdom that is seeking to act lovingly and intelligently to lessen the spread of COVID-19.
- The church has the opportunity to exercise leadership and thereby strengthen our testimony by joining in solutions.
- The church has the responsibility to love our neighbors: that includes many things, but particularly not overburdening resources and systems so that they are flooded with seriously ill people. In other words, we love our neighbors by working hard to minimize rapid increase of coronavirus. We love our neighbors by seeking to “flatten the curve” and delay the spread of this disease.
- There is virtual universal agreement that the most important thing leaders can do is limit large gatherings of people. The phrase being used, “social distancing,” makes a point, but also has distasteful implications for Christians. Rather, we should think about “responsible social intentionality.” How can we (especially leaders) protect the vulnerable, at-risk people (i.e., by canceling large group meetings) while, at the same time, be pastorally present and create opportunities for continuing interaction that keeps us deeply in touch with one another and functioning as the body of Christ should?
- The biggest issue on the table for us is the most important thing we are called to do in this world (and the next) – to worship the Triune God. As Anglicans, we have a profoundly high view of worship, especially corporate, Eucharistically-centered worship. The tension between “loving our neighbor, not overburdening medical and communal resources, and flattening the curve of the growth of infection” and “gathering for worship, participating in the sacraments, and walking in radical trust in the Lord” is real.
Therefore, based on these realities and tension, the principles governing our practices are:
- Constant prayer.
- Active consultation and exchange of ideas with local peers and professionals (in your church / in the community) and with diocesan peers and professionals. (The Diocese has a wealth of creative people who are coming up with great ideas for continuing ministry while serving the community in radical love. Call each other! Exchange resources!)
- Constant discernment between the essentials of faith and ministry versus the strategies and practices we normally follow and significant outside-the-box thinking about how to do both ministry and mission.
- Adjust services or specific activities – continue active ministry and mission!
- Seeing this crisis as offering opportunities for us to serve in ways we’ve perhaps forgotten, or never embraced.
Here are some practical recommendations for your consideration:
- If you meet for worship, follow the guidelines established by local and state authorities. In North Carolina, the strong request is “no groups larger than 100.” In Chapel Hill, where we live, it is “no larger than 50.”
- If you meet for worship, consider seriously having only morning prayer without the Eucharist; if you serve the Eucharist, please serve in “one kind only,” i.e., bread.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Because of the outbreak of the coronavirus, for the next few weeks, as a health precaution, this church will administer only the Bread at Holy Communion. Please be assured that receiving the Bread only is understood by the Church to be full reception of Holy Communion.
Abp Foley Beach, ACNA, RE: his own local cathedral church in Loganville, GA.
- If this option is chosen, when the table is prepared for the prayer of consecration, put only a very small amount of wine in the chalice. Use the prayer of consecration as normal. No one, including the celebrant, should partake of the wine during the service. It should be consumed reverently in private after the service.
- Suspend coffee hour after worship.
- Suspend all other activities other than Sunday morning.
- If you do permit small group events, cancel food service – or if you must serve food, arrange to creatively do so in ways that ONLY the person eating each portion touches the portion he/she eats.
- If you call for / allow any group meetings, then use every possible precaution:
- No one who is highly susceptible or has an underlying health issue, no one who has any symptoms, no one who has been around anyone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus in the previous month, should come.
- Strongly encouraging those over 60 to stay home.
- Urge everyone to wash their hands with soap and water before entering into a group meeting; make hand sanitizer readily available.
- Do not shake hands (hugging – side hugging – is safer than hand shaking, but I urge ONLY the exchange of a wave or a warm smile).
- Give people warm permission to follow their own consciences and stay home.
- Seriously and prayerfully consider suspending regular worship services for several weeks.
- Consider virtual worship activities (Zoom, live streaming), or take advantage of others who are live streaming Anglican worship.
- Post your sermons online and remind your people where they can find them.
- Consider urging people to use the online Daily Office at an agreed-upon time.
- Daily Office 2019
- Urge people to use their imaginations and “come together” with others in the fellowship, or even to call each other and leave their phones on speaker in order to share in worship.
- Encourage online giving or mailing in checks. If your church does not offer online giving, this is a great time to create that option.
- Rectors, talk weekly with your wardens, your other clergy, and ministry leaders. Assess things constantly.
- Use this time to think aggressively and creatively about outreach – and to encourage your people to “be as Christ in this world.”
- Check on and care for elderly friends and neighbors
- Be alert to the radical needs that would be engendered if and when schools are canceled: many kids depend upon school breakfast and lunch programs. How will the church intervene in this realm of vulnerability?
- Be aware of the drain on local Food Banks.
- Be aware of those most vulnerable financially – hourly workers who are on work lay-offs, etc.
- Shop for, or pick up prescriptions for, those who are vulnerable.
- Consider the loneliness factor. Make many phone calls; encourage others to do so.
- Create a fund in your church for those who are out of work.
- Remember international university and college students who may be stuck in the US and unable to go home.
- Continue to read, find resources, and share ideas about practical aspects of how God is showing up in your ministries and churches during this time. Send all ideas and recommendations for resources, practical ministry opportunities, etc., to Buddy Hocutt (email@example.com) and we will attempt to put together a regularly updated “Resources, Ideas, and Wisdom” document for distribution to the Diocese.
- Above all, PRAY. Pray for deliverance and healing of people. Pray for the Gospel to be powerfully proclaimed in word and deed. Pray for people to seek the Lord. Pray for wisdom to know how to love your neighbors. Please pray for the Lord to use this season to expand his Kingdom. We worry about saving people’s lives physically, which is well and good, but our greater concern should always be to bring the gospel to those who are perishing.
Pray that the Lord would use this time for his glory!
In the bonds of Christ’s grace and peace,
Bishop Steve Breedlove
Important resources we received from clergy in the DCH:
Livestreams and recordings from churches around the Diocese of Christ Out Hope can be found at the link below. Please feel free to add any livestreams you know of:
Livestreams from around the Anglican Church at North America are available at the link below:
If you would like to livestream your own service, Facebook Live and Youtube Live are two easy ways to do so. You can find directions below: