Bishop Lucinda Ashby released the following message to the diocese on March 5, with thoughts, resources, and practices regarding the Coronavirus.
Dear Friends in Christ,
This past Wednesday, I held an emergency meeting via Zoom with the Clergy of the Santa Clara Deanery. This meeting was to update each other, share insights and resources, and to seek opportunities for ways to “be church” during the Coronavirus crisis. Those who gathered have wisdom and experience in a variety of fields, including medicine, chemistry, technology, parish life, and education.
During this time of crisis and reaction, of fear and confusion, we are called as church to lead from the places of faith, information, and opportunity. As faithful followers of the Way of Love, we recognize that we are members of a global community: when one is weakened, so are we all. That awareness is especially keen in our parish lives. Where one is in need, so is the entire Body. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) does not pay attention to borders or nations, and does not limit itself to a specific culture or group.
We in the Diocese of Camino Real are experiencing not only the effect of this virus on our life in faith communities, but in our workplaces, our family lives, and our own travels to meetings and conferences across the country and around the globe. Yet as faithful followers of the Way, we will continue to seek information and find ways to gather in community. We will stay connected and pursue ways to engage in worship and study of Scripture and serve those in need.
As one person pointed out, it is hard to deal with something that is contagious before symptoms are in evidence. I encourage our leaders of congregations, lay and ordained, to stay informed and up-to-date on the facts of this epidemic. Below are links to the Public Health Departments in our five counties. On their websites you may find the latest updates, as well as practical advice and facts about the spread of the virus.
Santa Clara County
Santa Cruz County
San Benito County
In our congregations, I would encourage the following:
- Limit the consumption of finger foods. In some cases, you may decide not to serve food at all; for example, your Lenten Soup Supper could become your Lenten Brown Bag Supper.
- Frequently disinfect general surfaces, door handles, and toys. A solution of 50% alcohol/50% vinegar works well.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water. In the absence of that, use a solution of 60% alcohol or higher, and wipe with paper towels.
- Provide your congregants with factual information on a regular basis.
- Encourage congregants to be personally responsible for not spreading germs.
- Encourage congregants to participate in alternative ways of gathering in community.
This is an opportunity to use technology in very effective ways. Below are some options:
- Livestream your worship services.
- Use Zoom conferencing for vestry meetings, Bible Studies, Lenten classes.
- Hold small worship services (Compline) via Zoom.
- Use a phone tree to stay connected with those who are shut-in or unable to use other technology.
Regarding Holy Water and the Font
Please keep the font empty of water.
Regarding the Passing of the Peace
Congregants may greet each other with words, a bow, and/or an elbow-to-elbow connection. Please refrain from sharing hugs, handshakes, or kisses.
Regarding the Offering
Please put an offering plate or two in a prominent place to receive gifts. Refrain from passing the plate.
Discourage communicants from intinction, which is in fact less sanitary than drinking in the first place — we can make sure our Eucharistic Ministers and clergy wash their hands, but we can’t do the same for the congregation members! Here is a great online article about the evolution of the practice and theology around the Common Cup.
- Priests may choose to only have the Chalice at the altar for the consecration and not distribute the wine.
- Communicants may choose to receive only the wafers. Wafers are preferred over bread at this time.
- Some communicants may feel more comfortable receiving a blessing rather than communion.
- Anyone involved in the handling or distribution of communion should wash hands before and after distribution.
Regarding other groups using the facility
- Stress the importance of following reasonable guidelines.
- Provide disinfectant (see above) for wiping down surfaces.
- Provide sanitizer (see above) for cleansing hands.
Regarding staff and personnel
Adopt appropriate practices for people to tend to their own care. This may include working from home, using Zoom conferencing, etc.
This is an opportunity to model for our communities and parishes the ways to “be church” in a time of confusion and crisis. Staying grounded in prayer and attending to our own self-care will not only keep us healthy and strong, it will model leadership of a church that is healthy, prayerful and faithful to its calling. I urge us all to serve as a calm, sane presence in our communities and households.
I remain grateful to the group that participated in Wednesday’s discussion on your behalf, and to you for all that you are and do.