Bishop Lucinda Ashby wrote the following message in the April 22 edition of Real Episcopal:
Dear people of the diocese,
First, thank you for your responses to our Virtual Easter Sunday Service. It was good to see people in many, varied contexts, with different languages and a variety of uses of technology. The latter made it challenging for our Communications Director, Elrond Lawrence, to piece together, which he did masterfully. Thank you for a wonderful shelter-in-place experience of resurrection!
We remain shelter-in-place (also known as “Phase I”) for the foreseeable future. Moving away from that order is determined by our state officials and County Health Departments, based on the following: our ability to detect and trace infection, our protection of our most vulnerable people, the capacity of our hospitals, the development of ways for hospitals and businesses to socially distance, and the assurance that we can re-impose stricter limits should the need arise.
We aren’t there yet, clearly. Our clergy leaders and vestries are working hard to keep our congregants safe and healthy by following the guidelines and mandates of our diocese, our state, and our counties and cities.
I know that people are disappointed that this wasn’t over by Easter Sunday. Yet, we know that Easter is not only a Sunday– it is also a Season, and for us, it is a way of life. We look for joy amidst despair; we find hope in the middle of distress; we recognize life in the face of death. We are an Easter people.
We connect with virtual gatherings for worship, coffee hour, Bible Study, pastoral care, meetings, and so on. We continue to have no more than three persons gathered to produce worship, while maintaining physical distancing protocols. And no matter what, Jesus is with us, moving between that physical distance and surrounding us all with love and care.
As we move forward, we will need a plan for re-entry. To that end, I have appointed a “Phase II Task Force” to work on the details of what that will entail. This will be a slow, steady process of enlarging gatherings a bit at a time, which means that it is likely that virtual worship will continue in some parishes for several months. It is not unlikely that we will all experience the effects of periodic upswings in COVID-19 contamination that would again reduce our ability to gather at some point in the future.
Please continue to pray for those who are on the front lines of response, especially our health care workers. Pray for those who are keeping grocery stores open, and people who are working to ensure that supplies are re-stocked and shipped. Let us show our gratitude for those who deliver groceries and supplies to our doors. Be thoughtful of parents who are working from home and homeschooling their children at the same time, meeting the challenge with humor and grace.
Our call to “love our neighbor” is a COVID-19 reminder to be sure that each person does nothing to put another at risk. So, please stay safe and stay at home. Call each other. Write notes. Hold virtual social gatherings. While physically distancing, continue to be beloved community.