BEING A COMMUNITY OF LOVE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
In these challenging times, we are called to find new ways to be a community of love, to encounter Christ and engage the world. Please note this important guiding principle: Out of love and compassion for each other, all church functions in which you cannot maintain six feet (or two arms length) of distance between people, in addition to appropriate hygiene, should be suspended.
UPDATE: As of March 19, 2020, all public worship in the Diocese of Maryland is suspended until May 16 or until further notice.
The Episcopal Church Foundation has a robust list of COVID-19 response resources that they will continue to update.
Updates from Bishop Sutton, guidelines from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, and COVID-19 resources are found below. Our resources are framed according to The Way of Love rule of life developed by Presiding Bishop Curry and The Episcopal Church.
In times like these, it is important that we turn – away from fear and toward the love of God. With that being said, anxiety and fear are natural human responses to things that threaten our security and safety. It is not an easy thing not to be afraid. Honor your feelings and ask for God’s comfort in this time of dread. Following are some scriptures and other words that may be helpful during to reflect upon.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the minute by minute anxieties of a crisis with such an unpredictable and global impact. It is essential, however, that the church continues to do what it has always done in the face of danger. We gather, in whatever ways we are able, proclaim that Jesus is Lord, worship him in Spirit and truth, and serve one another. We have an opportunity to ask how the church can find creative and imaginative ways to love our neighbor and to embody Christ in the midst of a world full of anxiety and fear. We can bring our children along as we work together to love our neighbor. Indeed, in the end, it may be children who find the most creative ways for the people of God to be present as Christ in our communities.” (Angela Compton Nelson, for Building Faith)
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:1,14)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23)
St. James’, Monkton
Adult Forum Lenten series, Sundays at 9:00 AM and Thursdays at 7:30 PM via ZOOM
Sunday worship via ZOOM at 10:00 AM
Compline on Friday evenings at 8:00 PM via ZOOM.
You are welcome to contact Joe at [email protected] for more information.
Fatih @ Home
Our faith is not just something we check in with on Sundays; our faith is how we live lives of meaning and purpose every day of the week, if we will learn to notice and respond to how God is moving.
But this awareness, like anything worthwhile, takes practice. Which is why a weekly discipleship practice of Reading, Reflecting, and Responding to scripture in the context of community is so important.
The devotions on this site have been written with this practice in mind. Use them with friends or family to help you deepen your experience of faith experience from Monday-Saturday.
EQUIP. TEACH. FORM. RESOURCES FOR DISCIPLES OF ALL AGES.
Traveling the Way of Love
from The Episcopal Church
A Prayer for Those Affected by the Coronavirus
Please feel free to distribute or use in the Prayers of the People
O God of compassion, giver of life and health, we pray your healing mercies upon all who are in any way affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Comfort and sustain those who have been stricken; relieve their pain, and restore to them your gifts of gladness and strength. Grant to all in authority the courage to make wise decisions that are essential for the common good, and strengthen them to lead institutions that care for those whom they serve. Watch over all first responders and those in the medical professions whose duty it is to care for the sick; guard them from all danger, and keep them safe in the knowledge that is through their sacrifice and service that the health of the whole community is promoted. Mercifully accept these our prayers, O God of all comfort, and our only help in time of need. Amen.
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
A Prayer for this Time of Challenge and Concern
The Rev. Dr. D. Stuart Dunnan, Headmaster
Saint James School, Maryland
Prayer for People Critically Ill or Facing Great Uncertainty
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.
Adapted from New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 765
Episcopal Church in CT
Centering Prayer with Julian of Norwich (Sharon Ely Pearson)
Many of our churches are offering their own livestreamed worship and formation. One of the blessings we can observe during this time is the opportunity to increase our abilities in connecting with each other digitally. Connecting is what we do, we commune, and our communities do not cease to be because we have to be distanced for a few weeks. We have the opportunity to worship together as a whole diocese by viewing the service at our National Cathedral tomorrow, as well as to visit each other’s churches virtually. For congregations looking to livestream events in the future, we have curated some resources to help you get started. We will continue to share resources for building community online.
Please let us know how you’re doing. We encourage all congregations to let our communications team ([email protected]) know if you are hosting livestreamed prayers, formation or other activities that we may share with others around our diocese. In addition, let them know if you need help with technology in order to share the love of Christ, check in on each other and more. We are a community of love.
Below are some digital faith opportunities offered by our congregations. If your congregation has something to share that is not listed here, let the communications team know. We will continue to provide a listing. Take a moment to appreciate what we are all doing to keep church going and our prayer lives robust!
Church of the Redeemer, Baltimore
Join us on Facebook Live for the following services.
Morning Prayer will be offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 8:00 AM
Noon Day Prayer will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12:00 PM.
Evening Prayer will be offered Saturdays at 5:00 PM
Morning Prayer with Sermon will be offered Sundays at 10:00 AM
St. Andrew’s, Clear Spring
The Rev. Steve McCarty will continue to livestream his Friday Lenten Program “Friday Fish Eaters”. This program is broadcast on Facebook on Fridays during Lent at 11:00 AM.
Sunday, March 22, 9:00 AM, livestream on the St. Andrew’s Facebook page – Morning Prayer from Pawley’s Island, SC.
The Episcopal Church in Garrett County
The Rev. Chip Lee will be broadcasting services as usual at 8:00 AM on the local Garrett County radio station WMSG, as well as livestreaming, 8:00 AM and 10:45 AM.
Memorial Episcopal Church is offering E-Church Sunday, March 15, 10:30 AM.
St. James’, Monkton
Adult Forum Lenten series, Sundays at 9:00 AM and Thursdays at 7:30 PM via ZOOM
Sunday worship via ZOOM at 10:00 AM
Compline on Friday evenings at 8:00 PM via ZOOM.
You are welcome to contact Joe at [email protected] for more information.
St. Luke’s, Eastport
Remote Worship on Sundays
On Sundays, you can participate remotely in worship at 8:00 AM and 10:30 AM by calling in or watching online.
Details for accessing the service:
On a phone or device: Cell phones: +1 646 558 8656 Meeting ID: 821 035 6879
Landlines: 877 853 5257 US Toll-free Meeting ID: 821 035 6879
One tap mobile: +16465588656,,8210356879#
Via Facebook: www.facebook.com/stmarymagdalenesilverspring
Download the 8:00 AM and 10:30 AM bulletins at www.stmarymagdalene-md.org
More to come. Thanks to Father Tom+ for broadcasting while on sabbatical.
St. Martin’s-in-the-Field, Severna Park
Sunday, March 22,10:00 AM, livestream spoken service of Holy Eucharist on St. Martin’s-in-the-Field’s Facebook page.
The Rev. Matthew Hanisian and The Rev. Nathan Erdman will provide morning prayer via video Monday, March 16 – March 20. View videos on our website or YouTube account daily.
Christ Church, Columbia
Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer services live on our Facebook page.
Check in at 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM for a brief service of scripture, collects, and prayers for our community and the world. More info is here.
Conclude each day with the Reverend Emmanuel Mercer as he leads us through this evening service from the Book of Common Prayer.
You can watch it live, or stream is when you have time for yourself.Tune in here.
Here are some frequently asked questions about how we can continue to bless through our ministries.
What do we do about our community suppers? We recommend that you prepare packaged take-home meals instead of holdng community suppers.
What do we do about our food pantries and thrift shops? Practice scrupulous sanitizing methods of all smooth surfaces and areas where people touch. Volunteers should be healthy, low-risk, wear gloves that are changed frequently, practice appropriate hygiene, and maintain physical distancing. It is likely that stores will need to close very soon. Feeding ministries should continue with the above guidelines.
Is there a recommended limit to the number of people in one place at one time? We really should not be gathering in groups, especially for those over 50. Any group of any size should maintain physical distancing of six feet and appropriate hygiene.
What about AA and other recovery group meetings? Recovery group can continue to meet as long as they practice physical distancing and appropriate hygiene. There are often online options available through the recovery groups for those who are vulnerable or at risk.
What about homeless ministries in which adults or families are staying in the church? This ministry has inherent risks right now. Vulnerable people should not be volunteers. Younger volunteers should be recruited when possible. If you cannot suspend the ministry or find alternate arrangements for families, do everything you can to maintain physical distancing and appropriate hygiene.
What about coffee hour, choir, youth group, and Sunday School? All of these activities are suspended until we come together again for corporate public worship.
Should we be handing out masks to sick people? No, masks are needed in hospitals and health care settings. You should encourage anyone who has any kind of illness to seek medical care and self-isolate.
Go online. Go inward. Go deeper in your faith. Go to check on your neighbors. Just don’t go into large groups!
How can we continue be the church for each other even when we need to be physically distant from each other?
- There are lots of ways to do this, and we will continue to think creatively. Here are some ideas:
- Host the daily office via Facebook or Zoom. Take turns leading.
- Mail sermons or meditations to people who are not online.
- Send handwritten notes to each other.
- Create a phone tree and call each other to check in.
- Deliver meals or food as needed.
- Establish prayer partners and pray for each other over the phone. Commit to keep praying.
- Deliver food from the food pantry to those who are ill
- Organize a way for younger, lower risk people to provide childcare for essential workers
- Ask everyone you interact with from a distance how you can pray for them.
- Please continue to support your church by sending in your offering. Congregations are encouraged to make their collection plate available via the internet. Different donation services are available If your congregation already has an online giving option, just be sure to place a prominent collection plate link visible on your homepage. You can then direct people to this link using email updates and social media. The diocese will also offer a centralized online giving option for all churches. Monies will be sent to the churches with a list of those who gave. This is to encourage and facilitate continuity in giving.
Take this sabbath time seriously. Stay home. Put down the busyness of life and live into new habits. Let this be a time of being present to each other in love, if not in physical proximity. We may be apart, but we are not alone. How can we encourage Sabbath during this time? When situations like this pandemic arise, part of our job is to ask, “What does this mean?” Although it is so exciting that the Church has rallied to stay together, to continue to worship, learn and pray together online, this time can also be seen as a call to slow down. For those of us scrambling to get everything online, we are doing the opposite of slowing down. Meetings to plan things anew are increasing. More of us are finding ourselves glued to our computers, unable to get away for even a walk lest the phone ring or an important email pops up.
Is there a way to schedule a day or a few hours for for meetings to be canceled instead of all moved online? How can we slow down the progress of ministries that are non-essential, i.e., some formation, not feeding ministries. Perhaps our formation could be to truly take the time to be formed by God, to commune with God, to walk outside, to sit in silence, to go deep… if only for one hour…rather than race to read and learn more. We won’t be able to be our best at checking in on each other, feeding the hungry, praying or worshipping if we don’t have time to rest and connect with God. We have an opportunity to model this connection for others. How might we do so?
What ideas do you have for keeping sabbath during this time?
GUIDELINES FOR PASTORAL, SACRAMENTAL AND OUTREACH MINISTRIES
Guidelines for pastoral and outreach services during the coronavirus epidemic, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, March 20, 2020
We are in the midst of learning how to continue to be the Church in this time of the COVID-19 crisis. The situation is changing rapidly, and guidelines from our public health officials are updated daily to stem the rising numbers of coronavirus cases. The President of the United States, our governor and other government bodies are all calling for limits on public gatherings, if not totally canceling them altogether. The diocese takes these public directives very seriously, and we are all called to follow the guidelines issued by those whom we trust have to safeguard us in times of crisis.
We also know as clergy that we have a pastoral responsibility to help people ritualize the important milestones in their lives: we must baptize, confirm, marry, feed the hungry, care for the sick, and perform burial rites with persons and their families at crucial moments that cannot be rescheduled quickly or easily, if at all. The Church, in following the way of Jesus, simply must find a way to meet the real and legitimate spiritual and pastoral needs of people – even in the midst of a crisis. Below are our guidelines, which we will update as required, for meeting these needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
MARRIAGE AND WEDDINGS
The bishop empowers all rectors and priests-in-charge to make the decisions at the congregational level as to when and how marriages are to be conducted during this period. Clergy are to talk with the couples and families involved about how to weigh their desires for the service versus the health risk that we are all faced with. For instance…
- Ask if the wedding can be rescheduled, or perhaps performed with a simple ceremony with fewer than 10 people in attendance, and with the expectation that a larger celebration will occur at a later (and safer) time with all invited guests when the earlier vows can be renewed or re-enacted for all to witness. (Please note that the bishop is open to being quite expansive and creative liturgically in this unusual time when our theology of pastoral care must at times supersede our theology of worship for the sake of the Gospel.)
- If not rescheduled, can the wedding ceremony go on as planned with provision made for the wedding party and attendees not being within three to six feet of one another? “Social distancing” is our primary defense when we gather with others.
- Do not celebrate the Eucharist as part of the ceremony at this time.
- Or, in summary, what is the level of health risk they would be comfortable with for themselves and for that of their guests?
- Again, clergy do not need a bishop’s permission to perform or cancel weddings at your parish, but please let the bishop’s office know how you plan to handle weddings during this time. We can all share our “best practices” with other colleagues in ministry, and thus help each other.
The following rules are strongly recommended for funerals:
- Clergy should minister pastorally to families in time of the death of a loved one.
- When possible, funerals and memorial services should be postponed until restrictions on gatherings are lifted.
- If the family is uncomfortable with waiting, a small funeral, not to exceed ten people, may be held in the church or at graveside. A memorial service might be held at a later time to accommodate more people.
- Ashes may be interred at any time by the clergy and no more than nine family members.
- Wherever there is a small gathering people are encouraged to stand several feet apart from one another.
- Hand washing, not shaking hands, and all the other now usual procedures for cleanliness should be followed.
Visitations on Sunday mornings are canceled for the immediate future. Nevertheless, there are people in our diocese prepared to be confirmed or received. The following is recommended to meet the needs of any for whom this sacrament is time-sensitive (for example persons elected to vestry who need to be confirmed or received to legally function).
- Where possible, confirmations and receptions should be delayed until Episcopal visitations resume.
- Confirmation or reception may be arranged for individuals or up to ten people with one of the bishops.
- As is mandated, the bishop must lay hands on each person. However, between confirming each person the bishop shall thoroughly wash his hands with an antiseptic wipe.
- This procedure will also be used for persons being received.
- The usual cleanliness practices along with limiting the number of participants (no more than ten), and social distancing should be followed.
PASTORAL CARE TO THE SICK AND DYING
In 1527 Martin Luther wrote a pastoral letter to those coping with the Plague. In it he strongly encouraged those responsible for both the temporal well being of patients as well as the pastors to live out their vocations in the care of the sick. While we can affirm his devotion to those who are suffering, our knowledge of transmission causes us to reorder our priorities.
Among the most emotionally laden sacramental rites are those of Anointing (healing) and the Ministration at the Time of Death, commonly known as Last Rites or Extreme Unction. In light of the present virus crisis, we have to make some adjustments.
- If the sick individual is in a patient care facility, please contact the chaplain to see what their protocol is.
- If you are denied access, it may be because the staff doesn’t understand how important this rite is to an Episcopalian. It’s alright to try and make the case for Last Rites.
- If you gain access, it’s virtually impossible to bless an individual with oil without touching them. While gloves are far from ideal, it’s better than not being able to administer the oil at all.
- If still denied, attempt to get as close as you can and pray with the individual. Even if the patient is gravely ill, our voices and prayers are sure to reach them on some level plane of consciousness.
- Needless to say, if the clergy person is exhibiting flu-like symptoms or has been exposed to the virus, he or she should attempt to get another priest to see the patient. Even if the individual is dying, there will be others there who would be in danger of exposure.
Regarding anointing the sick who aren’t in danger of death, again, while that is ideal, it may not be permitted by the institution. Prayers for the individuals will suffice in this case.
In general the rubrics for Holy Baptism specify that baptism is a community celebration that should normatively be celebrated as part of the Sunday celebration of Holy Eucharist. During this time the celebration of Holy Baptism should be deferred until churches reopen for regular Sunday and daily worship. However, this is a time when baptismal preparation of parents, godparents and older candidates is encouraged through web-based tools such as YouTube, Facebook and ZOOM calls.
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer does offer specific guidance about Emergency Baptism (p. 313). Extraordinary pastoral reasons for baptisms may emerge at this time in which it is important to offer a “private” baptism. In such cases a private service of no more than ten people can be held in the church without holy communion. (Book of Common Prayer 1979, Holy Baptism, pp. 299-308). The usual precautions for washing hands, practicing safe social distancing, except for the baptism, should be observed. At the earliest opportunity the newly baptized should be welcomed into the congregation at a Sunday celebration of the Holy Eucharist using such services as A Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child (BCP p.439 ff.) or Welcoming Returning Members and Members Baptized in other Traditions (Book of Occasional Services 2003 p. 139 ff.) or following the rubrics for Welcoming New People to a Congregation (Book of Occasional Services 2003, p.112.)
RECONCILIATION OF A PENITENT
Private confessions may be heard. Preferably these should be face-to-face meetings in a small conference room where safe social distancing can be practiced (three feet). One of the sacramental signs of the rite is placing a hand on the shoulder of the person making a confession during the absolution. Alcohol wipes or hand sanitizer should be available for both participants in which hands are cleaned before the rite begins and the officiant’s hand is cleaned after the absolution.
As followers of Jesus, we are reminded not to shy away from the face of a potential emergency. Neither are we to panic. By faith, we can continue to act with power, love, and self-discipline that comes from God. Now, more than ever, the people in our various communities need the Church to show up – regardless of the current situation at hand and the various restrictions in place. How do we do that effectively, mindfully, and with due caution and respect needed for the situation we are currently experiencing? By remaining active, by being the Church in a different, but same way as always.
Episcopal Relief & Development has provided some guidelines for all of us to continue with our outreach ministries in a mindful and direct way. There is great opportunity to use the gifts of your parishioners to meet the needs of those in high risk groups. For the people you are connected with already, such as older adults, immigrants or those who experience mental illness, addictions, frequent incarceration or homelessness, here are some tips:
- Connect people to local health, psychological and spiritual resources.
- If you have questions about what is advisable in your area, please reach out to your local public health department.
- For feeding and outreach ministries, prepare food and deliver food and goods wearing gloves. You likely want to shift from congregate feeding to to-go service, drive up distribution or delivery.
- If you have parishioners who are hospitalized or in other care facilities, contact the hospital/care facility first to determine if you are allowed to make a pastoral care visit before going to the facility. Use all universal precautions when in a hospital/care facility and limit your time with the individual. Pastoral care calls are also encouraged to limit exposure if the individual is able to receive calls.
- Mobilize parishioners with different language skills to help people who don’t know English gain access to services and understand their rights as employees or tenants, among other legalities.
- If activities have been suspended at your local church, figure out ways to continue them via social media, email or phone. This is especially important for those with limited social connections. You may even be able to visit through a door or window, on the phone.
- A ministry of letter/card writing for those homebound, hospitalized and/or imprisoned is highly recommended and encouraged.
- When speaking with parishioners, collect contact information for their relatives and people in their support system. You may be asked to help them with spiritual care support.
MINISTRY AND RESPONSE
- During disasters and epidemics, remember this acronym:I.A.–Community, Information and Agency. As church and community leaders, support your community and maintain connection throughout the event, provide your community with verified information about the health and safety implications of the event and then allow them to decide what’s best for them.
- Maintain community, whether safely in person or online. Learn more ways to connect using remote tools.
- Bolster outreach ministries to prepareto help low-income hourly workers who call out of work. Encourage those who may consider going to work for the sake of income to stay home because you can offer assistance.
- Many of our churches have important feeding programs for people living with homelessness or for other marginalized people. Keep these points in mind:
- Wash all dishes in a dishwasher rather than by hand, as the water heats to higher temperatures and the dishwasher cleans more thoroughly.
- Use paper goods if you do not have a dishwasher in the church.
- Wear gloves to hand out non-perishable food and other items.
- If you need to serve food, please ban self-service buffets and have all food served in individual containers, or by food servers wearing gloves. Do not allow other people to handle the serving pieces.
CORONOVIRUS (COVID-19) RESOURCES
An epidemic is a large-scale outbreak of an infectious disease, such as influenza or coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Our role in responding, as churches, dioceses and compassionate Christians, is to:
- Combat fear with knowledge in order to encourage preparedness and decrease stigma.
- Maintain operational continuity and continue worship life in the case of potential quarantine and disruption.
- Show God’s compassion and care to those in our communities who are affected.
These are general guidelines; decisions should be made in collaboration with Church leadership and health authorities, based on local practices and safety concerns. See the Episcopal Relief and Development Resources for Epidemics and COVID-19 information, as well as those of the Maryland Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines by using the buttons below. Bishop Sutton’s messages and updates are available below and for download, as well.