The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear. The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid. (Prayed at every Sunday Matins)
Earlier this week, I wrote that “we need to take this and other influenza viruses seriously. Yet let us not be overwhelmed.” To say it another way, do not let fear paralyze us so that we are afraid to worship God together or to care for others; and let us deny our inclination to think only of our needs. These three are intertwined, so that one cannot be emphasized at the expense of the others.
Coupling this spiritual sense with common sense is increasingly important as the situation with the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) continues to develop. Toward this end, after consultation with Bishop John and in line with the Metropolitan’s encyclical (attached), St Michael’s will be implementing these measures to be loving, to ease fears, and to encourage our mutual worship of our merciful Lord:
- The Lenten Retreat will be held tomorrow, as
planned. We ask that those who attend be mindful of social distancing practices
out of love for others.
- According to the CDC, “Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”
- Our service schedule remains unchanged. We need to pray frequently as a parish during this time; for that is what Christians have always done in times of pestilence and anxiety.
- During all Masses until further notice:
- We will receive communion single file at the rail, not kneeling side by side
- The Holy Bread will not be available
- The offering basin will not be passed down the aisle; instead, a basin will be placed on a table near the entrance
- The icon in the Narthex should be reverenced by making the sign of the cross and bowing toward it
- After the Mass, you may greet me in the manner that is most comfortable to you.
- The usual practice of myself and all servers washing their hands will be observed. We also have hand-sanitizer which will be available for their use.
- Until further notice, coffee will be available after Mass but lunch will not be served and Didache will not be offered. You may join us for coffee according to your comfort level, and ask that you are mindful of social distancing practices out of love for others.
- We are being diligent (even as I write this) to wipe down all services and door handles with disinfectant solutions.
- If you are sick and/or present the symptoms of fever or shortness of breath, please stay home and seek medical attention. And please telephone, text, or email me so that I can include you in my prayers.
- There are prayers in your St Ambrose Prayerbook (or other Orthodox prayerbooks) that I encourage you to pray. I also ask you to meditate on Psalm 27 (quoted above) and Psalm 54.
Additionally, please be mindful of these statements from the CDC and WHO:
- “Older adults (i.e., 60’s and up) and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.” If you fall into one of these categories and would rather not venture out of your home, please let me know and I will bring you communion.
- “A mask should be worn by infectious patients any time they leave the isolation room.” And “wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.” But “if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.”
You can be of help to us in one very simple way:
- By donating disinfectant wipes
- By donating hand sanitizer
Above all, please resist the temptation of the devil and the fear you might feel to avoid Mass. This is the time when, as we are able, we care for each other by praying together.
Please know that I am staying in contact with the Archdiocesan Headquarters during this pandemic, and if they send out further updates affecting our parish life, I will let you know.
As I minister to you, I covet your prayers.
May God have mercy on us all.
Your spiritual father in Christ,