These last several days have held much fear and anxiety for all of you, and I want to again share that you are in my prayers as you and any family you have work to determine the best actions for you and try to make sure your needs are cared for. Your wardens and I have been in near constant communication as we also seek to determine the best path forward for St. Stephen’s and her people.
For Sunday, March 15, our worship together will be offered both online and in person with the adjustments to our worship we have shared throughout the week. Please visit the church Facebook page to view the 10:30 service of Holy Eucharist with a planned sendoff of the Schmidt family if you are staying home. The video will also remain on the page if you wish to view and worship later in the day.
Following our services on March 15, all worship, fellowship, and other church activities will be suspended for two weeks through March 31st. In consultation with the wardens, other Pearl River area clergy, and other churches in our diocese, this difficult decision seems to be the best possible option going forward for how we can best honor and love one another and ensure that the health of the community is lifted up. Please know that, for all of us, this is a decision not made lightly. Sundays at 10:30 a.m., I will still broadcast a service of Holy Eucharist with Trish operating camera and standing in for the congregation there present.
First and foremost, as we close for worship, know that I am still here for and with you. If you need prayers, our prayer hotline will be running as usual. If you need to talk to your priest, I too am here, and can be reached through normal means. If you are a parishioner and have not saved my cellphone number and would like it, please message either through the church Facebook, my Facebook, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you find yourself diagnosed with this or any other illness, please still let me know so you and I can plan for visits or, when not allowed by medical professionals, calls or video chats where we can share prayer and love with one another.
Know also that, in this time of physical separation, it is vital that we all remember that it is into community that we are called by Jesus Christ. It is into the messiness of caring for each other and reaching out to each other in love that Jesus has shown how to truly love. We may be under instructions for reduced or no contact, but we also live at a time when we can call one another easily, hear each other’s voices, share each other’s pain and hope, we can even visually call and see each other’s faces. Remember this, beloved, remember it and keep connected. Remember, too, those among us for whom public worship is now the primary form of contact with others, and call them especially. While we are tested by these times, we have an opportunity to go back to the love of Jesus Christ and each other, an opportunity be the presence and love of Jesus in one another’s lives. Be connected.
I urge you, also, to be mindful of your mental and spiritual well-being. While the internet, Facebook, and other social media have the capacity to connect us further and allow us to share, they can also be for us an endless stream of stressful news. Be sure that when you do read news and follow developments that the sources are trusted. There is enough fear, let truth be your guide and do not follow the trails to fear based only for fear’s sake. Without the normal distraction of domestic and international support, it can be easy to spend all of our time on the news.
I have told you before of my practice to stay off of news after 8:30 p.m. so that I can refocus on my life and those around me, as well as allow for my brain to process the events of the day and rest as I try to sleep. This practice has more clarity than ever for me today, as I have allowed the current situation in our nation and world to override that schedule. Last evening, this meant fitful sleep full of the news. Sisters, brothers, and others; be kind to yourselves and remember that, as much as you could follow world news all 24 hours of the day, you are an embodied person who must care for your needs and those around you. Those needs include rest.
On weekdays, to help encourage digital community during this time, I will also be leading the service of Morning Prayer on Facebook Live at 10:00 a.m. through March 31. I will also lead Evening Prayer at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, when we usually gather for Holy Eucharist. As of writing, the plan is to hold service on April 1. All things will be monitored during this time, and assessments made on whether it is safe to resume normal calendars of activities and worship at the start of the month. Please know that I and parish leadership will keep you all informed of any further changes that are deemed necessary.
Though the area Intergroup has made recommendations regarding AA and other twelve-step groups meeting digitally, our space will remain open if they choose to meet during these times that are trying for us all. Those groups will be responsible to taking care of the space and its cleanliness by bringing in their own wipes, etc., if they choose to meet.
As this also affects our Lenten Adult Formation discussions on Sacramental Acts, I will also publish videos for the topics, ironically beginning with Unction, the laying on of hands for healing, at the start of next week.
As gathering is not possible, we have also taken steps to get set up so that you can give online. So, either your normal pledges and offerings online, or give one time if you are just wanting to show support for the steps we are taking and ensure that we continue to be able to provide leadership in prayer, worship, and education can be given in this way. Either click the new “Give” button in the footer on ststephenspearlriver.org or click HERE. Please consider clicking the box to “cover fees” so that the fees are not passed on to us.
Be safe, be well, and know you carry the blessings of God,