God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). I am using this week’s Note to address our parish’s response to COVID-19. As followers of Jesus, we are called away from fear and toward trusting in the healing mercy of Jesus Christ and the invincible power of God’s love. God promises not to abandon us in suffering, illness, or even death (Romans 8:38-39). In this season of Lent, we are preparing our hearts and minds to encounter the mystery of the Empty Tomb and to experience the Resurrected Christ in our own lives. As a people who serve the one who has conquered death, hell, and the grave, we reject the kind of fear that seeks to control our lives. Instead, we continue always, no matter what, to celebrate the life God has given us and the promises we have received through Jesus. As an expression of our faith in the faithfulness of God, the Church continues to gather and worship the One from Whom we came and to Whom we shall return.
The faith we have in the power and love of God, however, does not conflict with prudence and common sense, what Timothy might have called a sound mind. In light of that our bishop, Daniel Gutierrez, has provided some guidelines and suggestions for some common sense moves we can make as a parish to protect each other from communicable diseases including COVID-19. I do not want us to institute these measures out of fear, but I do think they are reasonable steps to take out of genuine love and care for each other, and especially those who are vulnerable to illness in our parish and community.
Efforts will be made to wipe down all door handles before and after church with disinfectant.
I am asking that we do not hug or kiss each other on the cheek during the peace. You may consider an alternative form of passing the peace apart from hand-shaking as well, such as elbow tapping. Some may prefer to not come into contact with another at all, and instead give the “peace” sign with their fingers. Let’s respect each other’s comfort levels.
Immediately after the peace and announcements you will see me head to the sacristy where I will wash my hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (while saying the Lord’s Prayer, which takes roughly 20 seconds to say, hint, hint) in order to make sure my hands are clean to handle the elements of Communion. I am asking that our chalice bearers please follow me in this practice.
At the bishop’s suggestion, I am asking greeters not pass the offering plates from hand to hand, but attempt to collect the offering while holding the plates themselves. We’ll play this by ear and see if we can come up with a system that works.
The bishop has asked for a temporary end of the practice of intinction—that is, taking the bread in your fingers and dipping it in the cup. The reason for this is that a person’s fingers or knuckles often come into contact with the cup or the wine during intinction (I can certainly attest the accuracy of that observation).
We believe that Christ is truly present in the bread and the wine, and Christ is sufficiently present each. Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable to receive in only one kind—the bread—if you would rather not drink from the common cup. You won’t be getting less Jesus. Jesus is present through and through. Our Prayer Book, however, mandates that both bread and wine must be consecrated and made available to any baptized Christian who wishes to receive them. So, we will continue to offer both bread and wine. At the bishop’s behest, I strongly discourage you from intincting, and please don’t drink from the common cup if you are uncomfortable doing so.
Let’s please use additional caution in food handling during coffee hour.
God is with us during this time. Let us come together without fear, with love and care for each other. Let us recommit ourselves to earnest prayer for those who are ill and those who are afraid and lonely. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).