March 14, 2020 3:30 p.m.
Dear People of God:
Dioceses of the Episcopal Church across the country are suspending public worship for the foreseeable future. We now find ourselves in a similar place as our surrounding dioceses have announced the closures of all of their parishes until further notice or in some cases the end of March.
Bishop Dietsche sent an updated letter yesterday afternoon that while he is not issuing a blanket directive to close the parishes of the Diocese of New York because of the complexity of the diocese, it comes with his encouragement for us to close our own parishes for a time, or to cancel in-person public worship as our local conditions require.
Health experts and even recent developments in our own city guide us that we have a responsibility to our neighbor for social distancing and reducing gatherings of people for the public good. In our own baptismal covenant, we make the commitment to love our neighbor as ourself and to respect the dignity of every human being.
In the spirit of those responsibilities and commitments, we are suspending public worship at The Church of St. Andrew through the end of March. This includes the Sundays of March 15, March 22, and March 29. We will re-assess thereafter and further communicate the plans for resuming public worship. These cancellations are near to Holy Week and Easter, so we are already beginning to look at what impact all this will have on that week. All other previously announced cancellations remain.
We know how central to the church it is to leave our homes and gather for worship, how much we love this parish, and how we look forward to coming here every week. In the coming days, we will communicate what is available to us remotely to be community even though we can’t gather. Hopefully this news comes with some relief to many that we won’t be burdened with making our own individual decision about whether or not we should come based on our risk factors. We are aware that a few people are already in this position because of their particular health issues or recent direct or indirect exposure.
There are two options available for livestream worship tomorrow, which I highly commend. (Both of these cathedrals are closed to the public.) The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 11:00 a.m., Bishop Dietsche preaching www.stjohndivine.org
Washington National Cathedral, 11:15 a.m., Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaching https://cathedral.org
As we communicated earlier this week, if you are in need of pastoral care, please call the office at 718-351-0900 or the rectory for after-hours emergencies at 718-351-3735. Although we might not be able to make a face-to-face visit, we will respond as we are able. We recognize that many of us will still be going about daily life out in public. If you are homebound or isolated, please contact us if you need assistance, and we will try to locate support. The parish office will only be operating on a limited basis, but we will still be checking phone and email messages.
I saw a message from Bishop Barker in the Diocese of Nebraska likening this to a time of fasting while we are unable to receive Eucharist and what a gift it will be for us to come back “arriving at the table hungry and together, whenever our Eastertide arrives.” That has been helpful to me to see that we can offer up this time of disruption as part of our Lenten fast with the hope of joy and thanksgiving. We now go deeper into the wilderness and quiet of Lent in our homes during this time of separation. I hope for the good of everyone this period will be short-lived, and we’ll be able to look back at it as only temporary.
I was out yesterday, and much of what I saw was preparedness, but a lot of what I saw in people was fear, anxiety, and in some cases, panic. It was difficult at the end of the day not to be affected by all of that. If you are having that same experience, if you are afraid, exhausted, or just plain tired of the whole thing, then let us offer this prayer:
O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray you, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP. 832)
Let us continue to be church through our unending prayer. Be well.