COVID-19/Coronavirus update for March 13, 2020
As you know, assessments of the situation around COVID-19/Coronavirus are fluid and changing daily. Through continuing conversation with other bishops, leaders from Episcopal Relief & Development, diocesan staff, and clergy, I believe local clergy and vestries can make the best decisions for their congregations.
This letter is to express my support for those decisions, including:
- Temporarily suspending in-person worship and offering worship via live-stream
- Temporarily suspending worship altogether, directing parishioners to resources to help them worship at home, while maintaining regular communication
- Continuing to hold in-person worship with modifications outlined previously
- Switching in-person worship to the Daily Office, and temporarily suspending Communion
In addition, I offer the following direction:
- Vulnerable populations, and those who feel sick, should stay home.
- I have revised slightly The Supplication (from page 154 of The Book of Common Prayer), and all congregations are encouraged to use this prayer in worship.
- For now, I will continue visitations on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with each parish.
- I strongly suggest that older clergy serving in congregations (either in-place or supply) refrain from worship for the time being, and instruct their congregations in the use of Morning Prayer.
- Church meetings and social events should be postponed, rescheduled or conducted by Zoom or other electronic means, unless an in-person meeting is absolutely necessary. (Contact us if you need assistance.)
- Those not in high risk groups who have been asymptomatic for the past two weeks are urged to help ensure that the needs of the poor, the outcast, the lonely, the aged, the infirm, and the frightened are not forgotten. Resources for feeding ministries are available here.
- Be and stay in touch with one another. Please check on all your brothers and sisters in the church. Establish phone trees and check-in times.
Whatever decisions are made about in-person worship and other events, Church cannot be “cancelled.” The Body of Christ cannot be reduced to where we go and what we do on Sundays. In moments like this, we are still called to be the Church. I invite clergy and lay leaders to meet this challenge prayerfully and creatively, seeking to be attentive to the movement of the Holy Spirit in new ways for a new time, perhaps thinking of this time, as Bishop Mark van Koevering in the Diocese of Lexington has put it, as a time of community-wide Lenten fasting and prayer.
Pray daily for those who work in our hospitals and nursing homes, for the sick, and for their families who support them. If you know anyone who is self-isolating at the moment, do pick up the phone and encourage them. Keep an eye out for your elderly neighbors who may need your practical assistance with shopping or other needs. Let them know you are available to help. We will continue to update this guidance as needed.
Above all, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo, Bishop
The Episcopal Church in Upper South Carolina