Written March 13, 2020
In consultation with public health authorities, clergy and lay leaders the Diocese of North Carolina has directed all parishes, including St. Timothy’s, to suspend all in person worship and meetings in church facilities for at least two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, effective immediately. Therefore, there will be no Sunday or Wednesday worship for at least the next two weeks. In addition, Lenten Suppers, Evensong, Bible study groups, AA and all other meetings are cancelled for two weeks.
Father Thomas was scheduled to be out of town for the next week including this coming Sunday due to a commitment to the transition ministry group he leads. Although he graciously offered to cancel his trip due to this unprecedented circumstance, the vestry determined that the lay leadership in place could manage the challenges of this interruption to our parish life. As in any situation where our priest is on vacation or otherwise out of town, we have arrangements with other local clergy for urgent pastoral needs.
The diocese has excepted funerals from this policy, and any services scheduled during this time will proceed as planned.
This is a most unusual situation. The diocese believed that it was in the best interest of our parishioners and the community at large to avoid gatherings where transmission of the coronavirus could be facilitated. There is no evidence that anyone in our parish family has been exposed to this virus.
Although we will not be able to gather as a community for a period of time, we should still worship. Father Thomas will be producing video sermons which will be available on the website. We also have the rich resources of the Book of Common Prayer. The services of Morning and Evening Prayer, as well as daily devotions for individuals and families are perfectly suited for use in the home. By praying in this traditional way, we can unite ourselves with Christians all over the world and each other. There are several apps available for electronic devices which hold the contents of our prayer book. In addition, the website www.missionstclare.com has the full text of Morning and Evening Prayer (including the readings and hymns) in a convenient format.
Other forms of worship may be practiced during this and any other time. Helping neighbors, ensuring the needs of the sick or vulnerable are being met, reassuring children or others who are frightened during this crisis are all ways of serving God by serving our neighbors.
Please be assured that pastoral care will continue during this period. Although lay Eucharistic visits will be suspended, the needs of our congregation will be addressed as fully as possible. If you have a pastoral care need, please contact myself or any member of the vestry. Should the need arise for immediate attention from a priest, arrangements will be made to meet this need with local clergy.
During this trying and unprecedented time, never forget that God is with us always and everywhere. Although we may be separated during worship for a period of time, we are assured in scripture that we can never be separated from Christ. As St. Paul writes in Romans,
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
May God bless you and your family. This crisis will pass, and our parish will be stronger for having endured this season of uncertainty.
Concerning In-Person Worship and Gatherings
From Bishops Rodman and Hodges-Copple, June 01, 2021
Dear People of the Diocese of North Carolina,
Thank you for your grace-filled, compassionate and faithful leadership as we continue to navigate this pandemic together. Looking ahead to the challenges of this next, and hopefully last, stage of the pandemic, we are heartened and cautious at the same time. Now that the CDC and governor have lifted mask requirements and social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated, our work becomes harder before it gets easier.
There are still people who are part of our beloved community who, for various reasons, are not able to be vaccinated. We are particularly concerned about children under 12, which is 15% of our population. We continue to be committed to providing worship and gatherings that are open to all. There are different ways this can be accomplished. One is for all of us to continue to wear masks and social distance, vaccinated or not. Another is to invite people who are not vaccinated
to join us online rather than in person. A third option would be to offer different services, some with masks, some without. Unvaccinated people would be welcome to wear a mask to a service where vaccinated persons are unmasked.
At this stage we strongly recommend our congregations continue to wear masks when indoors and provide social distancing for those who are unvaccinated. However, we can no longer require this of those who are fully vaccinated. We do ask that you decide how you will continue to offer equal opportunity for full and safe participation by all members of your congregation, and to make that clear in your communications.
Over the past months, we have been asking local leaders to take more and more responsibility for determining what is best in your context, for your congregation. This is especially true in Stage 3.
Attached is an update and simplified document for Stage 3. Each topic contains three sections: requirements, recommendations and choices left to local leadership to discern. We are now asking local leaders to respond to our recommendations in the ways you feel will best serve our shared gospel values and make sense for your local community and context.
As your bishops, we are deeply grateful for the prayerful faithfulness, creativity, patience, ingenuity and good will you have exercised throughout the past 15 months. We ask you to remain steadfast in these intentions and to pray with us for the continuing safety and well being of all God’s people, even as we move forward in hope, trusting, in this Pentecost season, in the great gifts and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Faithfully and gratefully,
Bishop Sam Rodman Bishop, Anne Hodges-Copple
Click on the following link for the latest updates on gatherings: STAGE 3 REGATHERING GUIDELINES