Coronavirus Diocese Update
May 22, 2020
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
– Romans 12:12
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thank you so much for your patient endurance during this trying time. What started as a few weeks of inconvenience has become two months of wondering “How much longer?” Yet, through this time we have remained the Church: worshiping, praying, serving, giving, sharing, and yes, even rejoicing. We’ve just been living more into the biblical reality that we’ve always espoused: the Church is the people. Well done, beloved!!!
You should know that in some ways, CHS is stronger than ever! Our reach to people has increased exponentially; our vision is being lived out more with increased intentionality in our relationships with one another; we worship for God (and not for ourselves); and we look to serve the direct needs of our surrounding community. Additionally, the downtime on our facility has allowed some maintenance/improvement projects to be tackled. So whenever we do get the “green light” to re-engage in the same time and space, we’ll be ready!
That being said, I had hoped to bring you specific news of a day when we can altogether gather again. However, in hearing from our diocesan bishop today, we – the congregations of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida – will all continue to follow CDC guidelines for the next few weeks: no gathering of more than 10 in the same space, practice social distancing, and use proper sanitation techniques.
I know this may be disappointing to some, especially as Pentecost (May 31st) is a special day for CHS.
I understand and can relate. But I don’t share such news to make anyone or any group “the heavy.” Caution is still the wise and loving course of action. Even though some businesses and services are reopening with specific guidelines and restrictions, and even though some other denominations and congregations are following suit, this diocese will continue to offer church services (worship, pastoral, outreach, and administrative) with social distance practices for at least the rest of May. The primary reasons for maintaining this course of action are the state’s own citing of CDC guidelines, a demographic in all our congregations that is predominantly over 65, a state infection rate that after dropping has begun slowly increasing again, a desire not to contribute to a second wave of infections after many people flood newly opened areas, and not wanting to put congregations at a risk of liability.
Proverbs 22:3a says, “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions”. So in agreement with our bishop, I encourage you to hold the course: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
I am sorry for the length of this letter, but please stay with me a bit more. I want to share some specifics for what CHS will do going forward, as we hold the course for at least the next few weeks.
We will still livestream our worship services on Sundays, Wednesdays, and the 1st Saturday monthly.
We will still host prayer conference calls on Fridays.
We will still offer the CHS Devotion of the Day.
We will still encourage interconnectedness within the congregation (i.e. call/email/text/“Zoom” each other to foster conversation and community).
We will still seek ways to bless and serve the needs of our local area.
We will newly offer online education and discipleship opportunities.
We will newly offer Holy Communion on Pentecost later in the afternoon (after the service). Details to come soon.
Again, it is with pride that I thank you all for your cooperation, teamwork, generosity, and love. You are the light of Jesus! Many feel like this extended time is an ongoing opportunity to return to God with new faith or greater devotion and to reorient one’s life along different priorities and values. I, for one, remain hopeful for new life and renewed life for us all to the glory of God. Already, there is fruit! So please do not lose heart. “Blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord! I remain available to you, for you, and with you. Please call or text me (928-388-9676) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions, thoughts, or concerns. The church office also remains open (Tuesday – Thursday, 9:30 – 4, and Fridays by appointment).
Should you or someone you know need help in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me. We are better together, and this is a crucial time for the Church – the Body of Christ – to shine with a different message and mannerism about us than the rest of the world. Because Jesus lives, there is real hope! Because we have died with him, we can let go of fleshly attitudes and actions (Romans 6:6). Because we have been raised with Christ, we are seated at the right hand of God in heaven (Colossians 3:1). And because we have the Spirit of Jesus (the Holy Spirit), we are God’s adopted children – forever His (Romans 8:15).
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you, and remain with you always. Amen.
Love in Christ,
Fr. Michael +