April 1, 2020
Wednesday Lent 5
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in Christ. We are all living in a very fluid moment, but I do want to catch you up on what I am able to see at this point. We are working on an emergency fund for missions, and another for parishes, but I will say more about these after we deal with them as part of a revised diocesan budget at the Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, April 14.
1. I am aware that this is an extraordinarily stressful time for each of you, as you carry so much pastorally together along with worries about your own families. I know that this is compounded for me by a sense of uncertainty about the larger scene. I am grateful that each of you is standing in the breach in the particular place God has placed you in this moment. I pray for you all day by day- pray for me too.
2. It should be obvious by now that we will remain in the present mode of remote worship, meetings, and pastoral care throughout April and well into May. From what I hear from the health professionals, we are going into the really hard period. The following then is my advice: redouble your precautions. Reduce the number who participate Sundays to those absolutely necessary. Enforce six feet apart. Get ready now for a possible next level of restriction from what we have now. Pre-taping, service from home, or Zoom are also options which some are now using. Think it all through safety-wise yet again. As Anthony Fauci says, if it feels like over-reacting, you are reacting properly!
3. I have had questions about whom to contact from my office with pastoral issues, given that Canon Gilton will be headed soon to St. Philip’s, Frisco. He is still the ‘go-to guy’ through Easter, whereupon, until the end of May, you may contact Bishop Michael Smith at email@example.com. More about the new personnel arrangement in the next letter.
4. Here are some items that have to do with our getting ready for the next chapter, coming in the next weeks. A) We won’t be able to see folks in the hospital or in nursing homes. If someone is in extremis, we will need Christian workers already in these facilities, Episcopal or not, to help us to say the appropriate prayers. Please think of people you know, or people known to people you know, on whom we could call, and relay their names and info to Deacon Jennifer Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
5. We are working hard on understanding better the recent federal legislation, and an email from people more competent than I will be coming out this week (though the guidelines themselves are still being written). Let me mention that the Act has a number of sections relevant to us. There are loans to keep staff on that otherwise be laid off, deferral of payroll tax obligations on our part, expanded unemployment, expanded limits for charitable giving both for those who itemize and those who don’t, and a clause to help food pantries. More information to come shortly.
6. On a more positive note, we need to be thinking about the interim period between disease abatement and normalcy, which might be some months. I am assuming it looks like some version of our prior, Stage 2 no common cup/Namaste peace/no handshake at the door or coffee hour. That day will come!
7. Some random liturgical notes. A) As best I can figure, online attendance can be recorded on a separate sheet that you can append to the register, but not in the register itself. B) It should go without saying that parishioners may not put bread and wine next to their laptop and consider it consecrated! C) But we will renew our ordination vows at the Mass of Collegiality, with a special urgency and depth, but without physically being with one another, next week, on Holy Tuesday, at 10 a.m. from St. Matthew’s. You can access this by going to Episcopal Diocese of Dallas Facebook page. If other platforms of streaming become available we will let you know.
I am grateful for, and praying daily, for all of you. We all in these days have a deeper sense of how we, like the roots of a tree beneath the soil-line, are connected as we so often overlooked or took for granted. I find the Collects particularly pertinent this season. This week’s is at once Augustinian and solemnly hopeful:
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly
wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to
love what you command and desire what you promise; that,
among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts
may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.