Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Greetings again during this eventful time in our common life. Even though it has been less than a week since our church was asked to suspend all services and group meetings until March 29th, the situation has continued to unfold at a rapid rate.
The Diocese of North Carolina has continued to consult with clergy and lay leaders, as well as experts in the medical field. Incorporating the information from all of those resources, our diocese has decided to prolong the suspension of all activities until May 17, 2020.
The bishops’ announcement can be found in the letter below.
Following this development, let me comment on a few matters at this time:
- Continue to practice self-care: despite everything going on, we hold to the truth that God is still at work among us and He will bring us through this. Still, in the meantime do what you must do to stay healthy and safe.
- Sunday worship: as the Vestry, Staff, and I begin to explore how best to grow and nurture the faith of our parishioners remotely, in the absence of a service this weekend (March 22) I encourage you to tune into the Eucharist webcast from the Washington National Cathedral at 11:15 a.m this coming Sunday. Click here to view.
- Pastoral matters: in order to ensure both the safety of those with pastoral needs, as well as the safety of those offering pastoral care, please call the church office or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make us aware of any pastoral needs or emergencies.
- Grocery Line: both members of the Vestry and DOK have volunteers offering to run groceries to those in our congregation who are homebound or not easily able to get out and about. If are or know of someone in need of this, please call 919-787-7590 or email email@example.com
- Online giving: as recognized by the bishops below, all churches are likely to take a big hit due to the fact that many parishioners give pledges and tithes on Sundays. With many of you committed to give towards our recently-started capital campaign, perhaps you might consider making your regular or capital pledge online by clicking here.
- Patience and prayer: it is true we are told to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thes. 6:17-18a). But at this time do pray for St. Timothy’s, it’s members, it’s leadership, our diocese, and our world. While we do our best to adapt to this new way of being the church, have patience and bear with us in love (Eph 4:2).
Over the coming weeks, do continue checking your email inbox as well as our church’s website and social media channels for up-to-date information.
Further, for those you know that do not have access to these means, do endeavor to call them and share the information.
Blessings to you all,
Diocesan Update on Coronavirus: March 17
It’s hard to believe a week ago today, we were still contemplating adaptations within worship services.
A week ago today, the suspension of services and the idea of not being able to gather was not even a topic of active discussion. What a difference a week makes, and what a week it’s been.
Since we first announced the suspension of in-person worship and gatherings, the response we have seen across the Diocese has been a phenomenal testament to the depth of your faith and the power of beloved community. In church after church, whether online or in other ways, we have seen a spirit at work that refuses to submit to despair, instead springing into action to ensure community continues and looking already to how it can be expanded.
We are blessed to see it, for as many of you know, we started the week with an updated recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control to lower the number of people gathered anywhere to 50 for at least a period of eight weeks. As we have said all along, we are following the recommendations of both the medical experts and health authorities to do all we can to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, and so as of today, the suspension of in-person worship and gatherings is extended to encompass the eight-week period, taking us at least through May 17.
Of course, this extension puts us in uncharted territory, and it’s a challenge to which we will rise. As Holy Week and Easter approach, we will find new and innovative ways to celebrate that which is sacred to us, and we will do it together, even as we continue to be faithful practitioners of social distancing.
Holy Week and Easter are not the only areas around which people across the Diocese have questions. We are in ongoing contact with church leadership, and we are working to address these questions. For some we have answers for you here. For others, we will share the work in progress and keep you updated as answers are found. In all cases, we remind you that all parameters and restrictions are in place because we are doing all we can to stem the spread of coronavirus and return as soon as possible to a life where restrictions are not necessary. Every one of us plays a part in making that happen, in following best practices and health guidelines, in taking care of ourselves and each other, and keeping in mind – always – how our actions may impact the greater good of others.
Most of you are acquainted by now with the diocesan resource page about the coronavirus. The information gathered has grown to where it cannot be contained in one spot, and so in addition to the main page, several additional pages have been added, the most notable of which is the situation summary page. This page is important, for on it we will keep the most up-to-date information on many of the areas below. What is posted there is what is currently in place. We encourage you to access it often.
Online Vestry Gatherings
One area of concern for many churches is the ability of vestries to meet online, especially as this is necessary while in-person meetings are suspended. Diocesan Canon 33.1 does permit vestries to adopt by-laws that authorize meetings by teleconference. If your vestry has not yet adopted this by-law, please read here for instructions on how to do so.
Eucharistic and Pastoral Visits
For now, all home visits are suspended while the Diocese researches best safety practices and alternatives to allow the pastoral care to continue without undue risk to either party and, by extension, the wider community. We understand this is an area of deep concern for our clergy and lay pastors. It is our sincere hope to have a protocol in place that will allow visits to resume before this eight-week time frame elapses; we are actively consulting with medical experts and church leaders to find ways to make this happen.
In the interim, we encourage you to coordinate with chaplains at hospitals and assisted living facilities to provide pastoral counsel to parishioners in their care.
The suspension of lay Eucharistic home visits was put in place last week as they put both the visitor and parishioner at risk. We highly encourage clergy, lay ministers and all parishioners to employ phone calls and utilize video conferencing technology like Zoom and Google Hangouts to conduct pastoral and social visits; all are a great way to stay connected.
The Diocese understands the financial ramifications not just of the suspension of services, but of the pandemic as a whole, and we are working to help alleviate that strain. First and foremost, we encourage everyone to continue to support their congregations by the methods provided by their congregations. Honor your pledges, and take advantage of the online giving options many churches have available.
Any non-essential gatherings should be cancelled, postponed or moved online.
Funerals present a particularly difficult challenge, and there are no easy solutions. Please be in touch with your local funeral director as well as hospice providers. Postpone any public gathering for a memorial service at a later time, and no one should travel for either memorial or private burial. Graveside services can probably be conducted with appropriate social distancing and other precautions. We hope to be providing clearer, more specific guidance soon.
All clergy or lay leaders making funeral arrangements must consult with either Bishop Sam Rodman or Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple prior to finalizing and publicizing any service information.
Many of our churches extend the use and hospitality of their spaces to outside groups. Some of these are considered critical ministries and services; some are not. For now, provided you can meet social distancing and cleaning requirements, we leave it to you to be in conversation with those partners about whether or not to continue this hospitality; if you do, we strongly recommend you follow the recommendations of local health and government authorities. If you cannot meet social distancing requirement and safety precautions as outlined by health authorities, gatherings are not to be held.
Church Staffs and Schools
We highly recommend that church staff members, as much as possible, be allowed to work from home.
Parochial schools and daycare facilities should follow the recommendations and decisions of your county schools and county health officials. All public schools are currently closed by order of Governor Roy Cooper.
Diocesan House is currently closed with diocesan staff working from home, and will be until further notice. Please note: If you call a staff member's extension at Diocesan House, your voice mail will be forwarded to that person's email. Please be patient with any delay it causes.
We are in this together, and we will make it through this. The last week has proved that, and we are grateful for your faithfulness and courage. We are comforted in knowing we are loved and guided by our Lord, Jesus Christ, and we rejoice that if we must journey through a trying time, we are doing with you, the beloved faithful of the Diocese of North Carolina.
Bishop Sam Rodman & Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple