April 2, 2020 – Church Closure through April 30

Updated April 2, 2020

St. Luke’s will remain closed through April 30, 2020.

 

March 17, 2020

Dear Friends and Members of St Luke’s,

I hope this letter will find you well and safe. We are facing an unprecedented situation with a strong invitation to practice social distancing, many organizations and services are closed. We made the hard decision to close St Luke’s for two weeks last Friday, and we were not the only church making this decision in our diocese. I thought we would be able to resume our normal activities at the end of the month. I know now that it’s not going to happen.

Bishop Jennifer sent yesterday a Pastoral Letter asking all the churches to close until at least April 20th. You will find her letter attached to this document.

What does this mean for us? First that all in-person meetings, all worship services, all activities for St Luke’s and for outside groups are being suspended until April 20. That means that we won’t celebrate Holy Week and Easter together. This is a huge sacrifice for all of us, but this is the best way to protect our loved ones, our beloved church, and the larger community.

I’m working with the staff to find viable solutions allowing us to pursue some common life and worship using the technology that is available to us. We are setting up Zoom, a user-friendly video conference tool, for our church. The weekly Wardens Meeting will use Zoom, and this Thursday the staff meeting will be on Zoom as well, to keep everybody safe. If we are able to set up Zoom the way we want, commissions, groups, and ministries will be able to meet using Zoom. We will keep you updated on our progress.

I’m looking at options to have an online worship service on Sunday. And we will work to propose online classes. At the time I’m writing this letter, my son Clement is having his Spanish class through Zoom, and he is enjoying it.

I hope we will be able to find creative ways to stay in touch together, to pray for each other, to support each other, and to keep helping our community.

The office is working to create a list of those who don’t have an email address and those who don’t have a mobile phone. Our goal is to reach out to all our members through emails, text messages, phone calls or mail.

We really encourage you not to come to the office. You can always reach the staff through email, the church line, or our cell phones. If you leave a message we will be back to you, please be patient. For pastoral emergencies, please call the dedicated Pastoral Care number: 928 460-2736.

As our bishop encourages us, we will keep helping those in need through our Food Pantry, with some new rules for a time of crisis: nobody will be allowed in the building, people will be served in their cars, and a small “emergency crew” will serve the food to avoid any danger of contamination.

If you know anybody who needs attention, please let the office know and we will share the information with Pastoral Care. We already have several people who let us know they are ready to grocery shop and deliver the food or medication, for those who can’t leave their home.

More than ever we need to check on each other and bring any need (physical, emotional, spiritual) to the attention of the Rector and Pastoral Care.

Bishop Jennifer has a Youtube video to explain how to pray Morning Prayer with the BCP https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XehYGM_zcRQ. There are many resources out there. We will share these resources very soon on our website and Facebook page.

I leave you with the blessing God gave to Aaron: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” (Nb 6:24-26 NKJV)

Pierre-Henry Buisson +

 

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A Letter from Bishop Reddall

March 16, 2020

“That it may please thee to support, help, and comfort all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation, We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.” –the Great Litany, BCP page 151.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I write to give instructions for congregations in the Diocese of Arizona in the coming weeks in light of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for gatherings of groups during this pandemic of COVID-19.

I am instructing all of our congregations to cancel all in-person, public worship through at least April 20, and I expect it will be likely to continue longer, as the CDC is recommending cancelling 8 weeks of public gatherings. I also instruct our congregations to cancel all public events involving more than 10 people during this time, including classes, rehearsals, and meetings. All in-person Diocesan events during this time are also cancelled or being moved to online platforms.

I do not take this decision lightly. But it is made out of love. In this particular season, loving our neighbors means being apart from them.

Guidance for several areas of our congregational life is contained below.

WORSHIP

Several of our congregations in Arizona experimented with offering live-streamed worship yesterday. You are all permitted and encouraged to do so; the Diocese is going to attempt to feature one specific service each week to remind us that we are all in this together, and that we can gather collectively in prayer and praise.

I note that we are not cancelling prayer — if anything we are called to pray more, not less, during this time of trial. We will be offering additional online prayer resources as the days proceed. But at home, use your Book of Common Prayer. If you do not have one, go to your local Episcopal Church and ask to borrow one. If you do not know how to use it for Morning Prayer or other services, we will teach you. I’m planning to do a YouTube tutorial tomorrow on how to pray Morning Prayer on your own. Nothing can separate us from the love of God-and nothing can force our prayers to cease.

PASTORAL CARE and FELLOWSHIP

We are called to love one another, and we are now called to do so in more creative ways. Work with your congregation to establish a phone tree, and reach out particularly to those who are elderly or isolated. Have children write letters and draw pictures for the homebound.

I know many in our congregations will be missing coffee hour as much as worship. Tiffany Cramer (tiffany@azdiocese.org), our Events Coordinator, has offered to be a liaison for helping teach you how to set up an online event for your congregation so that you can see each other’s faces and talk to friends. Even when you are confined to your home, you are not alone. Christ binds us to one another in life and even in death.

OUTREACH

If there is one area where we must continue to put ourselves at some risk, it is in caring for the most economically vulnerable in our communities. I encourage all congregations to see how they can maintain their food pantries, meal programs, small 12-step meetings, and other ministries that will be absolutely essential during the time when hourly employees are unable to work, and ever more people find themselves food insecure. Do so wisely: keep social distance, disinfect everything, and offer meals to go, or drive up food pantries rather than in your buildings. But do not cease serving the vulnerable. And I encourage those who are able to donate to their clergy’s discretionary funds, so that our clergy have the capacity to help those who need help when they come to our doors.

CHURCH OFFICES

At this time, I do not see a need to instruct congregations to close their offices entirely. Follow CDC guidelines about keeping yourselves safe, use good judgment about which staff and volunteers are at-risk and should stay home, and work remotely if you can. But phones need to be answered if possible, and instructions given for how to connect if you are in need. An essential function of church life right now is communications: keep talking to your people through phone trees, Zoom gatherings, your website, and good old-fashioned mail. Update your signage, so that people who come to your property know how to get in touch with a human being.

FOR THOSE WHO GET SICK

It appears to me, from what I have read, that even with all these precautions, it is likely that many of us will end up acquiring COVID-19. There is no shame in doing so. Seek help, according to the recommendations of the CDC and others, and let your clergy know so that they can be helpful in making sure you receive the care you need, and have access to the supplies you need.

Canon Nicole Krug, our Diocesan Disaster Coordinator, is developing a protocol for congregations who have members with COVID-19 and are concerned that the disease may have spread within the congregations.

FINANCE

Cancelling public worship is going to have economic effects for our congregations and our diocese. As the beginning of a plan, we have three guidelines:

I am asking all congregations to continue to pay all of their staff, even staff who may not be working because of the suspension of worship.

I am asking all church members to maintain their pledges, as they are able.

I am in the process of asking the Standing Committee to approve a Diocesan Relief Fund to assist congregations in maintaining their payroll, insurance payments, etc. if necessary.

WHAT WILL THE DIOCESE BE DOING?

Right now, I envision the Diocesan Office as a clearing house for questions, and a source of connection for congregations in need. Some staff members will work remotely; others will come in to the office.

We have set up a resource page on our website to include links for prayer, reliable information about COVID-19, and support for clergy and lay mental health. Bishop Reddall’s pastoral message about cancelling in person worship. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh8iKaJeCw8

BUT WHAT ABOUT EASTER?

The word “quarantine” comes from quaresima, the Italian word for Lent. Ships were “quarantined” for 40 days in port before they were able to dock and unload people and supplies. So of all seasons of the year to be experiencing quarantines, this is very appropriate. Just as Lent ends with Easter, so this season of quarantine will end with renewed faith in our Risen Lord-though it will likely not happen by April 12, 2020. Over the next few weeks, as the situation develops, we will discern what the right way to observe calendar Easter is; and what the right way to observe our eventual return to congregational life, proclaiming “Alleluia” with shouts of joy. That day will be an Easter Day indeed, celebrating the restoration of new life, having passed through the valley of the shadow of death.

I will be in contact with you as things change and develop; know that you are in my prayers: congregations, clergy, laypeople, and all those whom you serve.

May God’s peace be with you in the coming days.

Yours in Christ,

+Jennifer

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall

Sixth Bishop of Arizona