Coronovirus Update #1: March 12, 2020

Beloved in Christ,

It’s been a busy week here at All Angels, as I am sure it has been for all of you. In the midst of our weekly routines, we have been monitoring the news relating to COVID-19, and have been asking ourselves and each other how best to proceed under these unusual and ever-changing circumstances.

It is our desire to care for our parish and our city well, and also to maintain our presence and witness in a way that reflects the faithfulness of Jesus. Knowing how to do that, quite frankly, has depended on the hour. Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced limitations on the sizes of gatherings in the state. This was a possibility we had discussed at length prior to today, and we have spent the hours since the announcement finalizing the details of our programming for the time being.

First and foremost, we want to make the general recommendation that all vulnerable populations as defined by the governor (i.e. over 50, respiratory disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, weakened immune system) participate in events and services at All Angels through the remote, online alternatives that will be made available in the days to come.

Second, we have made the following changes to our Sunday programming. In short, we are suspending all activities or events that are either not (1) directly tied to worship or (2) essential parts of the services we offer to our population experiencing homelessness. In both cases, we are taking extra precautions to go above and beyond standard health and safety regulations.

Lenten Contemplative Eucharist

  • Moved from 8:55 AM to 8:30 AM.
  • Done by 9:30 AM
  • Chapel scrubbed and reset before 10:00 AM worship

10:00 AM Holy Communion Rite II

  • Online alternative provided via Facebook Live
  • No shaking hands or hugging during the passing of the peace
  • Offertory placed in baskets rather than a passing of the plate
  • Communion for all in “one kind” (priest will take wine on behalf of congregation)
  • No receiving line following the service
  • Nursery and children’s worship suspended

11:30 AM Coffee Hour 

  • No food, coffee served by staff as requested
  • “Coffee Hour Conversations” cancelled
  • Building emptied for reset and scrub by 12:30 PM

Children & Youth

  • Sunday School suspended, virtual alternative provided
  • Youth Groups suspended, virtual alternative provided

Community Ministries & Eucharist

  • 3:45 PM “Community Conversations” suspended
  • 4:00 PM Building reopened
  • 5:00 PM worship
    • Online alternative provided via Facebook Live
    • No shaking hands or hugging during the passing of the peace
    • Offertory placed in baskets rather than a passing of the plate
    • Communion for all in “one kind” (priest will take wine on behalf congregation)
    • No receiving line following the service
    • Nursery and children’s worship suspended
  • “To-Go” meals provided for those not staying at the shelter
  • Dinner provided for those staying at the shelter
  • Sunday evening shelter in full operation, with extra precautions for sanitation

Third, we have cancelled or postponed the following events:

  • Youth Retreat
  • South African Songfest
  • Come Together 2020: Homelessness Summit
  • Footsteps

In order to keep everyone informed in this rapidly changing environment, we will begin to make daily updates to the All Angels’ blog, which you can find at https://allangelschurchblog.wordpress.com/.  We will also continue to send out emails, and everything sent via e-mail will be reposted on the blog. So, if you want to know the latest, check the blog.

On another note, we’ve been talking a lot here at the offices about what it means to respond to this crisis, not just as a business or an organization, or even as a service industry, but as a church. This part can be harder to focus on, especially with the news changing from moment to moment, and our sense of confusion and risk so high. But let me try to suggest two things that can orient us for the days ahead.

First, we as Christians have a fundamentally different posture toward issues of life and health, and even (maybe especially) death. We believe that our lives are not our own, and that each breath we breathe is a gift from God. We believe that our lives are held in the hands of a God who knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us more than we love ourselves. We also believe that death has been defeated already; that death is not the end, but the beginning. And while we live in a world in which all creation groans in the pangs of childbirth, we believe in a God who will one day strike off the chains in which creation languishes; that God will one day raise us up and wipe every tear from our eyes. And on that day, there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor anymore pain, for the former things will have passed away, and he who sits upon the throne will say: “Behold! I make all things new!” 

None of this calls us to naivete about our present circumstances. All of it can and should be declared in the way we live our lives before God, both as individuals and as a community.

Second, we as Christians are called to consider the ways we can be the hands and feet of Jesus during this time. The God who sees us, knows us, loves us, also calls us to show love to others with our words and our lives. Even in times of crisis–perhaps, especially in these times–the call to show God’s sacrificial love to our neighbors is still there. We want everyone to be safe, but also be thinking, “How might I show the love of Jesus today? What is God calling me to? Calling us to? In this moment, right where I am?”

I was encouraged by this prayer posted today by Anna Lee-Winans, former parishioner of All Angels. It’s an amended prayer of St. Francis by her friend, Stephan Teng:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is fear, let me sow love
Where there is isolation, friendship
Where there is panic, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine master, grant that I may 
Not so much seek to be healthy as to heal
To be comfortable, as to bring comfort
To be loved, as to love
For it is in Christ’s giving that we receive
And it’s in His hands that we are made clean
And it’s in His death that we are born to Eternal Life.

Love and peace to you all, and check the blog.

Nate & Joanna

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