COVID-19 updates: A Letter from the Rector, 3/13/20

My Dear Beloved People of God,
Well, it’s sure been a week.  Between all the changing information, daily updates, media reports, adjustments to work and school and community life, I imagine that most of us have experienced at least a bit of anxiety, concern, and perhaps even frustration — I know I have. You have all been very much in my prayers.
In these kinds of times, it is especially important to pray the words of the St. Francis Prayer: God make us instruments of your peace.  No doubt the days ahead will continue to be filled with new information and require further adjustments to our normal routines.  I urge you to take extra time to pray these words throughout your day, to check in with your families and neighbors, and most of all to offer a spirit of gentleness towards yourself and towards others.  God blesses each one of us so that we can be a blessing.

Further, please take care of yourselves.  Do the things:  Wash your hands, with soap, often.  Cough into your elbow.  If you are in a higher risk group, do your best to avoid unnecessary physical contact with others.  If you’re feeling unwell, don’t go out.  If you need help, practical or pastoral, please ask for it!
With that in mind, I want to share with you the significant adjustments to our parish life for the coming weeks (we will notify you when any additional changes are made).  After consultation with your wardens, Arthur and Candy, and Rev. Rachel and Michael, and reviewing the directives from our Diocese and guidance from local authorities, here are our plans as of now:

  • We will offer a single Sunday worship experience at 10:00 a.m. via Internet Live-Streaming, but we will NOT gather as a community in person. Please do NOT come to church.  We are disappointed by the need to suspend in person worship, but we also see it as an active part of our discipleship – caring for the most vulnerable in our communities.  Vestry Sunday will be postponed.  We are deeply grateful to Amy McGlothlin for her efforts to move quickly to obtain the equipment we need to live-stream  An email, including a leaflet, will go out on Saturday with instructions for how to watch the live stream and follow along with the readings and prayers.
  • This Sunday’s Choral Evensong is postponed until a future date, and we are grateful to the choir for their preparation.
  • All in-person meetings, classes, Christian Ed programming or groups will either be postponed or will move to an online format using Zoom.  Thanks to Rachel’s quick action, we now have a church account to host Zoom meetings.  We are still setting up the administration of the platform, but it is pretty easy to use.  If your ministry wants to host a Zoom meeting or class please email Rachel after Sunday.  We anticipate being able to offer some Zoom-based Catechesis and Kairos classes next week, and also some adult Bible Study and possibly some “informal fellowship time”.  A schedule for the coming week will be created and sent out Sunday night or Monday morning.
  • Our Lenten Soup + Study series will move to Zoom, and will run from 7pm to 8pm. We will send out the Zoom link Sunday night or Monday morning.      
  • The Bedford Food Pantry is staying open, but they are NOT accepting donations of food or other non-perishable items at this time. We will let you know if and when that situation changes. Monetary donations are always welcome; you can send those through the Pantry or via St. Paul’s.
  • Our staff will continue to work, sometimes from the building and sometimes from home.  If you need pastoral care or other help from the church, we want to hear from you!  Please know that we would be VERY glad to schedule pastoral appointments with you, on the phone or via Skype, Facetime, or Zoom.
  • If you need to visit the church building to drop something off or pick something up, please call ahead first, and do not linger. 
  • The Pre-School, Ballet School, and Banitirtha are all suspending their classes until further notice, following the lead of our public school system.

I know that in some ways these adjustments may feel quite disconcerting and disruptive… they are.  And in other ways, I hope we can also see them as opportunities to discover new ways of continuing to be Christian community in this very unusual times. God is always offering us the opportunity to live out our faith, to welcome, to comfort, to challenge and to strengthen others, and to be a blessing. 
I pray that God continues to bless each and every one of you with a special spirit of tenderness, towards yourself and towards all who share in this unique journey together.
 Chris +
The Rev. Christopher Wendell
Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church