Every day we are presented with new developments in the spread of the Coronavirus. We are mindful of everyone’s concern for the health and safety of their families, high-risk friends and relatives, and themselves. For public health situations like this, we primarily rely on the CDC, OSHA, and the Surgeon General’s Office for the most accurate information and strategies for prevention.
St. Mary’s is committed to taking a proactive approach to protect the health and well-being of its members and the community at large. We acknowledge that there is no clear path forward - some churches are staying open, others are closing. However, given the unique circumstances in our congregation, particularly the amount of folks who have recently traveled abroad and the potential vulnerability of members of our congregation to COVID-19, we are cancelling all in-church services and all scheduled activities from March 13 - 31, including Sunday morning worship on Mar. 15, 22, and 29. This decision is not made lightly, but was made with a great deal of prayer and discernment with compassion for each member of our community. However, we are committed to being the church in new ways in the weeks ahead. The church isn’t closing, simply re-imagining the ways we can be church in these times.
Following is specific information on how we will proceed over the next 3 weeks:
St. Mary’s will be live-streaming worship services at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings for the duration of our postponement. We will announce platforms and links as soon as we can. Further, we will be producing a simplified bulletin for members of the congregation. They will be sent out on Saturdays so that folks can participate in worship as they see fit.
We actually want to increase our worshiping/praying presence during this time. Beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, Pastor Sam will live-stream a morning prayer service in which you can participate.
Carroll Hospital Center, its affiliated organizations, and nursing homes have banned visitations for the time being. Pastor Sam will not be making visits to any members. However, in the event of a life-threatening emergency, clergy are permitted to provide end-of-life care. If such a situation occurs, please contact Pastor Sam as soon as possible at email@example.com or call me directly on 717-309-7680.
Pastoral care will still be available for members of the congregation. While home visits are discouraged, Pastor Sam will be at the church office for visitations. With good hygiene practices, we can continue safe, limited pastoral care opportunities. Please observe self-quarantine for 14 days following your return if you have:
Been outside the Country – or been with anyone who has
Been on a Cruise – or been with anyone who has
Been in an International Airport – or been with anyone who has
The pastor and consistory will be increasing calls, notes, and other avenues to encourage the lonely and vulnerable. You too are encouraged to do a “check up” on your loved ones and neighbors; this is a great way to show the love of Christ.
As we increase our congregational activities in new ways, the continued financial support of our members is paramount. You are encouraged to give in two ways:
· You can give online through our secure online giving portal at stmarysucc.org
· You can mail your checks. The CDC has assured us that mail is unaffected by the virus.
Our Outreach Ministry is planning some creative opportunities for us to serve our community and we will announce them as they develop. Some initial ideas:
· Volunteer to do grocery runs for the vulnerable and home-bound.
· Food collections to support Shepherd’s Staff, Silver Run Food Pantry, etc.
· Letter writing to the home-bound, inmates, medical personnel, etc.
· Buy gift cards for friends and neighbors to support local businesses
Church office hours will be sporadic through March 31st, but Pastor Sam and staff members will be around to ensure essential operations continue.
As a friend said, “This is not canceling church, we are canceling IN PERSON church. It’s time to actually INCREASE church, increase spiritual contact and care, do more checking in,” to learn new ways of church. It’s uncomfortable, for sure. But hey, it’s Lent. This is what we do. We undertake these practices to show solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and in doing so, we experience something more profound about the love of God. So let’s get after it, showing faith, hope, and love in a world desperate to hear that we are not abandoned or forsaken.
We love y’all, :)