Friday, March 27, 2020

The Plague Village

From Philip Jenkins-

As Chris Gehrz remarked recently, many Christians right now are avidly looking for texts and stories that illuminate the response to plague and pestilence through the ages. There have been so many blogs and columns on many sites about the Cyprianic plague in the third century, about Luther and Zwingli in the sixteenth, about the influenza crisis of 1918. Here is another story, and, I would say, one of the most powerful. It is very famous indeed in Britain, but as far as I can tell, scarcely known in the US. It’s the story ofEyam, and it makes for good Lenten reading.

Eyam is a village and parish in the outrageously beautiful Peak District of Derbyshire, in the English north Midlands. Although in older times it was described as being remote, it stands only about fifteen miles from the city of Sheffield. Like much of England, in the seventeenth century Eyam was deeply divided between those who supported the established Church of England – the Anglicans – and those Puritans who opposed it, who were Independents or Presbyterians. The established church returned to power in 1660, and in 1662, any minister who would not agree to the new settlement was ejected from his parish living. In Eyam, that meant that Puritan Thomas Stanley was ejected, to be replaced by the Anglican rector, William Mompesson.

More here-

National Cathedral canon missioner credits 'blessings and miracles' for discovery of 5,000 respirator masks

From D.C.

Washington National Cathedral canon missioner the Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin Sr. joined "Bill Hemmer Reports" Thursday to discuss the recent discovery of 5,000 respirator masks, which have been donated to local hospitals treating coronavirus patients.

Hamlin explained that the masks were originally purchased during the 2006 bird flu pandemic, but were then placed in storage and forgotten about. He credited Joe Alonso, a longtime stonemason of the Episcopal Church, for finding them just as Washington D.C. saw an upswing in confirmed coronavirus cases.

"This is where you are really grateful for institutional knowledge as well as everyone working together," Hamlin said. "When the story came about and the situation of the [coronavirus] crisis began to rise, he [Alonso] remembered the cathedral purchasing masks several years ago. If it was not for his memory..." Hamlin said before trailing off.

More here-

Staying home on Easter is right for God, one another: Bishop Sean Rowe

From Northwest PA-

When I became a bishop in the Episcopal Church, I did not foresee the day when the president of the United States would be urging people to attend Easter services and I would be urging them to stay home. But here we are.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump told Bill Hemmer of Fox News that he hopes to see “packed churches all over the country” on Easter Sunday. I, on the other hand, am instructing my priests and people to celebrate the greatest feast of the Christian year at home because it is essential that we practice social distancing to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resurrection of Jesus is, for me, the single most important event in human history. It is the moment at which God demonstrated once and for all that love is stronger than death. I never imagined I would do anything to diminish the joy that Christians take in celebrating this feast together. My heart ached when I informed my diocese that we would not be observing Holy Week and celebrating Easter in our churches. But the decision itself was not a difficult one.

More here-

US Episcopal Church urges support for Palestinian hospitals

From Middle East Monitor-

Members of the US Episcopal Church are urging support for Palestinian hospitals in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, in light of the coronavirus public health emergency.

According to the Episcopal News Service, American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ) “has launched an urgent appeal for support to help the leaders and staff at Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City make preparations to serve and care for its neighbours” in the days ahead.

The report noted how “Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth”, with life already “precarious and dangerous”, adding that “the presence of the coronavirus in this crowded, impoverished strip of land quickly will become a full-blown crisis”.

More here-

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Churches won't be 'packed' for Easter despite Trump call

From Washington-

Most churches will remain closed on Easter despite President Trump saying Tuesday that he hoped the pandemic would be sufficiently checked by then to have them "packed."

"Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full?" Trump said during a Fox News interview. "You'll have packed churches all over our country. I think it'll be a beautiful time."

But after already canceling their in-person services through Easter because of the coronavirus pandemic, many churches are not prepared to risk reopening. Catholic and Episcopal dioceses in every state have canceled. Many megachurches, as well as smaller congregations, have made similar decisions, advising their members to participate in worship through live-streamed services.

In Ohio, Catholic bishops in mid-March worked with Republican Gov. Mike DeWine's administration to cancel all in-person church activities in keeping with the state's ban on gatherings of 100 or more people. On Sunday, the state issued a "stay at home" order through April 6 with an exemption for churches. Even with that order, Catholic churches in Ohio will remain closed through Easter, which is on April 12.

More here-

I’m a priest, but I don’t think we should pack the churches on Easter

From Tampa-

President Donald Trump has called for “packed churches … all over our country … on Easter!”

For centuries, Easter has been the culmination of a three-day remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But this year, Trump is trying to turn it into a political rally. Open up the churches! Pack them with the elderly and the vulnerable! Have generations flee the safety of their homes to gather together to publicly observe this holiday. “It will be beautiful.” Unless, of course, those gathering in large families and/or houses of worship, where we are jammed around dinner tables or church pews, add to the community spread of the coronavirus.

How did we get here? For months we have slowly come to realize that a novel coronavirus (one never seen before) has been silently creeping around the world. It knows no borders or races or creeds -- or political parties. It will strike at will, mostly the old and infirm or those with underlying physical ailments and disabilities. But it will also strike people of all ages, as it does not discriminate.

More here-

How just an hour changed my attitude about ‘virtual church’

From North Carolina-

When the coronavirus stories first started getting notice, I admit that one area I didn’t think about being affected was church. Where could you be more protected than in the Lord’s house?

But as the virus continued to spread across the country, first in Wake County, and then to other counties across N.C., discussions began about “social distancing,” staying at least six feet away from others, and washing your hands frequently and not touching your face. 

The first change that came down from the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina was to change from bread to wafers during communion and to sip from the cup at the altar, not dip the wafer into the cup of wine. For those who were at high risk or felt uncomfortable, they could receive a blessing at the altar. That change felt weird, but was acceptable. Just one week later that changed. Church was to close to all activities. 

No church? Emotionally, I felt a sense of loss and isolation. I depended on church – the fellowship of believers, the joyful music of the choir, the scriptures and sermon to uplift my spirit and set the tone for the following week. We’re in the season of Lent, a time of reflection and sacrifice, but giving up church? Would we all be wandering in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights?

More here-

Washington National Cathedral donates 5,000 masks found in storage to hospitals

From ENS-

A severe shortage of masks and other medical equipment is putting health care workers at risk and limiting their ability to treat COVID-19 patients, and hospitals are hoping donated supplies come in soon. On March 25, two Washington, D.C., hospitals got a donation from an unlikely source: a stash of masks that was recently discovered in the crypt of Washington National Cathedral.

The cathedral has donated the 5,000 respirator masks to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Children’s National Hospital. The masks were purchased after the 2006 avian flu scare, according to the cathedral’s communications staff, “to allow clergy to provide pastoral care without putting their own health at risk” in the event of a future outbreak.

The masks were kept in storage on the cathedral’s crypt level and forgotten about until a stonemason found them during routine maintenance work. Cathedral staff consulted the manufacturer and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and concluded that the masks, which had never been opened, were safe to use.

More here-

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Virus Apparently Claims Retired Episcopal Priest

From Massachusetts-

Though it could not be confirmed through public health channels, the COVID-19 virus has apparently claimed the life of a retired priest who was affiliated with Christ Church, Harwich Port.

According to the Rev. Brian McGurk, rector at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church of Chatham, the Rev. Dr. Richard Ottaway, an Episcopal priest and college professor, died Sunday night at Cape Cod Hospital as as result of COVID-19. Rev. McGurk said Rev. Ottaway had been a member of St. 

Christopher's but joined Christ Church Episcopal of Harwich Port about 10 years ago as a parishioner who also assisted their rector on a regular basis.

According to McGurk, Rev. Ottaway’s wife confirmed that her husband had tested positive for the virus.

More here-

Episcopal bishop extends service suspension

From Alabama-

Retiring Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama Kee Sloan announced on Tuesday that face-to-face services at all Episcopal parishes and worshiping communities within the state will extend the suspension of services through the month of April.

“Obviously, and regrettably, this includes our normal schedules for Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. It is inconceivable to me that we would be able to come back together in person by then,” Sloan said in a statement on the diocese’s website.

The announcement comes on the heels of the recent increased number of reported COVID-19 cases within the state. As of Tuesday morning, 215 cases have been reported.

More here-

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming foundation pledges $1 million in COVID-19 relief

From Wyoming-

In an emergency meeting last Thursday, members of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming committed $1 million in support of relief for those negatively impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Members acknowledged the situation caused by the growing global pandemic is dynamic, so guidelines for the distribution of the relief dollars are not yet created. However, the board voted unanimously to allocate funding to the resource, citing Jesus’s teaching to “love our neighbors.”

While the virus disrupts weekly worship across the mostly rural state, Wyoming Episcopalians are busy supporting their local community by checking in on vulnerable neighbors, providing food and financial resources to local food banks and other helping agencies, as well as holding virtual prayer services.

More here-

Hopeful Movies for Episcopalians in Self-Quarantine

From The Living Church-

We are all spending more time than usual at home this month. And probably next month, and maybe the month after that. We are certainly spending less time in church, or at least in the beautiful building we love. That, too, may go on for a while.

So I submit to you four classic movies to entertain you and inspire you during this involuntary form of a Lenten fast.

Three of them tell the tale of a minister or priest trying to lead the people through a time of extraordinary crisis. The fourth presents a marriage that is in search of a miracle. All of these films embody a Christian view of faithful persistence under extreme stress. I hope they can lift our spirits just now.

Oh, and each is easily available, either as a mail-order DVD or streamed over the internet.

More here-

Monday, March 23, 2020

Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops postponed to 2021

From ENS-

The once-a-decade gathering of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, which was to be held in Canterbury, Kent, in July and August this year, has been rescheduled for 2021 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision was taken today by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby following consultation with a range of stakeholders, including the trustees of the Lambeth Conference Company, the charitable organization which runs the conference on behalf of the archbishop of Canterbury. In recent weeks the Lambeth Conference organizing teams have been prayerfully thinking through the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the plans and preparations for this important event. Welby has consulted a number of key players, including his fellow primates – the leaders of the 40 autonomous churches of the Anglican Communion.

In a video message, the Welby, said: “The place of a bishop at a time of difficulty is a place of a shepherd when the wolf is attacking the flock. It is to be with them. To be alongside them. To love them. To suffer with them.

More here-

Sexual harassment victim wins landmark apology from Anglican Church

From New Zealand-

A parishioner who fought the Anglican Church for 15 years after being sexually harassed by a priest has won a landmark settlement and apology, including an acknowledgment the Church can be held to account for its ministers' behaviour.

Until now, the Church has refused to be held liable for clergy, saying they were not its employees but were essentially employed by God.

However, in a successful settlement negotiated after the woman took her case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, the Church admitted it was responsible, and will now improve its vetting, training and complaints process.

The Church will also pay the woman $100,000 in recognition of the gravity of humiliation and hurt she suffered, and in recognition of its flawed handling of the complaint.

More here-

Valley faithful get creative to worship in post-virus confines

From Texas-

St. John’s Episcopal in McAllen is also planning on relying on a drive-thru concept for worship; they’ll be trying it out for the first time Sunday.

“We’re doing drive-in church,” Rev. Rod Clark said. “You’ll tune your radio station to our low-power FM signal and people will stay in their cars. We’re not able to do communion this way, but we’re able to gather and worship together.”

According to Clark, the challenge of worshipping from your sedan is interaction.

“In our Episcopal tradition, like a lot of liturgical churches, a normal service requires the congregation to participate,” he said. “There’s a back and forth between the person leading worship and the congregation gathered there; the leader says something, the congregation says something. We all do this thing together, it’s all participatory, there’s no passive audience in our tradition, which makes it a challenge to do a drive-in service where everybody’s in their cars.”

To overcome that, St. John’s is trying something Clark calls “auto participatory worship.”

More here-

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Online religion grows rapidly in era of 'holy unknowing'

From Pittsburgh-

All this comes with some of the holiest days on the religious calendar approaching. No one knows how long the pandemic will continue, but the Christian Holy Week and Easter are approaching, along with the Jewish Passover and the Muslim Ramadan. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has already suspended worship through Easter.

“We have to do ministry in this holy unknowing,” said the Rev. Eric McIntosh of St. James Episcopal Church in Penn Hills. His message to the faithful: “We belong to God, not the virus.”

But how to act on that belonging?

“At this juncture, keeping folks alive is the most important thing, not congregating on Sunday morning,” Rev. Mcintosh said.

But “the Body of Christ,” a common term for the Christian faith, “is not a particular Sunday morning gathering,” Rev. McIntosh said. “It’s the Body of Christ going out into the world. It’s just that going out into the world is online.”

More here-

Sanctuaries close doors and go online amid crisis Read more: San Diego Community News Group - Sanctuaries close doors and go online amid crisis

From San Diego-

In the US, hundreds of people in Washington D.C. were exposed to Coronavirus when an Episcopal priest gave out communion before testing positive to the virus. The first confirmed cases of Coronavirus in a few cities have been Episcopal priests, including D.C. Chattanooga, Tennessee and Fort Worth, Texas after the denomination held The Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes annual conference in February.

In his message on Sunday over livestream, Jeff Martinhauk, Priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, explained that throughout the week the cathedral staff had made the radical change of not offering eucharist without knowing a few days later they would do the unthinkable of closing their doors. By the time the County banned gatherings of 250 people, they had decided they could not risk becoming another story of a faith community spreading the virus exponentially.

“Closing down churches, from the perspective of in-person gathering, is a way to love your neighbor. I sincerely understand that for many people, the experience of church is about connection. And there's a fear that, especially in the context of many people socially isolating, that they might need that connection more than ever. But I think that's actually where we need boldfaced leadership to step in and say, ‘No, this is the right thing to do. This is a Christian thing,’” said Colon.

Coronavirus shutdowns place financial strain on churches

From D.C.-

Churches are bracing for a financial hit, as coronavirus shutdowns disrupt their operations. 

As nonprofit organizations, many churches rely on the donations of their members (often collected during services) to finance their existence. In the Catholic Church, this is generally a time of the year when dioceses ask their members to donate to annual bishops’ Lenten appeals, which fund diocesan operations. In recent years, many appeals have already seen downturns in giving because of sexual abuse scandals within the church. This year, however, for many dioceses, the onset of coronavirus-related shutdowns is upending usual giving patterns.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington on Thursday announced that it is facing “enormous challenges as material and financial resources decline sharply while our regular donors grapple with the effects of this public health crisis” and issued an “urgent” plea for donations. A spokesperson for the diocese told the Washington Examiner that it is focusing on finding ways to provide “spiritual and pastoral support” to needy people during the crisis.

More here-