Saturday, May 30, 2020

Houses of worship confront COVID-19 as some reopen buildings

From Rhode Island-

Meanwhile, the Episcopal Dioceses of Rhode Island is taking a more measured approach. Church buildings can reopen for very small groups of worshipers if they choose to do so. But most services will remain online for now. It’s something Bishop Nicholas Knisely said has been a surprise blessing.

"We are worshiping in ways, and more effectively, than I would have even guessed," Bishop Knisely said. "We've actually seen in the diocese here, attendance has gone up."

The online services have been especially popular with older people and parents of young children who can't necessarily come to church in person, and Episcopal churches plan to continue to livestream them even once it’s safe for people to attend in person.

"It's as if we have done two decades worth of evolution in two months," Knisely said.

More here-

Late deacon was the face of LR church

From Arkansas-

One of the Rev. Joyce Hardy's favorite things was to stand in Little Rock's Christ Episcopal Church before services and welcome the people entering its narthex.

"I'm getting lots and lots of stories ... that Joyce is the first person somebody met when they came to Christ Church," said the Rev. Kate Alexander, rector of the church, where the 68-year-old Hardy served as deacon from 2005 until her death earlier this month of melanoma. "By the next week she'd remember their name and welcome them again."

Welcoming others was one of Hardy's duties as a longtime deacon in the Episcopal Church but only a piece of her legacy. The social justice advocate has been described as a champion for the marginalized and underprivileged, and as a person who truly found her calling.

Those discerning their calling as ordained ministers in the church are called to be a deacon or a priest, Alexander said. Priests work within the institutional church, while deacons mostly focus on the world outside their church buildings, seeing and helping to meet the needs of their communities.

More here-

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Churches preparing return to services

From Rhode Island-

At St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, the Rev. Christa Moore-Levesque will continue to conduct her live-streamed Sunday sermons via Zoom. The virtual meetings have allowed the congregation to remain connected, albeit remotely.

“They really like seeing each other’s faces,” she said. “I try to say hello to everyone when they come in, and people really like that. It makes them feel like we’re still a community. Everyone knows who’s there worshipping together.”

The online sermons have been about as long as they would have been if the church was open, but Moore-Levesque said her sermons are “not very long” in the first place, typically lasting about 10 minutes in length. The subjects of her virtual sermons have touched upon the coronavirus pandemic, how to cope with feelings of isolation and how neighbors can help one another.

“The content has definitely been different,” she said.

Additionally, Moore-Levesque has offered a weekly children’s message on her YouTube channel, and she also posted videos during Holy Week in April. She has been sending bulletins and children’s activities to families since the shutdown, and following Easter, she began posting stories for children featuring spiritual stories each Friday afternoon.

The decision to continue the live streams in lieu of reopening St. Matthew’s came following guidance from Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely, the Episcopal leader for Rhode Island. He recommended churches in the diocese continue worshipping online through June. According to Moore-Levesque, there have been religious leaders who were surprised by Rai- mondo’s decision to incorporate churches into her second phase of reopening.

More here-

Episcopal Diocese of Michigan answers call to 'feed the hungry'

From Michigan-

Michigan food banks will get a $200,000 infusion from the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan to help them provide food to those affected by the coronavirus.

The donation stemmed from the driving need and "high demand at local food pantries and soup kitchens," as well as the fact that Michigan is a place where many cases emerged, Episcopalian officials said Wednesday.

"With more than a million unemployed in our state, people from all areas of life: rural communities, suburbs and cities are finding it difficult to feed their families," said the Rt. Rev. Bonnie A. Perry, who was recently consecrated as the 11th bishop.

"Hunger is real and hunger is debilitating," said Perry. "As people of faith, we want to answer Jesus’ call to 'feed the hungry.' In the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, we care about our communities and we act when we see a need. That’s how we live out our faith."

More here-

Dr. Anthony Fauci: To keep churches safe, use masks, limit singing and wait to resume Communion

From American Magazine-

As states around the country begin to ease stay-at-home orders, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said churches should adopt “common sense” measures to protect worshippers and the wider community, like requiring masks, practicing social distancing and prohibiting singing.

Regarding the distribution of Communion, he said, “I think for the time being, you just gotta forestall that.”

In an interview with America on May 26, Dr. Fauci said churches in places experiencing a sustained decline in coronavirus cases can slowly take steps to reopen safely by following public health guidelines, including those released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Fauci serves on the White House’s coronavirus task force.

“You always have to take into account what the dynamic of the outbreak is in your particular region,” Dr. Fauci said. “Having said that, when you’re dealing with a nationwide outbreak like we have right now, you've really got to take precautions.”

More here-

So your church is opening up after COVID-19 closures? It won’t be what you are hoping for.

From Millenial Pastor-

It’s been months of isolation, months of mostly staying home to stop the spread of COVID-19. But active cases are going down (or maybe not), and politicians and business leaders are worried about the economic impact of social distancing. And so, for a few weeks now, things have been opening up. Playgrounds and hair salons, dentists and restaurant patios are letting people come back. 

And things seem to be going well enough, so the government announces the next phase of opening, which includes increased gathering sizes. And one of the places you have been missing the most, your church, sends out an email telling you that they are going to re-open for an in-person service on Sunday. 

You heard from a friend that your Pastor was against it, but enough folks were pressuring the council because of freedom of religion, people are getting tired of staying home and surely church should be a safe place right? Plus you are missing your friends, the folks you love to see on Sunday mornings, the other couples that you often go for brunch with following worship. 

Finally, the big day comes, you wake up excited to get back to this important part of your life, to something that feels little bit like normal, seeing familiar faces, hearing  familiar music, being in familiar community. 

More here-

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Churches altering communion practices in the wake of a pandemic

From Pittsburgh-

With several area Eastern Orthodox churches now holding public services with small congregations, the servers are providing both the bread and wine of communion to parishioners — but without anyone touching their lips to a shared vessel.

With local Roman Catholic churches reopening at the start of June, they’ll be offering the bread but not the wine so as to avoid the traditional use of a common cup.

With local Episcopal churches preparing for eventual reopenings, they also don’t plan to offer a common cup.

These are just some of churches’ liturgical responses, at least for the near future, as Pennsylvania counties increasingly adapt to “yellow” status, opening up with caution amid the easing of pandemic-related shutdowns.

More here-

Breakaway Anglican group that left Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth wins property fight

From RNS-

The Texas Supreme Court awarded a Fort Worth breakaway group affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America the right to $100 million in church property.

The ownership of the property has been in dispute since the ACNA-affiliate group broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2008.

The ruling on Friday (May 22) is the latest over properties held by breakaway congregations and dioceses that the Episcopal Church has been fighting in court for decades.

The Texas ruling may be the first time that a breakaway diocese has prevailed.

Ever since the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson as an openly gay bishop in 2003, scores of congregations and five dioceses withdrew from the church over doctrinal differences. Many joined ACNA, formed in 2008.

That was the case in Fort Worth, too, where a majority of clergy and lay leaders in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth voted to leave. Both groups continue to call themselves the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

More here- 

and here-

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Bill requiring churches to allow guns during worship passes Louisiana House

 From Louisiana-

As Rev. Bill Terry walks in front of the memorial for murder victims outside his church, St. Anna’s Episcopal Church on Esplanade Avenue, he says he knows more guns are not the answer.

“We started this in 2007 and it ended in 2012 because we ran out of room,” said Terry, as he pointed at the wall on Monday night. 

To Terry’s dismay -- a series of gun bills passed the house Friday. One -- House 334 -- would allow those who have a concealed carry permit to carry a concealed handgun into a church. 

“There is too much murder and violence and particularly gun violence that goes on right now without exacerbating that by arming our citizenry and encouraging that,” said Terry. 

Rep. Bryan Fontenot, a republican out of Thibodaux, sponsored the bill and says the leader of the church may still stop someone from carrying and says he wants to be clear on that. 

More here-

Priest arrived to lead Ravenswood church as pandemic hit Chicago; three weeks later, his congregation vanished

From Chicago-

The woman Stephen Applegate replaced at the pulpit earlier this year liked to pop champagne corks at baptisms, write rock-themed Christmas pageants and almost single-handedly saved the church from extinction 27 years ago.

Rev. Applegate, a soft-spoken New York native, made his debut at All Saints Episcopal Church in Ravenswood in mid-February before a congregation still reeling from the loss of that beloved priest, Bonnie Perry, who left after being named bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.
Three weeks later, Applegate’s voice echoed in a church of empty pews.

Applegate, 68, is an itinerant man of the cloth. But even for someone whose job is to wade into sometimes messy situations — say, when a former priest has been accused of theft or sexual misconduct — there is, as he puts it, no “pandemic handbook.”

More here-

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Richmond-area churches seeing higher-than-normal attendance online

From Virginia-

While church doors have partially opened for the past two weeks in most of Virginia, many faith leaders have enjoyed an uptick in participation in online services and are looking for ways to retain that interest.

Richmond couple April and Rick Greenwood each lead their respective Episcopal churches on Sundays, though their homilies haven’t been delivered from their sanctuaries for some time because of closures due to COVID-19. Rick Greenwood is the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Petersburg, and April Greenwood, a 30-minute drive east, is the rector at Westover Episcopal Church, one of the oldest in the country, in rural Charles City County.

More here-

A Pastoral Letter from the Episcopal Bishops in California

From California-

From the beginning of the pandemic, our Episcopal congregations and our respective dioceses have been strengthened by prayer, study, and praise. In this time, our churches have never “closed” or ceased in teaching, fellowship, prayer and service to our communities; we have simply continued our gatherings on-line and in homes, bowing to Christ’s authority and the teaching that we are to act out of love for others.

As the weeks go on, the weather is nicer, and our solitude continues, there is pressure to get out, be among people and gather. Churches are a place where we feel that pressure intensely, for we are a people that is embodied and communal, and we often refer to ourselves as “family.”

Over the past few weeks, we have carefully considered how and when we will re-gather in person. We recognize that our plans are not as simple as unlocking a door and walking in. All of our congregations are actively making plans centered spiritually on our love for others, and scientifically on the realities of disease. The reminders from the CDC, and state government tug us into the reality that we still do not know enough about COVID-19 to gather safely in the same ways as before; we need to find new ways to keep our people safe. 
More here-

Official statement from Bishop Provenzano about the White House directive to open churches for public events

From Long Island-

To all the People of God gathered in the Diocese of Long Island, the Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk:

Regardless of the misinformed and politically-motivated direction coming from the White House, the Church will continue to be the Church, caring for the safety of all people and protecting the health and well being of our parishioners. 

The Church will continue to be the Church and our buildings will remain closed until we can begin to safely gather in person.

We will continue to pray, worship, share in formation and education through online platforms, and other electronic communication. 

We will care for God’s people and minister to their needs and not put them at risk. 

More here-

also here-