Taking Our Health and Faith Seriously--Together
God calls us to confidence and courage in his love, and in his power to work more good in our midst than we can possibly ask or imagine. But God also calls us to take care of ourselves, both in soul and in body. Our Bishop, in consultation with many others, decided to recommended that the best way we can take care of ourselves and our surrounding communities in the midst of a rapidly spreading virus like COVID-19 is through a discipline of "social distancing," including the temporary suspension of in-person worship.
Especially because COVID-19, like many other viruses and illnesses, can incubate for a long period of time without presenting symptoms, we're doing our part to avoid opportunities for the virus to spread among us, regardless of whether anyone we know and love has been infected.
Temporarily suspending in-person worship is not something we do lightly, but it is a proactive measure we are taking as a part of our greater responsibility to care for those whom we love and serve, both in Lakeview and Chicago, as well as in our own families, workplaces, and the other communities to which we belong.
Saint Peter's has met, faced, and surpassed several challenges in the past few years, and this will be no different. We are already equipped to offer our services virtually on our Facebook Page, and more resources will become available as the next week unfolds. Please stay tuned for more information.
The following is Father Shane's letter to the Parish from March 13, 2020 regarding the "temporary suspension" of in-person services, meetings, and ministries due to concerns over the spreading Coronavirus (COVID-19).
March 13, 2020
Friday in the Second Week in Lent
Friday in the Second Week in Lent
In-Person Services, Meetings, and Ministries at Saint Peter's are temporarily suspended.
Dear friends in Christ,
That headline above isn't exactly a headline to lift your spirits, is it? Neither was the opening verse to today's Psalm from Morning Prayer: “Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck” (Ps. 69:1). In the midst of some very serious uncertainties (information changing by the hour) and widespread anxieties (many unable to find expression), it can often feel as though we are "up to our neck" in water that is too deep for us.
With the present threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) mounting throughout the world and the U.S., our bishop has issued a pastoral recommendation for all churches in the Diocese of Chicago to suspend in-person worship services, meetings, and ministries as of this coming Sunday, March 15. You can find Bishop Lee's pastoral letter by clicking here. This means that Saint Peter's will be suspending all in-person services, meetings, and ministries until further notice, including this Sunday's meeting with Altus Works.
As a friend of Saint Peter's (Father Eric Biddy) beautifully said last night, however: while in-person worship is suspended, being the church is not. Our work now is to discover what it means to be the church that (temporarily) cannot gather.” And while we cannot gather in person right now, we will be attempting to find another way that Saint Peter's can offer its corporate prayers to God in accordance with our regular schedule.
After brief conversations with the Wardens and some members of the Vestry, I will be live-streaming a service of Morning Prayer at 10:00 am on Sunday Morning using our Parish's Facebook Page. Anyone can tune in and pray Morning Prayer right alongside me from the comfort (and safety) of their own home. This is a new venture for us, and will require some patience and generosity—along with some hope and optimism. Who knows what this may open up for us?
To those who are anxious or worried, and even to those who think we're taking things "too far": I understand.
The efforts being taken by the Diocese (and our effort in following their recommendations) are concrete, preventative efforts to care for those most vulnerable among us--those who are most susceptible to contracting viruses and illnesses that would do the most harm to them. Know that the actions we're taking are an attempt to “flatten the curve” so that, if and when the virus reaches our area, we are doing our part to slow its spread and not use up the health-care resources needed by those who need them most.
It may also seem “counter-intuitive” for us to distance ourselves from one another at this time. As a former professor of mine has put it, we are inclined “to draw closer together” in times like this, not “push ourselves apart.” But Christ's charge, he goes on to say, “to love our neighbors and care for the least of these” compels us to maintain healthy boundaries for the sake of the common good. You can find his full statement by clicking here.
We also, like the Psalmist from Morning Prayer today, are those who trust in a God lifts us up out of the deep waters, who listens to our prayers, and who implores us never to cease offering them. We at Saint Peter's will not cease offering prayers, because we are those who have hope—hope in the God who hears them. We have hope in Jesus Christ, who himself walked this earth and faced hardship and loneliness and loss. We have hope in the Holy Spirit who meets and enlivens us wherever we find ourselves.
So join us (virtually) on Sunday morning, to lift up our prayers and praises across Chicagoland (and beyond). More details will follow. One very helpful think you can do right now is to simply click this link and let us know you've received this email, read through it, and understand it. This helps us make sure we've reached everyone as quickly as possible.
If, in the meantime, you have any questions or concerns at all, please do not hesitate to reach out and be in touch with me. I remain your priest and committed to my pastoral charge to minister faithfully (to borrow some apt language) both in sickness and in health.