Here is a Pastoral Letter that I shared with my congregation, which you are welcome to adapt and use in your congregation in the face of suspending public gatherings.
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ.
I am sure you have been listening to and reading the news. Each day brings more restrictions on our daily lives. School classes suspended, more workers working from home, the closing of public places like libraries and recreation centres, and now restaurants and bars in some jurisdictions.
I am sure you feel anxious and nervous as I do. We don’t know what is coming next for us and we don’t know how long we will be here.
Here at the church, we are not immune to the changes either. Our leaders have been offering guidance over the past number of days, as the Bishops distributed pastoral letters that encouraged us to change our behaviour and worship to limit the spread of COVID-19, particularly to those who are most vulnerable.
As this Pandemic situation progresses, we are learning that this is not enough. That the best way to combat the spread of the coronavirus, is to practice social distancing. And the best way to social distance, is to stay home as much as possible.
Following the recommendations of our Bishops, with the care of one another first and foremost in mind,
The time has come for us to enact a suspension of all our public, in-person gatherings.
Beginning immediately, there will be no public events at the church, no committee meetings, or other types of gatherings with many people in attendance. Our worship services will be moved entirely to an online streaming format. Our meetings as they are needed, will be done over zoom.
We do not know for how long these measures will be enacted, but at a minimum we will not be worshipping until Holy Week and anticipate the suspension lasting longer.
It is a hard decision to make. Gathering as a community is so central to our identity as people of faith. I already am missing seeing you and it is only been 48 hours since we last met. And yet, suspending our in person gatherings does not mean we are closed, does not mean we are no longer a community, does not mean that we stop being the church, the body of Christ.
So what can we do?
Well, as has already begun last week, worship services will be streamed on our Facebook Page. Anyone can access our Facebook Page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. www.facebook.com/sherparkwpg.
Our Sunday morning, services will continue to begin at 10:30am.
Mid-week Lenten services will continue on Thursday evenings.
All streamed services are available afterwards, so if you are late there is no worry, you can still start from the beginning.
As I mentioned in my last Pastoral letter, this will be a time when so many will have affected incomes, including the congregation.
I encourage you to continue to give to support the church.
I will do my best to maintain a presence in the office, and to make the church available for drop-offs.
Additionally, the mailbox will be monitored daily. So offering can be mailed or dropped of (Remember no cash, just cheques).
You can also consider donating through our PayPal account, which is found at www.sherpark.ca/donate
There you can make one-time donations, or set up a recurring donation.
Finally, many of you already give through Pre-Authorized remittance. Consider increasing if you are able. Get in touch with the church office and our treasurer team if you would like to begin.
In this weeks and months in particular, those with fixed incomes will be an asset to the congregation, beyond.
But giving offering isn’t going to be the only way to give.
There are many in our community who will be affected by this time of social distancing and isolation.
Those who use the services of the food banks and shelters that we support will need extra support. So Consider dropping off extra food a supplies if you are able. Call head or make an appointment to come at a time when someone can be here to receive the items.
Others will be without transportation, many will be self-isolating because of age or compromised immune systems. Consider helping by picking groceries, perscriptions and supplies. Get in touch with the church if you need help in this way or can help in this way.
Finally, we are community. We are connected and belong to each other, even if we aren’t gathering. Phone, text, email, Skype, FaceTime, write letters. Being at home doesn’t mean we cannot connect.
If anyone would like a regular phone call or check-in, let me know and we can make arrangements!
We are living in strange and unprecedented times. No one knows where will be next week, next month, next year. But we do know that this is going to change us. Our part is to let that be a change for the worse or the better.
Thankfully, we also have a God who has something to say about this time of hardship and suffering. The isolation and distance will not define, we will remain children of God. The possibility of sickness will not change to whom we belong. The One who names we bear will always be the one who brings us from death into life, from seemingly hopeless graves to rolled away stones and upper rooms.
We are Christ’s. No virus, or enforced time alone will change that.
And so Almighty God
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Bless, preserve and keep us
This day and forevermore