My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
God’s peace to you. I write both to encourage you and to inform you as we stand in these unprecedented times. While crashing economies and pandemics are not new, many of the responses and reactions to the coronavirus have not been experienced in our lifetimes. Our calling as Christians remains the same: trust and love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves. My encouragement to you is exactly along those lines: trust God, love your neighbor, and – wash your hands well and often.
We, as a church, are taking whatever precautions necessary to safeguard the well-being of our members and visitors – especially the most vulnerable among us. Our bishop, the Rt Rev Mark Lawrence, has also asked the churches of our diocese to impose some temporary restrictions on our practices for the sake of loving our neighbors. Please note that we WILL have our regular Sunday worship each Sunday at 9:30. The Bishop will be present for Confirmation tomorrow, March 15. But there will be a few changes:
1. If you are sick, or if you have a compromised immune system, please stay home. We do not want to jeopardize the health of anyone by unintentionally exposing them to COVID-19. If you stay home, use the time to seek the Lord and to pray for an end to the spread of this virus.
2. The sermon will be posted on our website (www.resurrectionnorthcharleston.com) tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon by 3:00pm. If you are unable to attend the service, please listen to our bishop’s message there.
3. Please wash your hands thoroughly before and after the service. During the peace and during our gatherings, we ask that you practice non-contact greetings and fellowship. Speak to one another, make the peace sign, wave, even elbow bump, but please refrain from hugs and hand-to-hand contact. This is difficult I know, but see this as a way of showing love for each other in an at-risk time.
4. Our bishop has called for the churches of the diocese to modify their practice of communing parishioners in both kinds (bread and wine) at this time. In particular, we will only be distributing bread during communion. The chalice will pass before you and the words “The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation” will be declared, but there will be no drinking from the cup or intincting (dipping). The larger church has a centuries-old understanding that the Body and Blood of Christ are received by faith in the sacrament, and that BOTH the Body and the Blood of Christ are communicated in full in either or both elements. In other words, you receive the spiritual food of the Body AND Blood of Christ, even if you only partake of the consecrated bread.
a. There may be differing concerns about this decision, but the bishop has made it quite clear that his driving concern is that of love: love for the weak of body; love for the weak of conscience; love for the visitor in our midst who may want to see that we are taking such public concerns seriously; love for the each other’s well-being; concern for others above our own preferences.
b. The decision is to maintain a uniform practice across the churches of the diocese so that everyone is not doing what is “right in his or her own eyes.” No one should be judging others by what they perceive as a more proper theological understanding of the Sacrament.
5. During our fellowship time, food will be served rather than offered up buffet-style. Please be patient while waiting for each other to be served. And again, wash hands where necessary, make use of the hand sanitizer, and refrain from personal contact with each other.
Having said all of that, fear not. Our times are truly in God’s hands. We can’t change a thing by worrying. We can’t add a day to our lives by worrying. We are called today, and every day, to trust God. The joy of the Lord is still our strength. Let us dare to draw near and worship Him, regardless of what the world around us may be saying or doing. Let us show to the world by our steadfast love of the Lord that we believe our life, our peace, our hope and our salvation is in Jesus. I love you. See you tomorrow.