March 12, 2020
Dear Saints of St. John’s,
Grace and Peace to you!
As to the spread of the corona virus Covid-19, the landscape has changed markedly over the last few days, and we would like to make you aware of some changes and concerns and postponements that we have authorized going forward. The World Health Organization has recently declared the corona virus Covid-19 a pandemic. That means that we are in a very different mode of combatting its spread than even a few days ago.
When I (Fr. Greg+) was in my early twenties and working as a Ranger at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, I had the occasion of working as a firefighter on a blaze that threatened the ranch. To my surprise, one of the most effective ways of stopping the fire was not the dousing of a blaze already raging (which could be fraught with danger to the firefighter), but was the building of fire-breaks, spaces cleared of burnable material away from the current blaze and in advance of the rapidly moving fire. Although the chopping down of trees and clearing of ground cover appeared destructive, it saved many more acres of forest than were destroyed in the clearing. This was not done out of fear, but out of wise and prudent management. What we are recommending, and mandating in some cases, are ways to build “fire-breaks” around the spread of the virus. And we do this not out of fear, but out of love of our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those most vulnerable to the virus, and a love for all of humanity.
In light of rapidly changing health statistics relative to the spread and mortality of the virus, updates from ACNA, WHO, and other public health experts, Archbishop Foley Beach has issued this directive:
“Due to the possibility of the spread of the corona virus, those individuals over age 60 and anyone who is ‘immune compromised’ should consider worshiping at home on Sundays until further notice. Anyone with any symptoms of cold/flu should stay home and self-quarantine. Anyone who has traveled in any affected area of this country, or another country with an outbreak, must stay home and self-quarantine.”
Meetings on the Church Premises
Effective immediately, all Sunday School classes, bible studies, missions meetings, small groups, youth groups, ministry partners, etc. will no longer be meeting on the church premises. The only gatherings will be, at least for now, on Sunday mornings for worship. You will shortly be receiving instructions on how to meet virtually with your small groups. We encourage you to make every effort to meet together on-line, but not in person for the short term. Remember we are building a fire-break.
Until further notice, Holy Communion is now to be administered using the Bread only. All who handle and administer the bread and Body of Christ are to privately sanitize their hands before handling (following CDC recommendations on hand-washing), and are not to touch the face or mouth during the celebration or administration of Holy Communion. Again, we are not taking this step out of fear, but for solidarity in the Body of Christ and to respect the whole range of ethical decisions that each of us will have to make in regard to this.
The Passing of the Peace by physical contact is to be omitted. We are asking parishioners to greet one another with a wave of the hand or verbal greeting with no touch.
We will also not be passing the offering plate. The offering plates will be placed at the entrance to the church and we hope that all parishioners will continue to give generously during this time of great need.
Please stay tuned to what is being reported locally and in the state of South Carolina, in respect to the outbreak. Follow their guidelines. Remember, this is not about us; it is about caring for the sheep. Coronavirus.gov is where you stay updated from the CDC and the government recommendations to keep our people and families safe. If you are experiencing symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, or difficulty breathing) which are in concert with those of the corona virus, you can contact MUSC.care for a free telehealth assessment.
As from the beginning of this outbreak, one of the most effective ways of protecting yourself is by washing your hands thoroughly and covering your cough or sneeze when out in public. One parishioner has recommended that we all say the Lord’s Prayer (that takes about 20 seconds) as we wash our hands with soap and warm water.
Daily Pastoral Care Within the Body of Christ
One of our greatest concerns during this time of crisis and needful separation is the possible onset of a sense of isolation and/or depression. We do not want anyone to feel that they are alone. Please contact Fr. Greg (843-367-3342) or Fr. Jeremy (843-364-9381) if you just need to talk or have somebody pray with you. You can call us or send us text messages of particular prayer concerns, or we can even Facetime (see one another visually by phone) if that will help.
Walt Miller, our Community Pastor, is developing a phone care-list for pastoral care, so that everyone who is at risk can be contacted routinely to ensure that all are faring well during this crisis.
For those who are ‘immune compromised’ or just feel that it would not be wise for them to go out, we are setting up teams of people to shop for you or run errands for you, or drive you to a doctor’s appointment. You can contact Walt Miller (843-469-7105) if you need help in this regard. Please do not see this as an imposition…we bless God each time we exhibit the love and caring of the Body of Christ in this. We are indeed One Body.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
We love you and pray that this pandemic will lead to further strengthening of the Body of Christ and give all of us a strong desire to worship together, and make worship more central in our lives, once this crisis has passed.
–The Rev. Greg Snyder on behalf of the Clergy and Staff of St. John’s Parish Church