Greetings in the name of our All-powerful Lord,
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…” (Psalm 46:1).
Much has happened in the last few days in response to COVID-19 and the coronavirus. The CDC guidelines for group gatherings has gone from 250, to 100, to 50, to 10. The Governor of Pennsylvania has closed all “non-essential business activity.” Schools have closed. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh (along with other dioceses and archdioceses) has suspended worship indefinitely. All of these actions are intended to "flatten the curve" of the spread of the virus by “social distancing,” and to protect the most vulnerable among us.
In light of these developments, I have directed the clergy of the diocese to suspend worship gatherings for the next two weeks. During these weeks, Church of the Ascension has agreed to host a diocesan service of Morning Prayer online via YouTube. I will be preaching this coming Sunday. The link to this service will be on the Ascension website: www.ascensionpittsburgh.org/worship-at-home and on the Ascension YouTube Channel. We will also communicate how to the link to the service on our website and via email.
We will also be making contingency plans for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter (and for the distribution of communion) in case the limitations on gathering should last longer than the next two weeks.
During this difficult time of imposed separation, it will be important to remember two things. First of all, the motivation for the suspension of services is not fear but compassion. Therefore, we need to make sure that no one in our congregations ends up isolated or lonely. Each congregation will be developing a strategy for pastoral care for this time.
Secondly, we need to remember that God is greater than our limitations. He is able to meet us in extraordinary times in extraordinary ways. The Church has always recognized this. Those separated from the Church because of imprisonment could partake of "spiritual communion." Likewise, martyrs who died before their baptism in water were considered baptized by their faithfulness.
If you or your family would like to participate in "spiritual communion," you might consider this format:
- Say, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
- Read the Collect, the Epistle, and the Gospel of the Day.
- Recite the Nicene Creed (BCP 2019, p. 127).
- Pray for your needs and the needs of others (BCP 2019, p. 128).
- Confess your sins, read the Comfortable Words and exchange the Peace. (BCP 2019, p. 130).
- Pray the Collect for Spiritual Communion (BCP 2019, p. 677).
- Recite the Lord's Prayer (BCP 2019, p. 134).
- Recite the Grace (BCP 2019, p. 26).
You may want to do this in the context of a meal, as was the custom in the early church.
If you don’t have a 2019 Book of Common Prayer, you can download the text of it at:
During this season of separation, the financial needs of your congregation will continue. Please continue to give (electronically or by mail). And, don’t hesitate to call the clergy of your congregation for care and support if you find yourself isolated.
While this is a highly anxious time in our culture, we know that the Lord is seated on His throne in the heavenlies…and He’s not wringing His hands. Therefore, we can trust in Him and come to the throne of grace.
P.S. The Diocesan Office will also be closed during this time. Should you need to reach a staff member, they will be checking emails and voice mails.