Church Closed Due to COVID-19 (March 14-28, 2020)
Church Closed Due to COVID-19
A Letter from the Rector
March 13, 2020
The Friday after the Second Sunday in Lent
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
"[God] alone is my rock and my salvation, *
My stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my safety and my honor, *
God is my strong rock and my refuge"
- Psalm 62:7-8 (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 669)
Psalm 62 is an expression of King David's faith in God during times of hardship, duress, anxiety, and uncertainty. David called God his rock and refuge while he and his army were on the run from many enemies. Today, we face a different sort of enemy: not an opposing army, but a public health crisis in COVID-19 (a.k.a. the novel coronavirus).
The World Health Organization has now declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a pandemic. Today, the President of the United States declared the pandemic a national emergency, and the Governor of Georgia declared it a public health emergency. Public health officials say, "Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness." Even though many young, seemingly healthy people may display no symptoms, they can still be carriers of COVID-19. Because we do not know how many people carry the virus, large gatherings of people put the most vulnerable among us at serious health risk.
In light of all this information, the Right Rev. Scott A. Benhase, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, issued the following statement this evening: "In my judgment as your bishop, it is time for the congregations of the Diocese of Georgia to suspend gathering for worship for the next 14 days. We will reassess the situation during that time with the guidance of public health officials."
In response to the Bishop's directive, I am taking the following actions as Rector of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church:
All of the church's public worship services, events, meetings, and office hours are now canceled from March 14-28, 2020. This includes Sunday worship on March 15 and March 22 and all midweek services, including our Wednesday Lenten Study.
I am conferring with the Director of our Day Care & Learning Center to determine the status of the school during this time. We will follow the protocol of Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, which currently have no public plans to close after Spring Break.
I will provide several online resources to help our parishioners to worship for the next two Sundays:
First, I will post a written service of Morning Prayer to this blog late Saturday night, including my sermon for the week: www.StMattSav.org/blog
Second, Follow this link to view a livestream (live video) of the Sunday Eucharist at the Washington National Cathedral, where Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preach at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, March 15: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUGZLwnLhUU
Third, Forward Movement's ChurchNext video platform has released a free video course called "Prayer and Worship in our Homes". Follow this link to learn more about prayer during this time of physical separation from others outside the home.
These measures may seem drastic, but they do seem necessary to protect ourselves and others around us. If you are in an at-risk population (over age 60 and/or with underlying health conditions), please take every precaution to avoid unnecessary social contact. And if you seem well and healthy, please do the same to protect those who are more vulnerable to than you are.
Finally, even during this time of anxiety and fear, we must remember the words of Jesus: love your neighbors as yourself (Mark 12:29-31). Do not neglect to reach out to your elderly neighbors who may need groceries or medicine. Support your friends and neighbors who may be out of work or have trouble paying bills due to job and school closings. Pray for all those already affected, not just by the virus, but with all these social ripple effects. And keep relying on our gracious and merciful God, who is our "stronghold, so that [we] shall not be shaken" (Psalm 62:7).
With Christ's Love,
The Rev. Guillermo A. Arboleda
Chappell, Bill. "Coronavirus: COVID-19 Is Now Official A Pandemic, WHO Says." NPR.org. Published 11 March 2020. Accessed 13 March 2020. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/03/11/814474930/coronavirus-covid-19-is-now-officially-a-pandemic-who-says
Kumar, Anita. "Trump Declares National Emergency in Latest Bid to Combat Coronavirus." Politico.com. Published 13 March 2020. Accessed 13 March 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/13/coronavirus-emergency-declaration-trump-128530
Curley, Molly. "Gov. Kemp Declares Public Health Emergency, a First for Georgia." WSAV.com. Published 13 March 2020. Accessed 13 March 2020. https://www.wsav.com/news/local-news/georgia-news/gov-kemp-declares-public-health-emergency-a-first-for-georgia/
World Health Organization. "Q&A on Coronaviruses (COVID-19)." Published 9 March 2020. Accessed 13 March 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses