“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 2:5
Today we received word from Bishop Wright that although he is not mandating the cancelation of public worship, he is supportive of clergy who decide to cancel services this Sunday, and of those who decide to hold worship. In other words, at this time the decision is up to the rector of each church. After much thought and discussion with clergy colleagues, senior warden Harriett Smith, and others, I have decided that we WILL have church on Sunday. We will come together for one service at 10 a.m.
The service will be simplified, in accordance with the bishop’s directives that I sent out earlier. We will have music, but no choir anthem. Choir members who choose to attend will lead the singing of hymns. Our opening hymn will be “How Firm a Foundation,” which I chose because of this verse: “Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed! For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”
All of us have to make a decision on whether or not it is wise to attend. If you are among those who are especially vulnerable to the virus, I urge you to stay home. As the verse of scripture above says, the church is not a building; all of us are the living stones of God’s house, and anytime we pray and come together — physically, virtually, or in spirit, we are the church.
This decision is for this Sunday only. We are preparing for the possibility that the bishop will decide next week to cancel public worship. If that happens I’ll have more to say about how we can be physically apart and still come together for worship, and on how we will care for one another in these stressful days.
In the meantime I have decided to cancel all activities, church and nonchurch, for next week. That means no yoga, AA, Tuesday morning class, Wednesday Eucharist, choir practice, or Mary and Martha’s Place classes. The office will be open, and I expect to be there as usual.
I’d like to leave you with two things that brought me joy and hope this week. The first is a video of a street in Italy. The street is empty, but a voice rings out from an open window. Others up and down the street are soon leaning out their windows, taking up the song. A neighborhood separated in space coming together in music. Beautiful.
The second is a poem written for these days — Pandemic by Lynn Ungar, a Unitarian minister in San Francisco. You can read it below.
Take care of yourself. We’ll be together Sunday in either body or spirit.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath --
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing, Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another's hands.
(Surely, that has become clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love --
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
as long as we all shall live.