Serious Times Require Serious Leadership
Dear Members of the Church of the Redeemer and St. Stephen’s, Clifton Heights,
No fear! Just common sense, which sometimes feels a rare commodity in our society. I have been praying and thinking through everything I know or have learned in my time in this earthly vessel. I have been assembling data, listening to experts, and am reading research with regard to actions that we can take in our parishes to combat any disease spread. Furthermore, I have considered information published on the Diocese of Pennsylvania website, as of just now. The information I am sharing is as relevant for dealing with the common cold, flu outbreaks, and of course the potential of the new corona virus.
First and foremost, think and follow the guidance of the experts. Wash your hands thoroughly, stand a little further away from others when outside of your controlled environments, keep all hard surfaces clean, and exercise common sense.
Second, do not put yourself at needless risk. What is needless risk? Since there is not yet a definitive method that corona virus is spread, the CDC has though published the following:
“There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
· Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
· Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
· These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
The CDC also writes that: “Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Please consult with your health care provider about additional steps you may be able to take to protect yourself.” And while this feels a little cya-like, it does make sense to me.
There are some behaviors in our churches that have potential to increase risk. I am, because in these areas, the buck stops here, with limited, though some consultation with lay leaders, decided to do everything in my power to thwart potential exposure. I am shifting our corporate worship to Morning Prayer.
Common sense dictates that during our sharing of Holy Communion there are three times when we are at a greater risk to share each other’s junk, the Peace, the Offertory, and at the Altar Rail.
I have read vetted peer reviewed research from microbiologists and believe that I know enough to recognize that the threat to the spread of disease is through becoming in close personal contact, such as we do during the peace and at the Communion Rail. Interestingly, it is not through how we share Communion, either Body or Blood, it is in our close contact.
Therefore, for the next few weeks, a common sense way to deal with that is to have Morning Prayer eliminating both the Peace and sharing the Body and Blood of Jesus, and changing the way that we collect folk’s offering to God. We need to gather, because when two or three are gathered, the Christ is in the middle of us. We need to pray together. We need our human contact. And to stay home does not feel like common sense, it feels an overreaction.
During the next few weeks the Alms basin will rest on a small Table and I ask all folks to physically place their offering in that Alms basin. If you decide not to attend worship, please keep your donations up by mailing them to the church each week.
Please keep an eye out on the websites for any updates that may be published.
Your Safety is My Number One Priority: I want you all to know that I am/we are taking your safety very seriously. During this middle time when we have uncertainty about how Corona Virus is spread, we must recognize the rapidity in which the virus is covering the globe and take appropriate practical actions.
And while this document is not a spiritual writing, I want you to know that it was birthed out of my understanding of Scripture and in particular the Book of James. I suggest that during this time that we have around the house we catch up on Bible reading. James takes – really – very little time to read and reading it may inspire you to go back and read the entire New Testament, from its beginning at the Gospel According to Matthew.
The Rev. Jonathan Clodfelter
I am an Episcopal Priest with significant experience and appropriate education attempting to lead in this church of the 21st Century. I currently lead both St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Clifton Heights and the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, Springfield.