Another week of the Covid-19 shelter-in-place has gone by. It seems so long since I have written anything. Without the regularity of the weekly bulletin, and Sally asking me if I have the pastor’s message ready to go, I find that I busy myself with other things, and I tend to forget about much of what was a normal part of my day-to-day or week-to-week routine. It’s hard to believe that we’ve now been shut down for over two months. We went through a good part of Lent, then Easter, and now we’re already celebrating the Ascension, then Pentecost next weekend—and all of it without public Masses. When Detroit first announced they were suspending public worship at least until the beginning of Holy Week, I found it hard to believe. Then reality set in.
Recently, Bishop Fabbro announced that the Ontario bishops are working on guidelines for how we will reopen our houses of worship. Once that is done, the Diocese of London will issue directives for our diocese. We don’t know yet when that will be. What we do know is that our public worship will be different than it was before. Dioceses that have reopened have directives that include social distancing, wearing of masks, no singing, and many more changes. I imagine that ours will include these features.
In other words, we are taking a slow approach. Of paramount importance is protecting the health of our parishioners. When you think back to what it was like at Mass on Sundays, a significant percentage of our congregation is in a high-risk category, due to age and other factors. I am reluctant to do anything that might put someone else at risk. Recently, BBC reported that over 40 Covid-19 cases were traced to one church service in Germany. We will do what we can to avoid a similar occurrence here. I know that some of you will disagree with this approach. My hope and prayer is that any errors we make will lead to saving lives rather than losing them. I miss gathering as a worshipping community so much, and so look forward to returning to it when we can do so safely.
I would like to leave you with a thought from Rev. Deon K. Johnson, the bishop-elect of the Episcopalian church in Missouri:
The work of the church is essential.
The work of caring for the lonely, the marginalized, and the oppressed is essential.
The work of speaking truth to power and seeking justice is essential.
The work of being a loving, liberating, and life giving presence in the world is essential.
The work of welcoming the stranger, the refugee, and the undocumented is essential.
The work of reconciliation and healing and caring is essential.
The church does not need to “open” because the church never “closed”. We who make up the Body of Christ, the church, love God and our neighbours and ourselves so much that we will stay away from our buildings until it is safe. We are the church.