Saturday, November 14th, 2020
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
My siblings in Christ,
A few weeks ago, during one of our large rainstorms, I looked out of the window and noticed a small bird resting on a branch. This beautiful creature had her small head tucked into her feathers, beak pressed upon breast and wings, folded, hugging her body. She was waiting, sheltered, under some leaves all the while the rain poured down. She trusted, waited, trusted and waited. Eventually, the storm abated and the sun began to break through the clouds. She shook the rain off, stretched her wings and began to sing. In a few moments, she took off in flight.
During this second wave of COVID, the storm is unleashing upon us once again. We may feel caught in the whirlwinds, but we do have a place to rest, bow our heads and patiently wait out the storm. Together, we will find a place for shelter through the Almighty who protects, covers and provides a place of refuge. Once again, it is time to trust and wait for the storm to run out of rain. The sun will once again break through these clouds.
I am writing to update you on the possibilities that may occur over the coming weeks. Yes, we are all tired of COVID, however, we knew that a second surge would hit during the fall and winter. This time is upon us and while disappointing, we are far better prepared to meet this obstacle.
Over the past seven months, we have learned what it takes to adapt, adjust, strengthen, and persevere. We have creatively applied technology and our liturgy and music are reaching people throughout the world. More importantly, we have leaned on one another and trusted in the Holy One. We have also realized that the Church did not collapse, we did not become spiritually distant nor did our diocese fade away. The Holy One provided and will continue to provide shelter, protection and a way through this storm.
I have said all along that if the numbers started to move in the wrong direction, our diocese would revert back to previous phases of our protocols. I am now strongly considering taking that step.
While at this moment nothing has been mandated by state or local government, as Christians we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. Jesus showed us the way when he laid down his life for us. As his followers we must be willing to sacrifice for the good of others. Therefore, after much prayer, reflection and input from our Diocesan Health Committee, if the numbers continue to rise, we will consider the following for the sake of everyone’s health:
I will make a determination about moving to Phase II on Tuesday, November 17th and announce it to the clergy as part of our regular call. A full communication will go out to the whole diocese the following day.
As you know, the safest course of action is to not gather in person at all. As you plan for Advent and Christmas, we strongly recommend you prepare contingency plans in case of greater restrictions. To assist you in this, a recorded workshop and list of resources will be posted to our website on Monday as part of Serviam.
If you have questions about how to interpret or apply the protocols, please contact Canon Shawn Wamsley at firstname.lastname@example.org or Canon Kirk Berlenbach at email@example.com. They are also prepared to help with creative ways of engaging our churches and communities with Advent and Christmas planning.
I would also like to remind each of our churches that the Board of Trustees approved a plan to set aside emergency funds for any church whose finances have been adversely affected by the pandemic. There is a brief questionnaire (here). Requests are addressed immediately and with a minimum of administrative delay. Applications and documents requested in the questionnaire should be submitted to Canon Doug Horner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together, we will find a place for shelter through the Almighty who protects, covers and provides a place of refuge. Once again, it is time to trust and wait for the storm to run out of rain. The sun will once again break through these clouds.
I leave you with this quote from Julian of Norwich: Jesus wants us to trust that he is always with us. He accompanies us in three ways: in heaven, where in his rising he raises us up with him; on earth, where he leads us day by day; and in our innermost being, where he constantly dwells to guide and preserve us. And this is our comfort—that we know in faith that Christ is constantly with us. Knowing this, we shall never succumb to the pain and woe, but always hope for another glimpse of his presence.
Peace be with you,
The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania