May 15, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

This week the Governor of Maryland loosened, to a degree, some of the CV-19 quarantine-related restrictions of the last two months. Included in the Governor’s Order was permission for churches, temples and mosques to have in-person worship services, within limits. As the document makes clear, the lifting of these restrictions does not mean that the health implications and sickness associated with CV-19 are under control. There are good reasons to be both hopeful and cautious.

Concurrent with this development was a reiterated directive from the Diocese of Easton that in-person worship services will continue to be suspended until and including Sunday, May 31. Additionally, in order to facilitate the process of preparing for reopening, the Diocese has also constituted the “COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Response Task Force.” The task force is developing the minimum requirements expected of the parishes of the Diocese prior to their being permitted to hold in-person services. I am a member of that team. It is obvious from what we have seen to this point, this is going to be a new reality.

As is true of all organizations in this time, there is much to consider and implement before the doors are to open. The Vestry of Christ Church and I discussed this to some extent at our last meeting on Tuesday, May 12. Our conviction is to move forward with due diligence and with great care. The well-being of the congregation is of fundamental concern; therefore we are putting safety ahead of urgency. In the next two weeks, we will begin what will be an arduous process of preparing to reopen. Even so, we are not ready to say when that may be or what that will look like. As we all have seen, this is a dynamic and fluid time. Things have changed rapidly; and we will not be surprised to see this continue to be true going forward. What we do know is that worship services will be different from what we were doing before this all began. Details will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.

We will be monitoring developments around the country and in the state as other churches open ahead of us. We will be attentive to their best practices, and their experiences--both good and bad. As important as it is for the community of faith to be together, and as important as it is for us to share communion, I want you to know that I will be moving very carefully on this. Some may feel that we are moving too slow; but everyone should know that the best interests of all is in my heart. Based on our conversation this Tuesday, the consensus of the Vestry is the same. This is out of a deep concern for any possibility of my, or of our, being a part of the transmission of this virus to one another. None of us wants to have happen here what has already happened in a number of other churches where precautions were insufficient to prevent fellow parishioners from being consequently infected. Obviously, nothing is risk-free and nothing is ever totally safe. No one has to remind me of that reality. However, I am also the kind of person to make sure I have more than enough safety equipment with me when I have people in a boat with me and we go out on the water. It’s not because I think we are going to sink; it’s because if these bad things should happen I want to have the assurance I did everything that was within my capacity to have provided for the people in my care.

Always to be kept in front of us, and foremost in our hearts and minds and souls, is that we are the people of God seeking God’s will for us. These unprecedented times have called into question many things we have long thought and assumed settled in the practice of our faith.  Profoundly and powerfully, the pandemic has revealed God at work in us in new ways, and is showing that God is making a new thing come into being in our lives. In the midst of so much fear, death and destruction, God is hope, life and new creation. To be clear, in no way do I believe that God called this virus into existence to judge the world. And yet I do believe that God in his holy love is redeeming this time for good, and that the church is being made a more active element of his work of redemption. His Holy Spirit is rising up as a new life, and the church as we knew it is being reformed in the forge and fire of this crisis into something more pure and glorious and hopeful.

In the midst of this, along with all your prayers for the safety and well-being of the world, I also ask for your prayers for me, and for the staff and for each other. Please know that you are in my prayers.

May the love of God in Christ be with you and bless you,

Fr. Bill