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Friday, March 13, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

CORVID-19 is now present in the diocese of East Carolina.  Bishop Skirving, in consultation with many of his priests and with the Executive Council, has suspended all corporate worship services for the month of March.  This will bring us in accord with Governor Roy Cooper’s request that large bodies not gather for the time being.  The bishop writes that he “would rather learn that such precautions were unnecessary than learn that by ignoring these recommendations we had contributed directly to the suffering of our neighbors.”  This is, I am also convinced, the best way to love our neighbors at the present time.  I hope that our actions will slow the spread and flatten the curve of infections so that hospitals will not be overwhelmed.

There is nothing heroic about meeting under these circumstances.  True heroism comes not from ignoring danger, but from considering what is best for the whole.  I ask that those planning on meeting in the building consider prayerfully whether the importance of the meeting outweighs the dangers and our responsibility to be good citizens of the state and world.  Please keep in mind that the incubation period for the illness may be as long as two weeks and people may be asymptomatic carriers.  In the early days of AIDS, we taught people to assume that everyone had HIV.  After consideration, if you decide to meet, I ask that you practice social distancing for your own good and for the good of others.  Avoid contact; wash your hands frequently; refrain from touching your face.  It may feel cold, but in this environment, it is an act of love.

That being said, the building of St. James will remain open during the customary hours for the time being.  David and I will be available, as always.  Please be considerate of our well being and wash your hands upon entering the facility.  I am also always available by phone.

Even though the Explorers’ Class is only fourteen people, some are in the higher risk group and are not comfortable attending.  I wish to honor their concerns.  I therefore am postponing the class.  Those seeking confirmation/reception can be confirmed on May 31 (assuming you provide information about your baptism) whether or not we have completed the course.  I trust that you will continue classes after confirmation if that becomes necessary.

If you know of anyone who is in spiritual, emotional, or financial need as a result of COVID-19, please refer them to me.  I encourage you to check by phone on those neighbors and friends who might otherwise not have contact.

I see the warmth with which you greet one another—the smiles, the hugs—and know that you will miss being together for worship, but we are still together in prayer.  In addition, I will continue to record a sermon based on the Eucharistic readings and will post it on YouTube (link below) and will send out the text to everyone.  In addition, I will attempt to broadcast morning prayer live Sunday morning at 9:00 AM from the nave of St. James so that you can participate from home.  The easiest way to do morning prayer is from the Mission St. Clare website (https://www.missionstclare.com/; click on “Morning and Evening Prayer,” and then on the icon).  There is also a Mission St. Clare app available for smartphones.  You can use your phone for morning prayer and watch from your computer.  If you do not have a smartphone, you can listen to morning prayer in the background while you read the Mission St. Clare website on your computer.

As you isolate yourselves more, I hope that you will use the time to do those things you are normally too busy to do.  Call friends and family who are far away.  Play Words with Friends.  Pray morning and  evening prayer.  Sit quietly and enjoy the pleasant weather.  Take an online course.

I will call all those whom I know have no computer.  God will bring something good out of this, and I pray that you will all remain safe.  I look forward to worshipping together our loving God in the near future.

With brotherly affection,

Farrell+