COVID-19 Pastoral Letter

Friday, March 13, 2020

Beloved in Christ,

I have no doubt that like me you have been paying keen attention to the development of COVID-19 these last few days including yesterday’s announcement of the first case in Barrie. All of a sudden things have hit closer to home.

As you know the Diocese of Toronto has already suspended certain liturgical practices as a precautionary measure including the sharing of the chalice during Holy Communion and physical contact during the passing of the peace. In fact, we should refrain from unnecessary physical contact before, during, and after worship.

In keeping with these recommendations the wardens and I, after consulting with healthcare professionals, have made the decision to suspend coffee hour and Sunday school for the time being. Let us take this as an opportunity to model genuine and holy worship for our children. We also recommend that during the liturgy we observe the practice of “social distancing” as best we can. This involves spreading out and giving each other sufficient space including when we come to the rail to receive communion.

As the Bishop of Brandon stated in a recent pastoral letter to his own diocese, such precautions are not rooted in fear for our own safety but rather in concern for those members of the body of Christ who for one reason or another are at greater risk. These are temporary changes and we hope to be back to our regular practice as soon as possible.

Perhaps the most important thing that I want to say to you is that this present pandemic is an opportunity for us to show our neighbours the goodness of God and the strength and resiliency of the Church. Let me suggest two ways of accomplishing this: by drawing nearer to our Lord in prayer and nearer to one another in love. Now, more than ever, we need to do this.

When St Paul wrote to the church in Philippi he reminded them, “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The Lord is near, always. We know this. Therefore, during this time of heightened anxiety let us go deeper in prayer. Let us hold before our blessed Lord the concerns of the world and the church.

For now, our usual rhythm of daily prayer and Sunday worship will continue as it has been. If you make the decision to stay home from church either as a precaution or because you are feeling unwell with new cold/flu symptoms please know that we are willing to arrange a home visit to bring the sacrament of Holy Communion to you at an appropriate time. Simply be in touch. You can also listen to current sermons here: www.parishofcraighurstandmidhurst.org/sermons.

Moreover, beginning today Friday, March 13, I am inviting you to join me in praying the Litany every weekday (M-F) at noon. This short service will be live-streamed daily from the St John’s facebook page (www.facebook.com/stjohnscraighurst) and can easily fit into your lunch break. If you do not have internet access simply pause and pray wherever you are. Attached to this email you will find a copy of the Litany for your convenience.

As we draw near to the Lord in prayer let us also, as we are able, draw near to one another in love. This can be as simple as phoning someone you may not have seen in a while or that you know may be anxious just to check in. Or, if you have questions or concerns of a medical nature you may call our parish nurse Beth Conway (705-726-5413). Let’s look out for one another.

Let’s also look out for our neighbours especially those who are particularly vulnerable: the aged, the isolated, the poor. We don’t want anyone living in our parish to be forgotten. If you are not at an elevated risk yourself and have been asymptomatic for the past two weeks step up and reach out. As your pastor I will be right there beside you. If you are concerned about a friend or neighbour please call me (647-231-3483) and I will make every effort to check in on them.

One final note, we should be aware of the financial implications that lower attendance can have on small churches. If you anticipate being absent please consider signing up for PAR or mailing your cheques to the church office (5 Noraline Avenue, Midhurst, ON, L9X 0M8).

Jesus is Lord and he is near. Let us draw near to him in prayer and near to one another in love.

Yours in Christ,

Father Jonathan

ps – Wash your hands!

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