From Fr. Christopher
*Note: To reach Fr. Christopher for pastoral care needs, please call 920.266.9262.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As of this morning, at the directive of The Rt. Rev. Matthew Gunter, Bishop of Fond du Lac, we are suspending all public worship at All Saints Episcopal Church. This change in plans is a new development, and I am currently awaiting further news and instructions from our bishop, but in the meantime we need to get the word out that all services at All Saints have been cancelled until further notice.
Furthermore, until further notice, I am also closing the church buildings to public/outside use, and I am directing the staff to do as much of their work remotely from home as possible. Any regularly scheduled meetings or gatherings, therefore, that are on the calendar to take place within our building are as of now also cancelled until further notice.
My dear friends, these new developments weigh heavily on my heart--it is a key component of our Anglican identity that we gather together in communal worship. After all, our principal act of worship as Episcopal Christians is Holy Communion. That said, I completely and wholeheartedly concur with Bishop Matt's decision. At this moment, our priority is to demonstrate, to act out, our love for one another by doing everything in our power to keep each other as safe and as healthy as possible.
Moreover, a temporary physical separation from each other is hardly enough even to make a slight dent in the faith and witness of our shared ministry as the Body of Christ in Appleton, WI. "For I am convinced," as St. Paul says, "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-9). Or from each other, I would add.
That said, these next few weeks will indeed be difficult for all of us, but especially for those of us in the "higher risk" category who will feel the worst of the isolation to come. I'm working right now with the staff and Vestry and other lay leaders of All Saints to develop ways that we can all stay as connected as possible during this outbreak, despite our being physically "distanced." In particular, I will be stretching a bit beyond my own comfort zone in order to live-stream prayer services and to share video messages with all of you (details to be announced as they become available). We'll also be putting together a telephone ministry for reaching out to and staying in touch with our parishioners who do not use computers and cannot access social media or the Internet in general. (Again, details will be sent out as that ministry comes together.)
I'm working to set up a special phone number for pastoral care emergencies, so that you'll be able to get in touch with me directly during this separation, and I'll send that number out as soon as I get it set up. In the meantime, please feel free to email me, if you have email access, with questions ... or if you'd be interested in volunteering to work with the telephone ministry or other efforts to help keep us connected. I welcome your ideas!
Above all else, please know that, as I said on Sunday, God is with us, God will never leave us, and God will carry us through these difficult times. It's perfectly normal and healthy to be anxious just now, even perhaps fearful. And yet, we must also, even in times like these, be prepared to make an account of the hope that is in us, and that hope is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. We may not know at this time what the details of our Easter worship will look like by the time we get to the end of Lent. But we know--we know--that Easter morning will come, that the tomb will be empty, that He will be RISEN! With that knowledge in our minds and that hope in our hearts, let us spend these next few weeks in devotion and prayer, as befits us during the holy season of Lent, and let us look to the Rising of the Son to come.
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