Grace Episcopal Church has suspended all in-person campus events, activities, and worship services until further notice. Please visit our Grace@Home page to see ways we are staying connected to one another, to Grace, and to God during the days ahead.
422 Brenau Avenue, Gainesville, GA 30501
Dear People of Grace,
Bishop Wright sent a pastoral directive out to the leadership of the diocese today with new directives for our Sunday worship services. I am in touch with our leadership team at Grace pertaining to these changes in our worship life, and I want you to know that I will do my best to hold both the anxiety around the virus as well as any frustration that this change in our liturgy will spark. These are not easy days for us as a local or global community, and I ask that we all continue to ground ourselves in prayer.
I must tell you that the heaviest weight on my heart comes from stopping our Eucharistic Visitations to those who are ill or homebound. This makes me teary, that our sense of Communion is strained by the circumstances we find ourselves in. I believe we can manage our Sunday worship as best as we can, at this point, with the below listed changes as to Communion, Passing the Peace, and the Offertory. The irony is (if that is the right word) that we have for so long realized the essential grounding that Holy Communion has on our lives, celebrating the Eucharist every week together. Now we find ourselves having to face a shift in consciousness regarding this core foundation of our common life.
To that end: I want to assure you that Cynthia and I are going to work with the pastoral team to make ourselves as available as we can regarding pastoral visitations and parishioner compassion. At this point, as the bishop states below, the health department has not advised that we stop gathering, so we will do what we can, my friends. These days are calling for more imaginative embodiments of pastoral care and formation!
Also, let me say here that I do not know when this will shift back to our common practice, regarding Communion and worship. I am not sure when we will re institute wine at Communion, or our other customs. We will do what we can.
I am asking you to use your best judgment as to whether you come to Sunday services. As of today, I am asking Jeremy to install a wireless modem in the nave so that I can live stream the liturgy on Facebook and have it available on other social media venues. For those who feel they need to stay home, we will do what we can to remain in touch with you.
If I can end with this: I am grieving, as I know you are. I am sad and frustrated and confused, and scared, honestly. I do not know what it will mean for our financial health should attendance wane. I know that many will feel more isolated in our parish. I know that some (maybe honestly a few) will feel this is a stretch. I also know that I have limited tools in my tool box to alleviate the anxiety. I love you all dearly, and Cynthia, the staff, and vestry, and I will do what we can to support and encourage this vital spiritual community.
I will be in touch with you with any updates. Please read the note from Bishop Wright below.
God’s blessings, always,
March 10, 2020
Beloved, what follows is an update of my last communication to you. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I have adopted and amended what Bishop Greg Rickel distributed to the Diocese of Olympia, a diocese with many more cases of COVID-19 confirmed and more experience with combatting this virus. You should expect that, as developments unfold, I will update the Diocese regarding our common life and COVID-19. Let me also say that as we take up these behaviors to help keep ourselves safe, let us take up a new depth in our prayer life. In the days and weeks to come, join me in praying for those who are sick and those who love them, and for those who have died because of this virus; for those who are oppressed by fear and for those who are losing the income that sustains them.
Let us also pray for those in the medical, scientific, research and pharmaceutical communities devoting their time and talent to the cause of global health. And, let us pray for all our elected officials and all those who hold the common trust that their wisdom and compassion for all people will increase.
Finally, I pray that your faith in our unshakable God will be your consolation during these anxiety producing times.
The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright
The Diocese of Atlanta
With new information and new requests from health officials, I have decided to require the clergy of this diocese to practice the following guidelines:
1. While the common cup, properly administered, has been scientifically proven to be safer than intinction, health officials are now asking us to cease the use of the common cup. For this reason, I am asking that this be done in all of our parishes starting immediately. The cup can certainly continue to be used by the priest in the presidency of the Eucharist but offering it to the altar party and/or the congregation should cease for the time being. Last week I asked you to consider stopping the practice of intinction. Today, I am directing you to stop the use of the common cup.
2. With this in mind, communion will only be offered in one kind, the bread. With this, I have received a few new practices and ideas. One is to have as few people as possible, preferably priests, to administer the bread, and that those people wash their hands and sanitize often while distributing. Every effort should be made not to touch the hands of those receiving.
3. The new request from health officials regards the water in the baptismal font. I guess one good thing is that this is happening in Lent. So, for Lent, and until we know more, I am requesting that when possible, and if possible, water in the fonts be drained, and that the practice of dipping the hands in the water of a font be discontinued. Scientists who have reviewed this feel that the virus could be spread in this manner, though not proven. I am directing you to do this however, this being Lent, there should be very few baptisms!
4. The Peace. Refrain from hugging or shaking hands during the Sign of Peace (a bow, elbow bump or verbal gesture is appropriate). Also, refrain from holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer.
5. Eucharistic Visitors. I believe this practice of sending Eucharistic Visitors should be ceased for now. Eucharistic Visitors visiting homes is an opportunistic issue with this virus, and puts those in the home, and those visiting, at risk. My request is that home visits be restricted to ordained persons for now and that Eucharistic Visitors not be deployed until further notice.
6. Passing the offering plate. You are urged not to pass the plate from hand to hand. You are encouraged to instruct your people not to touch it, but to have your ushers make sure anyone who wants to put an offering in can. You might put the plate in one spot and ask people to come to the plate to put in their offerings.
Institute rigorous daily cleaning of all surfaces commonly touched, such as alter rails and door knobs, etc.
Additionally, make sure you have hand sanitizer in plentiful supplies at every entrance to your worship space, and your property. If you cannot find hand sanitizer use rubbing alcohol of 70% or more.
And please reiterate to all congregants that each person should, in their own minds and hearts, decide how much or little they will participate.
For now, health officials are not calling for gatherings to cease, but they are calling for us to be very mindful of how we gather and what we do when we do.
Coronavirus Guidance and Resources
The Diocese of Atlanta has compiled these resources to address concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19). With positive cases confirmed within our region, the following precautions are now recommended in the parishes and other institutions of the Diocese of Atlanta.
Information for Individuals
Anyone who is ill, or suspects he or she is ill, should refrain from participation in public activities, including Mass. Those who are homebound can watch weekly Sunday Mass online. If your parish does not offer live streaming, you may use the live stream service of The Cathedral of St. Philip.
Practice good personal health habits. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your elbow. Hands should be washed often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
Episcopal Relief and Development is providing information relevant to COVID-19 on its website. Educate yourself on the coronavirus.
For more information on the coronavirus, visit the CDC website at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/
For local updates visit the Georgia health department website at: https://dph.georgia.gov/