Bishop Gutierrez advises caution while coronavirus is epidemic
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”
(1 John 4:18)
It has been written that while coronavirus is the epidemic, fear is the true pandemic. I believe that information, credible information, can combat fear. Last week, I sent out an email with resources and information to everyone on our email list, as well as sharing it on social media.
Out of an abundance of caution, I want to iterate that information and provide a few more resources for churches – which will be of use now, and in the event this virus continues to progress as many health officials have predicted. We are also recommending services that can be useful regardless of the current situation.
(The majority of these recommendations are adapted from the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia in Washington state which is dealing with the most confirmed cases of coronavirus, COVID 19).
If you are sick, please stay home from church.
Use of the common cup. It is strongly recommended not to intinct (dip bread in wine) and to use a metal chalice to help reduce the spread of infection. I want to remind everyone that the communion is considered complete and holy if you receive just the host.
Handwashing procedures for priests and lay administrators. Everyone offering communion is asked to wash or sanitize hands before and after communion.
Baptismal fonts. If at all possible, except for at time of baptism, water in the fonts should be drained, and the practice of dipping the hands in the water of a font be discontinued.
Exchanging the peace. All physical contact should be discontinued during the Peace. Many of you have already adopted this. Practice bowing, making a prayerful sign to the other person, looking at them lovingly and offer the Peace.
Eucharistic visitors. If at all possible, it is recommended that home visits be restricted to ordained persons for now and that Eucharistic Visitors not be deployed until further notice.
The Collection Plate. We ask that churches consider collection without having the plate passed between people. Alternatives can include placing an alms basket by the entrances so that people can put in their offerings when they arrive at church, as well as dropping offering at the church office or secure mailbox. Also, we strongly encourage churches to consider online donations if they have not already. This is wonderful, at any time. The diocese recommends tithe.ly as a vendor for this. Please contact us to help get you set up.
Live-streaming services. Do you have a way to reach parishioners that are sick? Some of our churches already live-stream services to reach those that are home-bound with various illnesses. Facebook Live and Zoom are two recommendations. If you want more information on these and others please contact us. We are investigating options to purchase these services for churches.
I want to emphasize that we should not walk in fear. We can be careful, but not fearful. Christ reigns at the end of the day.
Your brother in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania