MESSIAH UPDATE MESSAGE FROM THE RECTOR
Wednesday, 25 March 2020
Such a strange and unprecedented time we find ourselves in these days. Each day - sometimes each hour! - seems to bring new changes. And each new, sometimes contradictory or confusing announcement, seems only to take us further into uncharted waters. As I was spending some time in quiet reflection and saying my prayers on this rather gray and sunless morning, I took comfort that this daily routine sustains me through the changes and chances of this season. The words that comprise my morning prayer, a prayer I have said for many years, since seminary thirty years ago, having no idea who wrote it or where it comes from, suddenly take on new meaning and significance:
thank you for bringing me safely through the night that is past,
and into the glory of this new day."
In these ever-changing times and unfolding series of seemingly 'gray' days, today truly is glorious! Or, more specifically, today will bring its own unique and new and unprecedented glory! Indeed, each morning dawns with the promise of new glories from God, the one unchanging and ever-constant Presence who greets me each morning and invites me to walk with him each day. Just as, before the Fall, God would walk with Adam in the Garden, so each morning brings with it a new opportunity to walk with God; and with eyes wide open and unclouded, I can but be amazed at the wonder and the glory and the majesty of each day, a new, never-before-seen Creation. May you, too, be blessed with the grace to awake and greet each morning as an opportunity to witness the new glories revealed to you each new day.
On a near-daily basis, we have been receiving emails and messages from our Bishop. I am deeply grateful for his dedication, devotion and the pastoring we clergy receive from him. Yesterday morning, the clergy received a pastoral letter from Bishop Gutierrez with both words of encouragement and support, along with further instructions and directives. Included was the following:
"After much prayer, and further consultation with the clergy, leadership and laity of the diocese, I now provide further pastoral instruction related to the worship and spiritual life of our churches:
The churches and clergy of the Diocese of Pennsylvania will continue to forgo all public, in-person worship services. This suspension in in effect until (Monday) May 4 (as recommended by the CDC). We will re-evaluate the situation at the end of April and issue further instruction as necessary. This suspension also includes all other in-person gatherings (including weddings, bible studies, prayer meetings, and non-emergency baptisms). For burial and memorial services, please contact your rector who, in consultation with me, will determine what may be possible.
In keeping with my ordination vows to "obey your Bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work", both I, personally, and Church of the Messiah, collectively will suspend all church services, meetings, events and activities until further notice. Unfortunately, this covers the period of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter, and, for that fact, I truly grieve; for to gather with you all to walk these most holy and blessed days and celebrations is one of my greatest joys as your Rector and Pastor.
The Bishop and consulting clergy and lay leaders are exploring alternatives for in-person worship and will be advising us of these possibilities in the near future. These alternatives will be passed along as I receive them.
In the meantime, please continue to use the Morning Prayer service that I distributed a couple of weeks ago and which can be found on the parish website (messiahgwynedd.org). For Palm Sunday, Easter morning, and the Sundays following, I will develop an expanded Morning Prayer service, a sermon, and other worship resources to be sent out and posted on the website sometime next week. You can also consult the diocesan website (diopa.org) for a listing of churches offering FaceBook Live and other streaming services.
I will be sending a hard copy of this notice to those parishioners who do not have access to a computer or who have not given us an email address. But I am asking your help in ensuring that these individuals are not left out of these important communications. If you know of someone without computer access, please contact them by phone, give them the latest update, and ask if they would welcome a copy. If so, then print a copy and make arrangements to get these to them by mail or other means.
One of our main concerns over these next several weeks is how to maintain that sense of community we all treasure and find so necessary as part of a healthy life. I cannot encourage strongly enough how important it is that each and every one of us go out of our way to make a phone call, send an email or note to others within the congregation, those who are shut-in or live alone, or others who may be experiencing heightened anxiety during this perios. I am begging your assistance in keeping in touch with one another throughout these unusual times, amidst stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures.
Please make it a point to consult the church website (messiahgwynedd.org) on a regular basis. There you will find the latest updates, worship resources, a weekly sermon and Lenten reflection, and other important information.
As plans evolve and develop, which they will surely do, I will make sure to keep you updated as best I can. I ask for your patience and understanding. Indeed, patience and understanding are great gifts we can give ourselves, our family and friends, medical personnel, grocery and store clerks and all other essential personnel who continue to minister to our needs. Let us be kind with ourselves and with one another.
Stay safe! Keep your distance! Stay home whenever possible! Wash your hands! Say your prayers! Give thanks for the wonder and glory of each new day!
In the name of our savior Jesus Christ,
and our God who wants only health and wholeness for his children,
I send you blessings, peace and grace in these uncertain, confusing and anxious times.
STAFF ACCESS & THE RECTOR'S
EMERGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION
For safety and health reasons, all church staff members have been instructed to work from home until restrictions are lifted and it is deemed safe to reopen the church office. When possible, I intend to be in my church office each day between 9:00am and 1:00pm. During this time, I will answer the office phone (215-699-9204) and reply to phone and email messages (please use my email as opposed to the general office email address: (firstname.lastname@example.org).
IN THE EVENT OF A PASTORAL EMERGENCY, PLEASE CONTACT ME BY USING MY PERSONAL CELL PHONE NUMBER (215-692-2667).
PLEASE REMEMBER YOUR PLEDGE
While Sunday church services and parish events are suspended, the bills still arrive and must be paid. We will be most grateful if you would remember to drop off your church pledge during the office hours listed above, or send your payment to: Church of the Messiah, 1001 DeKalb Pike, Lower Gwynedd, PA 19002-1941.
Thank you to those of you who have submitted your pledge! We are most grateful!
WHY ARE THERE CARS IN THE PARKING LOT?
A concerned parishioner contacted me inquiring why there were cars in the church lot when all church services and events have been cancelled.
Thank you for asking: While Messiah activities have been suspended, some other important activities that use our parish facilities are still ongoing. These include counseling sessions for the Good Samaritan Counseling Center, as well as AA, AlAnon and AlATeen meetings. For the individuals who rely on these meetings to maintain sobriety and mental health, these are too important to cancel and the Bishop has encouraged parishes to continue to allow these groups to meet. We are pleased to continue to offer these important services here at Messiah.
MORE PARISH EVENT CANCELLATIONS
In addition to Sunday and Holy Week worship services, the following parish-sponsored events have been cancelled:
LifeLine Screening, April 1st
Red Cross Blood Mobile, April 6th*
*Please note: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the nation's blood supply has been severely depleted. If you are able to donate blood, please contact the Red Cross directly to make arrangements to give.
Eucharist at Brittany Pointe, April 14th
Vestry meeting, April 20th
Eucharist at Meadowood, April 26th
Annual Parish Meeting, May 3rd
A PRAYER FROM THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER
O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and on earth: Put away from us all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
WORDS OF COMFORT & PRAISE FROM THE PSALMS
May God be merciful to us and bless us, *
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
Let your ways be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.
Let your peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, *
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.
Let the people praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has brought forth her increase; *
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.
May God give us his blessing, *
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.
Psalm 67, Book of Common Prayer