Updated: Dec 9, 2020

Dear Friends:

In a communication just received from our Bishop, he writes:

My siblings in Christ,

Throughout this time, I have witnessed in both large and small ways the expression of love throughout the diocese. Yes, we have had a difficult journey, but it is one we share with the entire world. We are not alone and this strengthens our resolve. We love one another, we pray for one another, we praise one another and we protect one another. Through this we demonstrate our deep love for the Holy One. And this is what truly matters.

We are entering another resting place on our pilgrimage. With our Lord, there are no coincidences. As we enter into Advent, our call is to focus deeply on Christ and how that reorders the essential things in life. As John the Baptist proclaims: “We must decrease so that he may increase.” In this dark time we must be a light that radiates the love of the most Holy One. Let our love for one another be like a fire that throws a luminous and clear flame.

I care deeply about each one of our churches and each one of you. We cannot ignore the surging numbers or pretend they do not exist. We are at a critical juncture and I will not take a chance with your health and safety. … I am deeply concerned about the surging number of COVID-19 cases in our diocese. I have said all along that if the numbers started to move in the wrong direction, that our diocese would revert back to previous phases of our protocols.

(Therefore, for the weeks ahead), we strongly and pastorally recommend that churches consider offering only virtual/online worship or look to gather outside.

Following Bishop Gutierrez's guidelines and recommendations, I have made the difficult decision to eliminate in-person worship for the first three Sundays of Advent (November 29, December 6 & 13).

In-person worship WILL be held

this coming Sunday, November 22nd, at 9:30a.m.

While we will not be gathering in-person for three weeks, we will continue to video and post worship services on the church website each week ( I encourage you to take advantage of this capability to gather virtually with the members of your faith community and participate with us, as Christmas approaches, in preparing to receive Our Lord once more.

I assure you that this decision is not made lightly, but is being made out of an abundance of caution and for the continued health and safety of all parishioners. In the week of December 14th, the Bishop will re-evaluate the situation and send out further guidelines, extending the period of closing or loosening the restrictions. Once these updated guidelines are received, new decisions can then be made and all parishioners will be notified.

As of this writing, I have not heard of any parishioners who have been infected with COVID, and that encourages me that the precautions we have enacted here at Messiah have been effective. Based on this positive note, we will forge on ahead carefully, deliberately, thoughtfully and prayerfully.

I ask for your understanding and flexibility as we journey through this unprecedented season together. As we hear more about vaccines and other measures, let us hope and pray that this virus is soon tamed and life and routines can soon return to some semblance of normalcy.

I leave you with the Bishop's closing words, finding that his thoughts echo my own:

This path forward has arisen out of prayer and out of my great love for each one of you. As your shepherd and fellow pilgrim, I can do no less. We journey forward together as one people, one diocese, one body in Christ. We hold one another in love and in constant prayer, knowing that it is the Holy One who will guide our steps and lead us through the wilderness into the green pastures he has prepared for us. Those pastures are not far off, we take this time to rest, prepare, keep watch for danger and then carry on in faith.

Blessings, grace and hope in the days and weeks ahead!

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