|A Pastoral Directive from Bishop Perry|
March 24, 2020
Dear Friends, Yesterday, the Honorable Gretchen Whitmer, our governor, issued Executive Order 2020-21. This order requires temporarily suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life. This order is commonly referred to as “Staying Home Safe.” This new “Stay Home Safe” order will have several ramifications for our congregations and the ongoing ministries and community services that operate from our church properties. Given the governor’s order, effective today and continuing until further notification, I am directing the following activities:
WORSHIP AND HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS
All church buildings are to be shut down and all ministries and business functions suspended. This means that no clergy, staff, volunteers, ministries, groups, daycares, tenants and community partnerships are allowed on church property. Appropriate arrangements should be made to have mail services temporarily held and essential business functions carried out remotely, to the best of a congregation’s ability.All virtual liturgies, which many of our congregation have so wonderfully offered over the past weeks, are no longer allowed on church property. More clearly stated, this means that access to church property for the videotaping, live-streaming, or audio recording of worship services, bible study, musical programs, etc., is temporarily suspended. The exception to this directive is the 10 or so congregations in our diocese where the cleric lives in a rectory adjacent to or on the grounds of the church. In these instances, given the cleric is the only person on the premises, liturgies may be live-streamed or taped from these sanctuaries.
HUNGER AND SHELTER MINISTRIES
Regarding food pantries and ministries providing essential community services: I will consider these on a case-by-case basis. If congregations can demonstrate to me that safe, health department approved procedures are being used, and that a zero transmission environment is being maintained, I may make an exception and allow these ministries to continue to operate on our church grounds and in our church buildings. Additionally, these ministries must not be using any staff or volunteers who fall within the group of those most vulnerable to contracting the Covid-19 virus.
In the past few days, many congregational leaders have contacted me with concerns over how the lack of in-person worship services may impact their finances. I share this concern and after prayer and conversation with a number of our lay and ordained leaders, I am directing our staff not to send apportionment invoice statements or Total Ministry assessment invoices to our congregations for the month of April. In addition, we will temporarily suspend the existing process of seeking apportionment relief and replace it with a new streamlined process. More details on the streamlined process will be forthcoming.
Going forward, I urge all of our congregations to explore ways that parishioners can continue to honor their pledges via e-giving or through recurring online bill pay options. And I ask that one member or leader of your congregation participate in an “On-Line Giving” Webinar that we are offering this Thursday, March 26 at 9:00 am.
AS A COMMUNITY OF COMMUNITIES OF FAITH
I am heartsick at the suffering that this virus is causing in our diocese, our country, and in our world. And I know that now is the time that we, people of faith, must embody Christ’s greatest commandments,
“To love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and To Love your neighbor as yourself.”
My directives are intended to assist us in doing just this.
I long for the time when we will once again be able to gather together to pray, to receive the sacraments, to laugh, to cry, to dance, and to serve. That time will come.
For now, we are all affected by this pandemic and working together we will come through this very difficult time.
In closing, I offer you words from the Apostle Paul, that have comforted me as I find myself saying them throughout the day:
Glory to God whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to Him from generations to generations in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Ephesians 3: 20, 21
May they be of some comfort to you as well.
Wash your hands.
In Christ,The Rt. Rev. Dr. Bonnie A. Perry
Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan