Greetings fellow followers of Christ at the Chapel of Saint John the Divine,
We are in a strange moment in the life of our nation and world, given the spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. This is a difficult time for leadership, both in the nation and for churches, and responses have been many and varied.
I want you to know that we are paying attention to science and praying for wisdom in the ordering of our common life. On March 12, 2020, a Zoom meeting was held for clergy by the Champaign County Public Health Department. At this meeting, it was strongly recommended that churches cancel public gatherings of over 50 people, including public worship. They also recommended that persons over 60 be discouraged from attending church functions due to the high level of personal risk.
In consultation with Bishop Matthew Gunter, our Delegated Episcopal Oversight Bishop, and Rector’s Warden Steve Vaughan, I am suspending our normal services at the Chapel, effective immediately, as a temporary and precautionary measure.
This will not keep us from worshipping, if even not in the same room. In place of in-person worship, we will provide a livestreamed service of Morning Prayer on Sundays at 10 a.m. and a livestreamed service of Evening Prayer on Wednesdays at 5:15 p.m. We will provide a pdf of the service leaflet 24 hours in advance of the service via email so that you can participate from your home. Links for livestreams will be provided soon.
This encouragement by Champaign County Public Health was not terribly surprising to me. In consultation with their own state and local officials, many Episcopal parishes and dioceses have now suspended public worship in the last 24 hours.
We cannot pretend we are not in the midst of a pandemic, and life during such a time is not normal. The last time the world dealt with a pandemic was over 100 years ago, with the spread of Spanish flu. As such, none of us has lived, worked, or “been the church” during a pandemic before, so this is new ground for clergy and lay leaders across the church.
Together, we will take courage, be patient, consider the least of these, and press onward while loving our neighbor.
The Reverend Sean Ferrell, Rector