I am sure you may have heard it said before: “A broken crayon can still write.” The point of this adage is that the functionality of the crayon - its ability to still be a useful instrument to do the very thing for which it was manufactured or, to use another language, its life giving capability in spite of it’s brokenness - is very much assured.
Over the past several weeks, the scourge of COVID-19 has entirely consumed the life of the world, and of our own lives here. The progressive heightening of this worldwide issue is frightening, to say the least - the entire country of Italy, for example, is on lockdown. The stock markets have experienced a crazy swing. Sporting and other entertainment events have been postponed or cancelled, or teams have had to play in empty stadiums. Airlines have had to fly empty in order to keep their slots (I didn’t even know that there was something like "slots" for airlines, and that they could lose theirs to another airline. Incredible!!). I've read that all out-of-state Howard County Public School System activities have been cancelled until further notice. The point is, there’s nothing comforting about all that we’re hearing on TV, reading on the internet, or studying in the newspaper.
The Burial Office of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer has these words “In The Midst Of Life, There’s Death.” This is an acknowledgment of the brokenness of the world in which we live. And the present fight with COVID-19 not only brings our brokenness to light, but it makes it even sharper. As broken as we acknowledge the world to be, the brokenness doesn’t mean the world shouldn’t function; it should, for the least it can offer is the healing and mending necessary to bring about the wholeness we all crave for. As broken as this crayon is, it doesn’t mean there isn’t any life in it. There’s life in it because it can still write. Likewise, as broken as we are, it doesn’t mean there isn’t any more life in us. Of course there’s life in us. There’s life in the world. There’s life around us. That is why I am all for the fight towards eradicating or mitigating the effect of COVID-19 among us.
This would mean, first, listening to health experts such as the World Health Organization, the CDC and the Maryland Department of Health who have put out detailed information about how we can contribute towards keeping others safe as well as ourselves. If you click on the links located here and here, you will be able to learn more about how you can help fight COVID-19.
Second, the Bishop of Maryland - who is our ecclesial head - has put out detailed information regarding worship on Sundays and other gatherings. I have been working with our Wardens on the best possible ways of addressing this issue, and one of the innovative options is to try and livestream our worship. This Sunday, we will livestream the 10:30 a.m. worship at Christ Church, and work towards doing the same for future Sundays. All you have to do is to visit the Christ Church Facebook page or website at that time to join us in worship. More details are elsewhere in this email.
Additionally, I invite you to read an abridged version of Bishop Sutton’s statement, and also read also the proactive steps we are taking to ensure that we maintain our common life and still ensure the safety and health of all parishioners. Here is the statement: "Please remember that The Episcopal Church is largely a Eucharistically-centered Christian community. To deny the Holy Eucharist to people on a regular basis in worship would present a serious theological challenge to a sacramentally formed community. Thus, I encourage the regular celebration of the holy communion, remembering that receiving the Eucharist in one kind (just the bread) makes a full communion.
I am placing a ban distribution of wine for the next few months, until further notice. If circumstances allow, I anticipate lifting the ban on Pentecost Day. Banning the use of wine and the cup until then will get us through Easter, a time where we want to be most welcoming to visitors and ensure that all feel as safe as possible in worship.
At the Eucharist, the priest shall consecrate both kinds (the bread and the wine):
Wine: In keeping with tradition, and at their discretion, priests and attending clergy alone may consume the consecrated wine on behalf of the congregation.
Bread: Use of wafers only -- no baked bread at this time. Paten bearers must be sure to wash their hands and take care not to have their fingers touch the outstretched hand of the communicant.
Blessings: Worshipers may come forward to receive a blessing rather than receive communion. Blessings are to be offered visually, but with no touching of the head.
A word about coffee hour receptions before and after worship: as a Lenten discipline, I call on all congregations to “fast” from serving food at church receptions at this time... This congregational fast will greatly decrease the chances of transferring an illness. For this reason, there would not be any breakfast for children, nor would there be any snacks or drinks for coffee hour.
In summary, the aim for churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is to regularly celebrate “no-touch" or "low-touch” Eucharists. The principle of eliminating hand-to-hand contact, and significantly limiting hand-to-object contact, applies to the clergy, altar guild, ushers, acolytes, oblation bearers, offering basket handlers, and all who are expected to hand something to worshipers as part of the service. I direct each congregation to review all its practices with this principle in mind."
In light of this, please find below some of the new practices that we have put in place at Christ Church, effective immediately:
Pass the Peace with eye contact, a bow, and a word – no touching.
During the offertory, we invite parishioners to joyfully come forward and place their offerings in the offering plate at the altar.
Adult Forum and Sunday Bible Study have been cancelled until further notice.
Healing Ministry during Eucharist will not be offered.
We will not be sending our Lay Eucharistic Visitors until further notice.
We are cancelling coffee hour for this Sunday, and will make a determination on a week-by-week basis. Details for each will be in future Gatherings emails.
Breakfast for children has been cancelled until further notice.
Our Wednesday Evening Lenten Program will continue, but will be limited to coffee, tea and other beverages. The program will now begin at 7:30 p.m. Our hope is that you will have dinner before you arrive.
There’s no doubt that the past several weeks has been terribly difficult for many of us. The sudden changes that we have to make has been telling. We cannot begin to fathom all of the loss. For one good reason we are crayons - broken ones, if you ask me. The good news, however, is we do have the capacity to turn your words and actions, and mine, into something beautiful - into life.
So, I wouldn’t lose hope. If Lent has taught me anything of great value, it is the reality that I am, like the rest of you and our world, a broken piece of crayon, but we still have the potential to bring order and grace into our most chaotic life.