Bishop Rickel Cancels All Gatherings
Dear Faithful People,
Yesterday, in a Zoom meeting with the clergy of the diocese, Bishop Rickel declared he was canceling all gatherings at churches in western Washington for two weeks. This means there will be no services, no meetings, no gatherings; the church will be shut down.
This decision was a painstaking one on his part and came after continued consultation with the Center for Disease Control, the recommendations of State Government, and intentional discernment. The risks to our communities right now are too high for us not to do our part. If we continue to hold services, people will continue to attend, and this virus will have even more opportunities to spread. We all have a tendency to believe the risk we take is ours alone, and we are only putting ourselves in danger by attending functions. The truth is, this virus is nimble and spreads quickly and easily. It is much more contagious than the flu and the risk we take by gathering is that we unintentionally carry the virus to others whose bodies might be compromised and can’t fight off the illness. Medical facilities are already becoming overburdened and the United States is only in the beginning stages of this outbreak.
I had been thinking of cancelling anyway. I’ve taken all the precautions I know to take—Diane Foster and I even sanitized the church on Tuesday!—but if even one of you were to be stricken with the disease as a result of attending services or a meeting, the regret would be too much to bear.
So, we will truly enter into the wilderness this Lent. The wilderness of fasting from familiar worship and from being with one another the way we want. We have been given an opportunity to truly live into our connection to everyone else on the planet, to live into our role as Christians who put the welfare of others ahead of our own. It is difficult and it is the right thing to do. We must be part of the solution. By refraining from gathering, we can help to slow the spread of the virus and enable scientists to find a clear way forward. We also reduce the burden on our health care systems.
Going forward, I will be contacting members of the Bishop’s Committee and we will begin forming small groups of households that will check in with one another. Look for more information on that to come in the next few days. We will also eventually be doing “virtual services”. These will probably consist of a live feed Morning Prayer service with a sermon. This first Sunday, however, I encourage you to livestream St. Mark Cathedral’s 11:00 service. https://saintmarks.org/worship/live-stream/
I don’t know how long this will last. This is unlike anything most of us have experienced and will have ramifications for every aspect of our society. We must continue to pray for those who will lose their livelihoods, family members, and even their lives to this virus. And, please pray for Faith. Continue to support the church and one another, especially in the midst of this disruption. I’ve already been asked how a person can honor their financial commitment, and the answer is to send a check in the mail: PO Box 1362; Poulsbo, WA 98370. Even though we won’t be together, we still need to pay our bills.
I know we will get through this together even as we keep our distance.
God’s peace be with you,