Dear People of St. John’s,
This past Sunday, Lent Three, found us celebrating the Eucharist at all three services with a very different, unknown backdrop. Thanks to Bill Cox, we were able to live stream and record our services. As I looked out at the nearly empty church, at each of the services, I had a touch of the reactions athletes have had the past couple of weeks; playing games in empty stadiums and arenas.
We, for the most part, are people of community. And, the community at all levels of society has and is being split apart by this disease, Coronavirus. Looking at the world from another lens; as I mentioned in my sermon last Sunday, seems we are being turned back to our homes.
While at home we have come to accept that the next couple of weeks we would be “hunkered down”, government officials and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, have issued stricter parameters. In Austin: dining rooms are closed at restaurants (take-out only); no gatherings of more than 10 people, social distancing (six feet between one another); and now we learn that our new skill sets of recording services live for virtual church are going to be called upon through Easter. Nothing, however, can separate God from his people!
Today, when the Liturgy Committee meets by Zoom; we will be preparing for the last half of Lent, Holy Week and Easter as a virtual church. Yes, we are going to miss the joy and pain of Holy Week; and the jubilation of Easter Sunday. However, may I remind you of how creative the members of this church are and have been! Lent, Holy Week, and Easter 2020 will not be forgotten!
Monday night as your Vestry met for the March meeting, there was a learning curve with some attending by zoom and a couple in person. Through it all, we arrived at a bottom line which is to stay in touch with one another and to care for one another as a church. Call each other! Text each other! Do the same for your neighbors! Make sure the senior living alone has food, and whatever else is necessary!
Worship options this Sunday and until further notice: online, on Facebook, in English at 10:00 a.m. and at noon in Spanish. We will not be broadcasting from the church but from the chapel. The physical church is waiting our return! The actual church, you the people, in the meantime are invited to continue to worship online. Invite family members or friends to join us as we worship together, in a virtual format. Last week, my sister-in-law worshiped with us online from Georgia!
The work of the church, the ministries are still moving forward at all levels. I think when this is over, our technical skills will have moved up a notch, too. The church is being called to minister differently, in new formats, with renewed purpose and call.
I’ve had questions about the offertory plate. You can give online, very simple, just go to the St. John’s website; or you, may mail your check in to the church. See the weekly newsletter for instructions and details.
Remember our three questions for this time of transition: Who are we? Who are our neighbors? What is God calling us to do?
Here is a prayer I would like to share with you all: Almighty God, Giver of life and health, mercy and resurrection. We pray for all who are sick, and all who travel and who are stuck away from home. We are grateful for all who are working tirelessly in our grocery stores and especially for all physicians, nurses, medical technicians, and scientists working on medical remedies for the great suffering being endured now. We also pray for all social workers, mental health professionals, and all clergy and other spiritual leaders now providing hope and compassion. We pray that you will give all of them strength and wisdom. We pray all of this in the great love you offered in your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen. (The Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, Episcopal Diocese of SW Florida)
The Rev. Ann McLemore
St. John’s Episcopal Church
11201 Parkfield Dr.
Austin, TX. 78758
Greetings to the good people of St. John’s,
As you all know, we are living in a period of time right now that is a source of anxiety, concern, and lack of knowledge; not to mention, fear. We are walking through a Lenten season that is new territory, a wilderness in many ways, with the worldwide issue of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Bishop Andy Doyle sent out a letter around noon on Friday to the diocesan clergy and Standing Committee with his thoughts, prayers and recommendations for how we are to continue to pray, worship and be God’s servants in the midst of this virus. The Bishop so succinctly stated, “We are not attempting to stop the spread of the virus. We are attempting to slow the spread down to a low multiple so our health systems may be at their best and provide rooms and ventilators for those that need it.” We learned these lessons in both China and Italy.
So, I am asking you, the vestry is asking you, and our Bishop is asking us to take the necessary precautions. What will that look like at St. John’s?
Sunday, March 15, we will have services at the regular times with the following modifications: no chalice, no wine, no music, no coffee hours, no adult education, no lunch, and no gathering of the youth in the afternoon. All services will be live streamed on Facebook, and will be available for replay after services. Information about connecting to these videos will be sent out later today.
Sunday, March 22, there will be one service at 10 a.m. in English via live streaming on Facebook; and a Spanish service at noon also via live streaming on Facebook.
The Bishop is not asking the clergy not to lead worship; the Bishop is asking all of you to stay home.
Bishop Doyle states in his letter, "It is my Godly counsel that we refrain from gathering for worship and in large groups at our churches during this time of Covid-19 outbreak - enabling us to slow the spread. I am asking all parishioners to worship with us from home for the next two weeks."
Staying home provides the opportunity to worship in different ways. Again from Bishop Doyle's letter: "Is it uncomfortable? Yes. Is it irregular? Yes. Is it new? Yes. But is it Christian? Yes. Is it missionary? Yes. Will it require our best efforts? Yes. Will we have to figure out new ways to worship, spread the Good News, and serve our neighbors? Yes.
How timely that our Lenten meditation booklet, “Living Well Through Lent 2020”, is based around the theme, Practicing Courage with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind. How appropriate, today’s reading is “When God Calls Us to Move out of our Comfort Zones”. The Bible verses with today’s meditation is, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”
In response to the Bishop's call for us to "stay home", the church office will be closed beginning on Monday, March 16 until further notice. We will be working virtually from home. If you need to reach me, my cell number is 769-257-2377. We will finish our Wednesday Lenten series at another time. All outside groups that hold meetings are being contacted that they will not be able to meet until further notice. Vestry meeting, March 16, will take place via Zoom from the church. Other meetings are being postponed or taking place via Zoom. The work and worship of the Church continues, it will just look different for a while.
May we hold in prayer all those around the world battling this virus, medical workers and each one of us—God’s beloved children. Your support and understanding are gratefully appreciated.
The Rev. Ann McLemore