Transcript of Clergy Calls with Bishop Goff March 31 and April 1

Clergy Zoom Calls Week 3

Tuesday, March 31, and Wednesday, April 1

Opening Prayer and Comments – Bishop Susan

A Song of Christ’s Goodness

          Anselm of Canterbury

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you; *

you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride, *

tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds, *

in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.

Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life; *

by your anguish and labor we come forth in joy.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness; *

through your gentleness, we find comfort in fear.

Your warmth gives life to the dead, *

your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy, heal us; *

in your love and tenderness, remake us.

In your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness, *

for the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.

Let us pray in the words of Harry Emerson Fosdick:

God of grace and God of glory,

on your people pour your power;

crown your ancient church's story,

bring its bud to glorious flower.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage

for the facing of this hour,

for the facing of this hour.  Amen.

Opening Reflection:

Here we are again.  And here we will continue to gather week after week for quite a while longer. 

In today’s webinar, I will offer some opening reflections and guidance about worship while we continue our fast from public, in-person worship.

Then we’ll focus on how we minister at the end of life in this time of pandemic.  Two guest presenters will give us information we need. 

After that we’ll learn about the CARES act and what is available to faith communities.

Finally we’ll have a time for questions and answers, and conclude by the top of the hour. 

The Executive Order of our Governor, delivered on Monday afternoon, makes it clear to us that we are in this time of disruption at least through June 10.  Therefore we must continue our fast from public, in person worship until June 10. 
You will have received a letter from all of the bishops serving in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC, continuing to give permission for live-streaming and recording worship in our churches, as long as all of the necessary protocols are in place -

  • no more than 10 people are present
  • a distance of 6 feel is maintained between people in every direction
  • proper hand washing and sanitizing is done
  • absolute care is given that no one in a vulnerable population be present.  I urge our committed elder clergy to stay home.  Given my age and recent surgery, I set the example for that by staying home, except for medical appointments, for the foreseeable future.  I urge those of you of a distinguished age and those who have health issues of any kind to stay home. 

Please note this additional set of caveats:

We decided to offer this continuing permission, as a community of bishops, with cathedrals in mind.  The live-stream services from the National Cathedral have given hope and strength to thousands of people across the nation and around the world and we want to support that.  In the Diocese of Virginia, we don’t have a cathedral building.  Very few of our churches are the size of a cathedral.  Some are much too small for ten people to gather with six feet between them.

So, while permission is granted - for now - I urge you to consider other ways of leading worship going forward.  The health of all of our clergy and laity, especially the most vulnerable, is of paramount importance. 

If you choose to live-stream worship from the church building for the time being, follow these additional protocols: 

  • Talk with your lay leaders about and have full buy-in of your vestry.
  • Follow every protocol to the letter as well as the spirit of the law. A number of lay people from around the diocese have written or called with their concerns for you, their clergy.  They’ve not wanted to be whistle-blowers or complainers, but they are seeing their clergy out of compliance with the ten person limit and the six feet apart order.  Please don’t put people who love you in this impossible position.  From here on out, when we receive reports of this kind about any of our congregations, the clergy will receive a phone call from Bishop Brooke-Davidson or me to tell you of it.  The likely result is that we will rescind permission for live-stream services from your church.  If we receive more than a handful of these kinds of calls from across the diocese, I will rescind this permission across the board, knowing that for every person who calls, there are others who share the concern but don’t call.
  • Limit presence in the church to the fewest number of people possible. Two is enough - the celebrant and the videographer. 
  • If you celebrate the Eucharist, do not consume the sacrament. There is no way to share it while still maintaining a six-foot separation between people.  Every Eucharist will be a spiritual Eucharist. 
  • Talk again with your lay leaders.

Remember that it is perfectly proper and effective to lead online worship, including live-streamed services, from your home.  On Zoom, you can create a virtual background using a photograph of your church, allowing it to look like you are leading worship from a beloved space.  You may also create a holy space in your home from which to live-stream or record a service.  We recognize that wifi capacity is limited in some geographical areas of the diocese.  Resources posted on the COVID-19 resource page of the Diocesan website give suggestions and alternatives. 

Also remember that it is possible and acceptable to point people to opportunities beyond those of your parish community for worship.  A listing of virtual services during Holy Week and Easter will be posted on the COVID-19 resource page of the Diocesan website.  A number of Dioceses across the country have agreed that Easter worship will not be led by local clergy and congregations, but that the entire diocesan community will join in worship with the National Cathedral, where Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preach at 11:15 a.m.  This is an option for our congregations. 
During Holy Week, we will walk with our Lord the way of suffering and death, the way that leads to life, but we won’t do it in our usual ways this year. We can’t. Many of us are feeling deep grief about losing our beloved traditions, rituals and symbols.  Our grief itself is holy.  It is close to the heart of Jesus.  It may lead us into a Holy Week that is more real and poignant and spiritually rich than any we have experienced before.  So name what you are feeling.  Give your congregations room to name and feel what they are feeling.  This is a time when we clergy don’t have to be cheerleaders.  Instead, we can and should be spiritual leaders who walk the way of love with those we love, a way that leads through the valley of the shadow of death, right through to life on the other side. 

A note about the palms that you ordered months ago and that have been delivered to your church:  There is not a safe way to distribute them while still protecting the health of everyone, particularly the most vulnerable. I remind us to look to the biblical narrative itself.  The people who lauded Jesus as he entered into Jerusalem did not pull palm leaves out of a box - they went and cut branches from the nearby trees.  Those branches were probably not only from palm trees, but from olive and other trees as well.  So it is right and good to invite your congregations to go outside before or during Palm Sunday worship to cut sprigs of forsythia or azalea, or of trees that are just beginning to bud.  If no branches are available, it is right for people to choose a scarf or piece of cloth or even a garment to wave, as the Gospel says the people did that first Palm Sunday.  The depth of the symbolism doesn’t lie in palm leaves themselves; it lies in our action of lauding Jesus with the common things of our lives. 

Now I introduce our first topic for today, which is end of life in the time of COVID-19.  Already we are experiencing that clergy are not permitted to enter hospitals, even to give last rites to those who are dying. It doesn’t matter whether they are dying of COVID-19 or of something else, their families cannot be with them.  We cannot be with them. 

So how do we do pastoral care in time?  How do we offer prayers for the sick and prayers at the time of death? 

We must do it by phone.  The prayers at the time of death beginning of page 462 in the Book of Common Prayer can be offered remotely with a phone placed near the ear of the dying person.  If the hospital doesn’t allow the phone, pray those prayers aloud anyway.  Pray with the family.  The rubrics to not say that one has to be physically present with the dying person; they do not require that the dying person receive a laying on of hands or a touch of any kind.  The prayers are effective remotely.  God hears them.  If you haven’t already memorized those prayers, now is a good time to do so.  There’s no way around how hard this is already and how hard it is going to become, so we are blessed to have words and rites that are still effective even with the restrictions that have been placed upon us.   

Some hospitals and hospital systems have chaplains who are still permitted to be with those who are dying.  If you don’t already know who the Episcopal chaplains are in the hospitals in your area, find out and be in touch with them when you’ve got someone in the hospital. 

Those chaplains and others who work in hospitals are stressed now.  As you know, I was in a hospital for surgery last Friday and saw the stress and uncertainty etched on the faces of many I met, even as they remained professional and focused on me.  As health care workers live on the front lines of this pandemic, and as they have to make choices that no one should ever have to make - choices about who gets care and who doesn’t - they need our prayers and our support.  Soon we will share with you ways that you can offer pastoral care and support to those who work in hospitals and other facilities.  In the meantime, please hold them in your daily prayers.

Now I introduce to you Mr. Stephen Christiansen, the Vice President and Managing Director, Hill and Wood Funeral Home in Charlottesville.  He will share with us some of what we need to know about ministering at the time of death in this time of COVID-19. 

[Mr. Christianson speaks]

I invite our colleague, the Rev. David Neimeyer, Rector of St. Mark’s in Richmond, to reflect with us about guiding and inviting parishioners into conversation about end of life issues.  In addition to being a faithful priest, David is a family and marriage therapist with experience in this work.

[Mr. Neimeyer speaks]

Finally, we turn to information on CARES - the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act -

          Canon Mary Thorpe and Treasurer Ted Smith

                   Payroll Protection Provision

                   Unemployment Insurance Provision

                   Charitable Donations Provision

[Canon Thorpe and Mr. Smith speak]

Q and A, click here.