In Times of Distress
"Grant us brave and enduring hearts that we may strengthen one another, until the disciplines and testing of these days are ended..." Collect in Times of Social Conflict or Distress
Who would have predicted that, as we began the Season of Lent in 2020, we would also be facing an approaching "pandemic"? These kind of things seem so far removed from our average, daily lives that there is almost a knee jerk reaction that moves us from complacency right into panic. However, should this be the reaction of Christians and, if not, what might God be asking us to learn during this time?
As believers in a God who is not distant from us but who came into our human world and who experienced life as a man, it is important to recognize that he is not unaware of our concerns and fears. Jesus knows that we are concerned about the spread of a virus that has infected so many and has caused multiple deaths overseas, but he also wants us to remember that he is the Lord over both life and death. God can and will grant us peace, even in these uncertain times. Christians, perhaps more than anyone else, have reason to have confidence that "our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 124:8)
So what are we to do in this time? How will HOPE Anglican Chapel prepare for and address your concerns regarding the COVID-19 virus? Well let's take the first concern.
The people of God have always known that their first line of defense is to petition him for mercy and relief. One of the providential things about this health crisis coming during the Lenten Season is that we are already praying The Great Litany during Moring Prayer on Wednesdays and Fridays. And in that Litany we are specifically asking God to intervene on our behalf against, "all those evils we now endure". We implore him to "arise and help us; and deliver us for your Name's sake." We can also make sure that in our intercessions we specifically ask our Father to guide our leaders so that they make wise decisions on our behalf. If you are unsure how to pray for these things, consider using the Collects that can be found in your 2019 Book of Common Prayer. They can be found beginning on page 642. Consider praying Collect #30 (For Civil Authorities), #44 (In Times of Social Conflict or Distress), #50 & #51 (For the Medical Professions and For those Who Inform Public Opinion). There are other great Prayers of the Church or you may just speak from your heart to God, but by all means PRAY! And believe that God will answer.
The followers of Jesus Christ have always had a reputation for reaching our to their communities in times of trial. Many people will be looking for someone to comfort and calm them during these times of testing. You can offer them your confidence in the provision of our Lord. Check in on the vulnerable, particularly the elderly, chronically infirm, and homeless. If you have the means, help them lay in a supply of food and medicine in case of any call for quarantine that may be called for by civil authorities. Help them to understand the cautions, warnings, and procedures that are coming from organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Health Departments. This is true religion, "To visit the orphan and widow in their affliction". (James 1:27)
So, having talked about what we can do for others, how will HOPE Anglican address this situation?
PRACTICAL AND LITURGICAL CHANGES
As your priest, I'm going to request that you make some minor changes to the way we usually do things. Most of these are common sense and should allow us to continue to meet together without a great risk of spreading illness.
Make use of the hand sanitizing stations in the Narthex. Frequent washing of the hands is also suggested.
Minimize handshaking and hugging during The Peace. Simply turn to the other person and say, "The Peace of Christ be with you".
You may opt to take the Eucharist "in one kind". The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is most properly received "in both kinds" (bread and wine). However, it is permissible to receive only the bread and know that you have received Jesus Christ in full. If you want to receive this way, simply hold out your hands (the right on top of the left) and, once you have received the Body of Christ, lift your hands to your mouth and eat. You may then return to your seat.
Always cover your mouth when coughing. Although the choice to wear a mask when you are ill is a personal one, you should always cough or sneeze into a handkerchief, tissue or bend of the elbow. Do not cover a cough or sneeze with your hand or, if you accidentally do, make sure that you wash and sanitize your hands as soon as you can.
As always, trust in the Lord. He knows the length your days and years, the manner of your life and death, and helps your going out and coming in. He is ever beside you to assist you.