COVID-19 Update

Saturday, March 22, 2020

 

 

Dear Friends,

I hope you all are well. You are all continuing to be in my prayers at least each day. I am writing to update you on several points, with regard to ministry at St. Brice’s:

 

Archbishop’s Request: No Sunday Services

 

First, as you are very likely aware, for our own sake and for those of others (because we can carry the COVID-19 virus without knowing it; and because each public interaction slightly increases the odds of our contracting the virus), Archbishop Anne Germond has asked that we refrain from gathering together for public worship for the time being.

 

On-line Resources

 

Accordingly, the clergy of the deanery have agreed to publish an on-line Service of the Word. The first recording will be made available by tomorrow (Sunday, March 22), and we are encouraging parishioners to view it at 10am. It will definitely be on the Christ Anglican Church website, and if I receive it on time, we hope it will be on the St. Brice’s website as well. I will be the preacher for next week’s service.

I encourage you to view the “musings” of the Ven. Marie Loewen. Please contact Marie directly if you’d like to receive them (revmarie1952@icloud.com; 705-497-4699). I intend to continue to offer weekly sermons which are recorded and uploaded to the St. Brice’s website. I can also provide written copies to anyone who asks. This is alongside the other resources which are on the diocesan website, etc.

 

No Synod – Encouraged To Communicate

 

As many of us are aware, the diocesan synod planned for early May has been cancelled. This synod was to address the sensitive subject of Same-Sex Marriages in the diocese. The Archbishop encourages us to provide our views and resources, etc., to her administrative assistant within the next month. You can email Archbishop Anne Germond, c/ o Liz Hamel, at:  adminassistant@dioceseofalgoma.com, or write her at: The Diocese of Algoma, 619 Wellington Street East, Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 2M6. If you want me to mail your responses, please get them to the parish office by April 7.

 

Finances

 

I really enjoy canoeing, and as canoeists know, if one is paddling across a lake and going off course in a wind, it’s better to correct your direction right away. The longer the delay, the harder it is to get back on-course. We know that some people’s finances are impacted because they have been laid off due to the pandemic, or for those who have investments in the stock market, the current financial turmoil has had an impact on your portfolios at this time. This has affected some of us.

However, almost all expenses at St. Brice’s continue during the pandemic. At our recent Vestry (annual meeting), we agreed to a budget which requires $3110 in weekly income. Sure, last week was the first week in which the pandemic really took hold in North Bay, but the parish’s income this past Sunday (including those who pay by pre-authorized remittance) was about $1700.

If you are able to contribute financially at this time, please don’t wait until the pandemic is over. If you are willing to make regular payments through your bank by pre-authorized remittance, please contact Fay Ivany

(cfivany@hotmail.com; 705-495-9324) or the parish office to get a form, or contact Jane Mesich at the diocesan office ( treasurer@dioceseofalgoma.com ; 705-256-5061).

For those who wish to contribute by envelope, there are offers to pick up parish envelopes for those who ask, or there is a locked mailbox outside St. Brice’s front door.

This is a practical as well as a spiritual matter, and I am grateful for your on-going support.

I continue to encourage your on-going prayers and practical care for one another. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

 

In Jesus Christ’s love,

 

Peter Armstrong

March 18, 2020

 

 

Dear Friends,

“Grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I’m sure you are all aware of the COVID-19 pandemic which has been affecting daily life. I am writing to keep everyone informed about what is happening at St. Brice’s and in the churches in the area. I also want to remind us all that we serve a living God, who continues to be at work even, or especially, in times of difficulty and crisis.

Many of us know the “Comfortable Words” from the older communion service: 

Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11: 28-30, NRSV translation)

If we are anxious or afraid, then we need to seek the Lord God. He is far bigger than any virus! It’s appropriate that we turn to reputable news sources and science to learn about medical matters, but our faith gives us strength and insight how to live.

For those who have access to the internet, I found this model – which was recommended to me by a Cursillo member – very helpful in understanding the virus’ spread, and how we can respond:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/

Because of the pandemic, there are a number of important up-coming changes at St. Brice’s:

 

Cancellations and Re-scheduled Events

  1. The upcoming diocesan synod has been cancelled.

  2. The pre-synod regional meetings have been cancelled.

  3. The tri-parish dinner and auction, which had been scheduled for this coming Saturday, has been postponed, likely to September 2020. The organizers will be in touch with people who already bought tickets.

  4. The upcoming “Messy Church” was already postponed due to the tri-parish dinner and auction. Messy Church and Games Night are cancelled for now.

  5. Brice’s Spring Tea has been re-scheduled for Saturday, June 20, 11am-1pm.

  6. The ecumenical Good Friday service, planned for the Capitol Centre, will not be held at the Capitol Centre. The Steering Committee is currently looking at live-streaming a scaled-down version on Good Friday morning. If you have access to the internet, and want to view it, viewing details will be provided later. (It will likely be reassuring for you to know that due to the provisions of our contract with the Capitol Centre, there is no financial penalty for us.)

  7. The Men’s Breakfast (with the guest speaker about internet fraud) will be postponed from April 4. The tentative date for re-scheduling will be June 6, 9am. Regular attenders will be contacted to confirm the new date. (If you wish to be included in the communications about this, please contact me by phone or email.)

 

Some Ministries Are Changed

 

  1. Due to school closures, there will be no Teen Lunch Programme, at least until after Easter weekend.

  2. The Monday Quilters will not be meeting until there is a further announcement.

  3. The Tuesday lunches will continue to be prepared, but for those who order meals, rather than coming to the Church building on the first Tuesday in April, deliveries will be made to people’s homes and apartments. (For the April 2020 menu, please contact Krista at frozenmeals1234@gmail.com, or contact the parish office.)

  4. The Food Bank will continue to operate, but the regular hospitality services (such as coffee being served) will not take place at this time. Replacements will be found for volunteers who choose to self-isolate.

  5. We will continue to be providing some guidance and care to our recently-sponsored family.

 

Worship Services

 

  1. Archbishop Anne – indeed, all the Anglican bishops of Ontario – have taken the extraordinary step of asking parishioners not to come to the Church building for Sunday services at this time. This presents us with the significant challenge about how to be “Church” – that is, the gathered people of God – when we are not coming together physically. Resources are listed in the section below.

  2. What will I be doing? On Sundays and Wednesday mornings, I will be doing the same thing I have always done since my ordination – I will be at the altar, praying for you. (An exception will be Wednesday, March 25, when I will be part of a group in a videoconference with the archbishop; in very large part we will be planning about continuing to offer ministry during the pandemic. Instead of being in the sanctuary on the 25th, I will be there on Thursday the 26th.) I treasure your prayers in return.

  3. I will also continue to offer Evening Prayer to God in St. Brice’s chancel, Wednesday afternoons. I cannot bear to lock the Church building when I am in it, but neither can I disobey the order of my bishop — to whom I am under a vow of obedience. Nor do I want anyone to become infected or to be an unwitting carrier of disease.

  4. Obviously, one implication of cancelled worship is that the tri-parish joint service planned for this coming Sunday is cancelled.

              a. Hospital Visits, Seniors’ Homes, Baptisms, & Funerals

  5. For the immediate future, there will be no public baptisms except for “emergency” baptisms for those in danger of dying.

  6. We are being asked not to conduct public funerals or memorial services at this time, although I will continue to provide ministry for the dying and to those who mourn, and anticipate meeting with family groups and close friends, according to their pastoral needs. Of course, these services can be held in the future, and are often postponed for various reasons.

  7. As many of you are aware, the number of Anglicans being visited has been significantly reduced with the introduction of a new computer system in the hospital this past October. Recording of one’s religious denomination is now entered manually by the hospital chaplain, which is a huge task.  I would be very grateful if you would let me know if there are Anglicans who are sick or in the hospital.

  8. Clergy have been excluded at this time from the local hospital for pastoral visits, as well as the Sunday afternoon chapel services which I and others provide. At least for the time being, there are exceptions to visit patients who are palliative or who are in extreme circumstances.

  9. Brice’s normally provides worship services for Cassellholme, Empire, and Barclay House, but these homes are closed for the time being.

 

Worship Resources

 

  1. For people who have access to the internet, Archbishop Anne will be offering short services of Morning Prayer daily, and services of Evening Prayer on Sundays. Further resources are available at https://www.dioceseofalgoma.com/2020/03/17/prayer-resources-for-use-at-home/ . The Ven. Marie Loewen is providing short daily reflections and devotional resources; please contact Marie if you’d like to be included (revmarie1952@icloud.com ). The Deanery clergy will be meeting on Friday, and might be providing some on-line resources afterwards. Please remember there are the St. Brice’s sermons on our webpage, and I intend to continue to provide them in the weeks ahead ( https://www.stbriceschurch.com/wordpress/?page_id=68 ). I expect more resources to be made available as the outbreak continues. As always, please use wisdom and common sense when downloading resources from the internet.

  2. For people who do not have access to the internet, but who would like devotional resources, what would be most helpful is if you speak to me, or leave a message on the office phone, about (1), the kind of resources which would be most helpful to you (Bible studies, devotional reflections, guidance about how to use the liturgical resources of the Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Alternative Services, etc.); (2), the length of time you’d like to dedicate daily or weekly to these resources.

  3. Of course, there are also the Lenten reflections which were written by parishioners for this season.

  4. The Tuesday evening Bible study will be moved to a different format. I will be in touch with regular participants. (If you wish to be included in the communications about this, please contact me by phone or email.)

  5. I expect us all to pray regularly for those affected by the virus, for the medical community and research workers, for their families, and for those who mourn.

 

Pastoral Care

 

  1. I encourage us to reach out to one another at this time, either if we need someone to talk to, or if we think of someone who could use contact. As we are all members of the Body of Christ, good pastoral care is the responsibility of us all – not just the clergy.

  2. With help, I am setting up a system of lay “shepherds and sheep” – a system of keeping in contact with one another during the outbreak. The first priority will be vulnerable parishioners, but I hope that it will be expanded so that everyone will have pastoral support and contact. Parishioners will be contacted by email or phone as this develops.

 

Finances

 

  1. Brice’s already runs lean with our finances. There is widespread recognition in the diocese, and in the National Church, that parish financial offerings will likely be substantially reduced in the weeks ahead, although most expenses will continue. Beyond people who get sick or who die from this virus, and their families, the financial implications will perhaps have the most long-lasting and serious (and potentially catastrophic) effect on the Church. I respectfully ask that we continue to contribute our financial offerings, if we do not have other long-term losses, such as our jobs, during the COVID-19 outbreak. As always, we are encouraged to use the electronic offering option (call 705-256-5061). This makes budgeting easier, and provides greater income stability for St. Brice’s.

  2. I believe passionately that we all have an important calling as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the wise stewardship and generosity of our time, our finances, and our care for one another brings light to darkness and transforms lives. This season is not a time for undue anxiety, but is an opportunity to bless one another, and our neighbours.

 

Administration

 

  1. The work of the Church continues. We are currently making arrangements for the Advisory Board to meet through videoconferencing, and essential ministry will continue to be delivered.

  2. I, and likely others, will continue to look after the property. St. Brice’s, which I think is already cleaned to a high standard, will be receiving extra cleaning in the days ahead. We are taking all reasonable steps for people’s physical safety, as well as their spiritual safety.

 

Some of us might be familiar with the movie Apollo-13, based on a true story about a crisis getting a manned American rocket back to earth in the late 1960’s. In the movie, at NASA headquarters, there is a lot of anxiety about the crew and how things went wrong. The headquarters’ staff does not know if there will be casualties, or exactly what the consequences will be. The mood is sombre. A turning point in the movie is that, at that time of difficulty, a manager speaks to this effect: “This will be our proudest hour.”

 

With you, and me, and the grace of the living God at work in our world (in spite of the human illnesses and misjudgements), this can be our proudest hour. Will you partner with me as mature ministers of the gospel at this time?

 

Sincerely, in Jesus Christ,

 

Peter Armstrong, rector