Bishop’s Pastoral Directive
Further Suspension of Physical In-Person Worship
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
You would recall in my earlier directive, I authorized suspension of physical In-Person Gatherings for worship from Sunday, March 22nd to Sunday, May 10th in response to the coronavirus – COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has emerged rapidly with serious consequences for public health safety. The exponential growth around the world, our nation and the state of Maryland continues to be of grave concern to everyone. The assertion that its impact will be with us for some time is a difficult prospect and challenges our way of life as we have known it. The “normalcy” that we were accustomed to now seems a distant hope. However, the people of God have fought and overcome this type of battle numerous times before, albeit under difference circumstances, and as before so shall it be with this crisis, we shall overcome. God is our Good Shepherd and gatekeeper, sustainer and source of strength and comfort, and in God’s presence we shall get through this together – stronger, more resilient, and with redefined resolve and faith.
One of the episcopal vows of every bishop in God’s Church is the implicit and explicit commitment is to ensure the health and safety of everyone in their diocese and beyond. This includes tending to the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical well-being of all people. As a faithful and responsible servant of the people of God, I take very seriously the guardianship of the flock under my charge – everything I seek to do is in deference to this charge. I am convinced the time isn’t appropriate to authorize resumption of physical in-person worship. However, I am confident we will be able to open our doors soon with a gradual and informed reentry process.
Therefore, pursuant to the pastoral sensitivity mentioned above and following guidance from public health care officials in Maryland and, in conformity with the direction taken by other episcopal leaders in the state, I am extending the pastoral directive to refrain from physical in-person worship through the month of May. This directive includes Sunday, May 17 to Sunday, May 31 inclusive of the Sixth Sunday of Easter to the Sunday of Pentecost. The diocesan leadership team will continue to monitor the situation to determine appropriate next steps and will advise accordingly.
We will continue to monitor the health care situation as it unfolds, factoring in guidance and directives from the State of Maryland and from local health care authorities in the respective counties where our churches are located. The diocese will also pay attention to guidance from the Episcopal Church and neighboring dioceses in Province III.
The recently launched Diocesan COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Response Task Force has begun working on a set of protocols and/or guidelines to direct the diocese’s re-entrance into physical in-person worship. The primary objective is the preservation and protection of the health and welfare of our diocesan family members. The process is informed by our love for each other and through the perseverance of faith in God who is holy love. The diocese is doing its best to protect and safeguard our resumption of in-presence gatherings.
May God’s Spirit continue to blow unabated across this beloved diocese holding the faithful in the everlasting and secure embrace of our ‘Heavenly Father in heaven’.
Let us pray,
“Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude vs 24)
Together in Christ’s service,