November 19, 2020
Dear Heavenly Rest Family,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I had hoped I would not have to write another one of these letters.
Over the past few months, I have been so pleased to see how the people of Heavenly Rest have been handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The members of this parish have demonstrated a willingness to inconvenience themselves and sacrifice their own comfort for the sake of the people around them. The staff has been working incredibly hard to keep the people of this parish healthy, and I am deeply proud of their efforts to make Heavenly Rest a safe place to be. Our Vestry has been thoughtful and creative in their efforts to guide our parish through an admittedly frustrating season in our common life. Indeed, I have found myself boasting to my colleagues about how well the people of Heavenly Rest have been weathering the pandemic.
Unfortunately, the situation in the wider community has deteriorated significantly. The numbers of daily COVID infections in Abilene and Taylor County have been surging. The local hospital system is nearing its maximum capacity. The current surge is much worse than the one we experienced in July, which was the last time we suspended in-person worship. Last week, I heard from at least one parishioner every day who had been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19. None had been in attendance at church, in part because many were trying to limit the possibility of exposing members of their church family, but the fact remains that this pandemic is no longer an abstract threat. In the meantime, most, if not all of the other parishes in the Diocese of Northwest Texas have suspended in-person worship for some period of time.
For all of these reasons, and in consultation with the Return Task Force, I have decided to once again suspend in-person, indoor worship at the Church of the Heavenly Rest for at least the next three Sundays, beginning November 22. The 10:30 service of Holy Eucharist will take place only on Facebook Live or at heavenlyrestabilene.org/live. The 9:00 service in the Courtyard will continue. The 1:00 service in Swahili will move to the Courtyard.
It breaks my heart to make this decision, but the situation in the wider community is proving to be untenable. I am grateful that we will still be able to offer outdoor worship activities during the course of this suspension. Based on what we have learned about the novel Coronavirus over the last few months, it seems clear that gathering outdoors is relatively safe. I am also pleased that we will be able to offer home Communion to anyone who wishes to receive it. Hosts will be consecrated at the 10:30 service and then made available to anyone who wishes to receive them. If you are interested in receiving home Communion, please contact the Reverend Karen Boyd (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We have been able to expand our formation and worship opportunities throughout the week, which will continue during this time of suspension. Morning Prayer takes place every weekday morning at 8:30 on Facebook Live. Mother Corrie leads Bedtime Prayers for children and families on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 on Zoom. I will continue my practice of offering Compline at 8:00 on Thursday evenings via Facebook Live. Also, on Wednesday, December 2 at 6:30, we will have an outdoor event called “Prepare the Way”, a chance to ready ourselves for the season of Advent and to find reason for hope in these uncertain days.
There is a level of irony that this suspension of indoor worship coincides with the season of Advent, which at its heart is about waiting: waiting for redemption, waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise, waiting to see what the future will hold. Waiting is about more than delayed gratification; it is about acknowledging that there are things about this life and the life to come that are simply beyond our comprehension. During Advent, we are called to wait patiently, trusting that God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.
I know this has been a frustrating period in our life as a parish. With the promising preliminary results about several vaccine candidates, I am hopeful that we will be able to move beyond this phase in our common life before too long. Until then, I encourage you to remain home as much as possible and to pray for those affected by this disease. I am so grateful for your faithfulness and your dedication to this community. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. In the meantime, know that you are in my constant prayers. May God bless you and those you love.
The Reverend David F. Romanik
Heavenly Rest’s Current Sunday Schedule (as of 11/22/2020)
9:00 - Morning Worship (Courtyard)
10:30 - Holy Eucharist (Nave) - Online Only
This service will be livestreamed on the Heavenly Rest Facebook page and at heavenlyrestabilene.org/live
1:00 - Worship in Swahili (Courtyard)