March 15, 2020
Dear Heavenly Rest Family,
Yesterday, I sent a letter outlining our parish response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I indicated that our plan was subject to change “based on additional developments or instructions from civil or ecclesiastical authorities.” A few hours after sending the letter, I received a call from Bishop Mayer, in which he indicated he would be asking parishes in the Diocese of Northwest Texas suspend services for two weeks, beginning on Monday, March 16. Though there have not been any cases of COVID-19 reported in the Abilene area, the situation is fluid enough that suspending public worship seems to be the most prudent way forward. The two week timeline is intended to coincide with the virus’ incubation period: anyone who has COVID-19 should be obviously symptomatic by the end of this period, and will not unintentionally transmit the virus to the people around them.
Though “in person” worship will be suspended for the time being, we will broadcast a service of Holy Eucharist via Facebook Live at 10:30 am on the next two Sundays. We had a good response to our Facebook Live broadcast this morning. While it is not the same as being present in the church building, I am hopeful it will be a decent way to “fill the void” during our temporary hiatus. If at all possible, funerals will not be scheduled while church activities are suspended. Please note that this evening’s service of Vespers has been cancelled.
We will endeavor to open the church for private prayers for several hours each day. We will be in touch about timing in a subsequent communication.
During this period, the Heavenly Rest offices will be closed. Staff who are able to have been asked to work from home. If you have a pastoral emergency during this time, please contact David Romanik directly, either by email (email@example.com) or at 203-751-0009.
Please be attentive to communications from the church. We will do our very best to keep you informed about how our COVID-19 response continues to evolve. Also, I am currently in conversation with the staff about providing resources for home worship and Christian formation during this uncertain and, admittedly, strange time.
At the moment, our first in person worship service will be Morning Prayer at 8:30 on Tuesday, March 31 in the chapel. Our first Sunday back will be Palm Sunday: April 5.
As I said goodbye to people after the three services today, I had an overwhelming sense of grief. While I believe these precautions are necessary to keep the most vulnerable members of our community safe, it is hard to imagine not being at church with people that I love for two weeks (during my favorite liturgical season, no less!). I was comforted, however, by a text I received from a parishioner who viewed the Facebook Live broadcast: “Once you get the go ahead to resume,” he wrote, “I think we will all be back stronger than ever. I know I’m the eternal optimist but good will come from all of this. We as a church family will become even closer, more determined to do God’s work and count our blessings even more. Give your family an extra hug of reassurance. We all should.”
If nothing else, this crisis has confirmed how grateful I am for this parish and how much I love its people. I will miss seeing you over the next two weeks, but know that you will remain in my constant prayers. May God bless and keep you.
The Reverend David F. Romanik