Dear Christ Church Family,
We have an update for Sunday worship. This week, instead of gathering for our normal 9am and 11am services at 112 Medina St., we are inviting the people of Christ Church to gather in smaller numbers at one of six outdoor locations this Sunday in the Austin Metro area. Show up at the location nearest you, and you might be surprised to find who lives in your area!
One or more of the priests and deacons of Christ Church will be at each location, a public park with covered space, in order to lead those gathered in a short Morning Prayer service with Communion (bread only). Though we don’t welcome the cause for this unusual plan, we have an unusual opportunity to engage in fellowship, worship, and witness that is smaller, more local, and more public.
We are currently putting together our plans and communication for you. Please watch your inbox tomorrow [March 14] for details on where to go and what to expect. And please spread the word! Not everyone at Christ Church is subscribed to this list.
Please note: there will be no worship service at 112 Medina St. on March 22nd either, and possibly beyond, but we will use the next two weeks to evaluate next steps. We will give direction next week for how we can engage each other and God on Sunday March 22nd, despite not meeting at the church property.
Why are we making this choice?
Churches within our diocese, as well as other churches and denominations across the country are suspending large gatherings in order to encourage social distancing and lower the risk of transmission. We want to slow down the spread of the virus in this city we love, and prevent hospitals from being too overrun to treat the most vulnerable patients. This might feel premature to some, but now is the time that we can make a difference. Hospital treatment can offer life-saving measures for the most vulnerable, but rapid spread could overload medical care facilities beyond capacity to treat everyone. We want to do our part to flatten the curve in the inevitable spread of this virus. In short, this is a way we can love the elderly, the immunocompromised, and the most vulnerable. It’s a way to love our neighbor.
What can I do?
Be at Peace and Pray. Every Sunday the priest concludes Holy Eucharist by blessing the congregation with these opening words, “The peace of God which passes all understanding . . ..” We have a peace that is not based on circumstances; it passes understanding. Our peace is derived from the unchanging, all-powerful, eternally Triune God who holds us in the palm of His hand. As our bishop often reminds us, we are always safe in the kingdom of God.
In prayer we intercede for others and stand in the gaps. Brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world and throughout history have stood, non-anxiously and in prayer, with fidelity in the face of difficulty and suffering. God’s people shine in these moments as a light on a hill; let us take our place.
Be responsibly loving. In this particular moment, we lovingly protect ourselves and others when we wash our hands regularly (at least 20 seconds), use hand sanitizers, etc. And it is an act of love to impose upon ourselves restrictions or inconveniences, such as social distancing, not only for ourselves but for the sake of others.
Stay connected. While we might be more isolated in some ways, we can remain connected through smaller gatherings and through technology. Christ Church is creatively planning ways to help our church family stay connected to each other and God, journeying through this disruption and this Lent together. Keep an eye out for our communications!
Stay present. Jesus instructs us “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” We cannot foresee the future, and to try would be idle speculation and vain imagination. We still take seriously planning and advice from credible experts, but we stay in the moment, present to the people around us and our Father who is not the least bit shaken.
Once again, watch for an email tomorrow [March 14] that will give specific instructions for our creative six worship gatherings spread across the city.
P.S. I appreciate these words by Sue+ Currie, Director of Selah, Spiritual Direction Training: in these times “we become aware of an even deeper layer of call as believers. It is the call to live with those the Lord calls us to live with and near, as people of shalom — loving, reassuring, and serving, from the prayerful contemplative presence of our Triune God’s love …. Thus we encourage you not to read [this moment] as an invitation to hunker-down, but to engage, safely! and trustingly, with those to whom you are called, holding out hope in love, as the presence of Christ in the midst of seas-that-roar and mountains that quake, to quote the Psalm (46). Our prayer for you is that you ‘each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land’ (Isaiah 32:1-2).”